movie film review | chris tookey


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  Fantasia Review
Tookey's Rating
8 /10
Average Rating
9.00 /10
Deems Taylor, Leopold Stokowski, The Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra
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Directed by: Ben Sharpsteen
Written by: Lee Blair, Elmer Plummer, Phil Dike, Sylvia Moberly-Holland and others

Released: 1940
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 135


A selection of classical music is illustrated in cartoon form.

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Banal kitsch or a cartoon masterpiece? Actually it's both, but discerning audiences will continue to revel in the good bits (especially The Nutcracker, The Sorcerer's Apprentice and The Dance of the Hours) , while enjoying a cringe at what the Disney animators did to Beethoven's Pastorale. There's no doubting the ambition, or the technical ingenuity: multiplane cameras, showing degrees of depth in animation, were used here for the first time. Walt Disney and Leopold Stokowski both received special awards for the film at the Oscars.
The film was re-released in a new print in 1990. At a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars a black "piccaninny centaurette" seen polishing the hooves of a preening blonde was removed. Gone too were her servile role and the bows decorating her 1940s hairstyle. The changes were in the cause of erasing racial stereotyping in an American culture that had by then fully embraced such political correctness.
"Tampering with Fantasia is astonishing over-sensitivity," commented cartoon historian John Cawley at the time. "This black character is clearly a caricature and should be accepted as part of American history". Quite right.
"I saw the film with George Balanchine in a Hollywood studio at Christmas time, 1939. I remember someone offering me a score and, when I said I had my own, the someone saying, 'But it is all changed.' It was indeed. The instrumentation [of The Rite of Spring] had been improved by such stunts as having the horns play their glissandi an octave higher in the Danse de la Terre. The order of the pieces had been shuffled, too, and the most difficult of them eliminated though this did not save the musical performance, which was execrable. I will say nothing about the visual complement, as I do not wish to criticize an unresisting imbecility."
(Igor Stravinsky)

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