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Fantasia is Disney brand symphonic synesthesia

By Dany Roth

Way back in 1940, Disney released a now-beloved film, Fantasia, which was designed to invite animators to reimagine music as motion picture. It was supposed to be a constantly evolving, traveling show. Sadly, that road show was never to be. But it impacts remains.

Funny thing: Fantasia was originally just one short: "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." The desire had been to make a high-quality piece of animation featuring Disney's mascot, Mickey Mouse. But, very quickly, the cost of the one short skyrocketed and it became apparent that, to make the whole endeavor worthwhile, it made sense to pad out with more shorts until something resembling a feature-length film was put together. 

What makes that such an accidental masterstroke is that, while "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is unquestionably a stand-out piece, long-remembered by animation fans now for nearly 80 years, it's some of the less narratively-driven stuff that really makes Fantasia special.

Take something like "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor," for example, which starts simply as flashes of light and basic abstractions before slowly finding form. That's the piece which opens Fantasia, not "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." And why? Because it opens the mind, especially the youthful mind, to experience sounds, both tonal and atonal, not simply as music but as color. And seeing music as color tingles the same part of the brain that causes the kind of synesthesia where we associate a color or a number with a taste or even a personality. That's the real potency within Fantasia's dramatic, animated presentation.

On today's episode of Every Day Animation, Paste Movies writer Kyle Turner joins the podcast talk about all things Fantasia and Fantasia 2000. We also divert some time to discussing some of the original film's controversies and Disney's decisions to censor their own original features.

Tomorrow will be the last day of Every Day Animation. What will we be talking about? You'll have to wait and see.

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