The short that became Fantasia

21 June, 2012 12:36pm

This week, we’re delving deep into the archives of our childhood and looking at the humble origins of Disney’s third highest grossing film.

And no, it’s not Finding Nemo.

This 1938 film contains no talking fish. Or talking cats. In fact, there’s no dialogue at all. One of Disney’s most successful films of all time is classical music masterpiece Fantasia.  And it all started as (all together now) a short film!

 

Mr Walt Disney himself started work on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, an eight minute short based on Johan Wolfgang Von Goethe’s 1797 poem of the same name, and set it to an orchestral piece inspired by the original poem. How very highbrow.

Word has it that Disney was becoming concerned about Mickey Mouse’s dwindling popularity – audiences were fed up with the smiley rodent’s extraordinary good luck, while his less fortunate friends (Donald, Goofy and the gang) were always getting into mischief. So he wanted to make a film that showed the character in a new light.  He enlisted the help of hit conductor Leopold Stokowski and together they set about changing the face of animated films forever.

 

They soon encountered a problem, though. Production costs ran well over what they could ever hope to recoup with a short (over $100,000 – four times the cost of a regular Disney short). So, Disney decided to expand the feature, adding on seven additional animated segments and, in 1940, releasing it as Fantasia. Luckily The Sorcerer’s Apprentice made the final cut – in fact, it’s probably the film’s most iconic scene. You know the one; there’s Mickey in his blue wizard’s hat, casting spells that go wrong and being pursued by evil, possessed brooms, resulting in the recurring nightmares of a generation of children.

The film has been re-released, re-mastered and digitally enhanced no less than ten times, most recently for the millennium in the guise of Fantasia 2000. But The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has stood the test of time and still features in the Fantasia we know and love today. It’s even earned itself a place on The Simpsons, as a fantastic Itchy and Scratchy spoof. And you know you’ve really made it when The Simpsons are taking you off.

Fantasia has now grossed more than $76.4 million in the USA alone.  Not bad for a film that started as a short about an unpopular mouse.

Emma Allen

More shorts to features: Boogie Nights | The Wanderers | Saw | District 9

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