Directed by David Hand, James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Ben Sharpsteen, William Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Hamilton Luske, Jim Handley, Ford Beebe, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson and Norman Ferguson
If it wants to give us any insight at all, Fantasia seeks to show us how silly our pop-cultural notions of morality are in relation to the ways in which we form attachments to our living and inanimate surroundings by replicating them, and adding a ‘should’. But also, it eventually contextualises this notion and provides a genuine display of hope.
The prehistoric times described here observe the power of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, moralising it through the simple act of it being perceived
Judging by the interstitial commentary, the film is concerned how we respond to music, begging the question of how we, the audience will react to the animator’s interpretation. This is apparently confirmed in the first animated movement, a literalised vision of instruments and music notation flying around the screen. The film even attempts to describe to the audience their brain’s likely response (“when you first hear the music, your mind will see instruments”).
However, this proves later on to be a stepping stone to something thematically larger (although the jury’s still out on whether or not this is the intended effect), with what follows from this point being a collection of animated stories, accompanied by famous classical music pieces. One notable segment is concerned the development of early life. The prehistoric times described here observe the power of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, moralising it through the simple act of it being perceived (filmed). The T-Rex is cruel in this segment, savagely tearing at the neck of a Stegosaurus, who is finally killed. The huge horn notes that accompany his death are obvious in their intentions to add context to the death and to moralise it.
This speaks directly to the ways in which, for centuries, we have sought explanations for the workings of the earth
Another example of these allusions to our perception of outside events is a sequence where mythological centaurs mate. The ritual where the male and female creatures come together is accompanied by sunlight and warm colours in its happy moments. After, the scene is mirrored by a storm caused by the Greek gods. This speaks directly to the ways in which, for centuries, we have sought explanations for the workings of the earth – particularly the weather and the seasons, another amusing and subtly affectionate example of our propensity to attach our own desires and feelings to the things around us.
In the film’s final two-part sequence, the devil and its servants display their evil, which is then thwarted by a spark of light, representing hope, as is explained in the live action commentary beforehand. After the explosion of light returns the devil’s souls back to some resting place, the camera cuts to a scene of hooded figures walking through a wood and over a bridge.
An incredibly uplifting image that alludes to real-life notions of morality
This at first reminded me of a universal religious sentiment of moving on to an afterlife, which would be in lockstep with the picture the film had painted thus far. But eventually, “Ave Maria”, the song that accompanies this scene, convinced me of the sincerity of this scene, now the procession brings to mind a group of refugees escaping towards a brighter future, an incredibly uplifting image that alludes to real-life notions of morality, rather than pop-cultural ones.
As such, Fantasia commands an understanding of the ways in which we attach ourselves to the things around us in both pop-cultural and emotional terms.
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