Walt Disney's Psychedelic MovieWritten by Stephen Schochet
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If Walt was ignorant about some classical music pieces, he made up for it by plunging into Fantasia with boyish enthusiasm. His imagination was translated into unique visions by Disney animators. A Bach passage reminded him of a bowl of spaghetti, he was later amused when critics saw something profound in simple drawings that appeared on screen. Stokowski suggested they use a piece called Sacre du Printemps or Rite Of Spring, by Igor Stravinsky. "Socker, what's that?" Walt asked. After he heard music he wired ten thousand dollars to Stravinsky for permission to use it. The desperate Russian composer needed cash to get safe passage out of occupied Paris. Sacre was transformed from ancient pagan rituals to accompany a powerful depiction of Earth's evolution. Beethoven's sixth symphony, The Pastoral, was changed from a peaceful countryside setting to a Mount Olympus spectacle where unicorns, centaurs and nymphs roamed freely. After seeing completed work for first time Walt said with wide-eyed innocence,"Wow! This will make Beethoven!" Like what George Lucas would later do with THX, Walt developed a new recording system called Fantasound, so that audiences would be able to enjoy rich quality of music. All of this spending was viewed with alarm by his tightfisted business partner and classical music hating brother Roy, who annoyed Walt by suggesting they use some Tommy Dorsey tunes instead.
With past films Disney had often bowed to pressure from his financial backers to finish them early while he was still tinkering, trying to make them perfect. Giving in to money men always gave him a sense of loss. He dreamed Fantasia would play forever in some theaters with new segments constantly being added, an endlessly ongoing project. But Fantasia was a crushing disappointment for Walt in 1940. Many movie theater owners refused to pay for installation of Fantasound, giving film very limited distribution. The exhibitors who did show it charged much higher admission prices than normal keeping audiences away. The people that did come were often put off by lack of a story or frightening devil in Night On Bald Mountain sequence, for whom Bela Lugosi was real life model. Roy, who had indulged his brother because he was certain they would break even overseas, saw World War II cut off much of foreign market. Classical music aficionados like ungrateful Stravinsky looked down their noses at Disney's masterpiece. Fantasia was cut in length and went into mass release as second half of a double feature. The Disney brothers took a financial bath they nearly never recovered from.
Fifteen years later Mickey Mouse was back on top with The Mickey Mouse Club television show and Walt finally got his ongoing dream project with Disneyland. But unlike other initial money losers he made, such as Bambi (1942) and Pinocchio (1940), he never lived to see Fantasia become profitable. Shortly before he died in 1966 he said,"Fantasia? Well I don't regret it but if I had to do it over again, I wouldn't."
In 1968 Beatle's cartoon Yellow Submarine did very well with psychedelic crowd. Sensing a new market for Fantasia, Disney studio re-released it and film was finally made profitable by drug tripping hippies who speculated that Walt must have been on something when he produced it.
Want to hear more stories? Stephen Schochet is the author and narrator of the audiobooks Fascinating Walt Disney and Tales Of Hollywood. The Saint Louis Post Dispatch says," These two elaborate productions are exceptionally entertaining." Hear RealAudio samples of these great, unique gifts at http://www.hollywoodstories.com.
Vision Music USA Takes Their Services To The Next LevelWritten by Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck
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