Disney's Fantasia (1940)

in #filmlast year

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This is a bit of an exception to my guidelines for which Disney Animated movies I'd be reviewing, because it is both a collection of shorts rather than a feature-length film, and it involves live-action performers for part of it. That said, Fantasia is kind of the most Disney of all the Disney animated films. It's an all-time classic, it is where I think Disney truly established themselves as a powerhouse of the movie industry, and to this day it is very fondly remembered by many. And yet..... I don't think it's very good.

I will start by saying the movie doesn't have a story, at least not all of it. It's just animations set to classical music. You are just watching pretty imagery set to music, with only a couple of short stories being told depending on the animation being played on screen. And in that regard, the visuals are pretty superb throughout the whole movie. There will be no criticism of quality visuals here, but that being said this movie is two hours long. This is a lot of time to just kind of sit there watching pretty colors, no matter how well animated they are. And to be honest the early stages of the movie I find to be rather boring because nothing is happening. There is an incredible amount of talent going into the animation and its creativity, but in the end, most scenes of the movie don't feel worth sitting through.

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There are a couple of stories told in some of the scenes, most of which are rather underwhelming. The exception here is probably the most famous scene from the movie, and honestly the one that works great and can be enjoyed separately from the rest of the film, The Sorcerers Apprentice. With only the music and visuals, no dialogue needed at all, you see Micky Mouse as the over-eager apprentice who lets things go way out of control as he tries to use magic he doesn't fully understand. The animation is wonderful, the story is told very well, and there are plenty of funny bits throughout making this a great short that I have no criticism of.

The issue comes from the narrator, who for some reason explains exactly what happens in the story before it is told. And he does this for pretty much every scene that comes up. I get this was a movie made for kids, it's what Disney did, but this is where I start to feel like the movie thinks it's the audience is too dumb to figure out what's going on. Kids don't always need things explained to them, especially not something as simple as The Sorcerers Apprentice, it is done so well I don't think an explanation is necessary, and the same applies to most scenes in the movie. But that guy is there to explain everything to you all the same, and it gets to be infuriating.

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The things about this movie people remember make up less than half of the run time, but at least the nature of the movie allows these shorts to stand on their own. At it's best, this film is visually captivating like nothing else was at the time, and honestly, those scenes still look great today (The Chereabog/Devil being the obvious one to point to) all while managing to show that Disney is fantastic at building an atmosphere. But so much of the movie ends up being boring and forgettable, and to sit through it for two hours I think the best way to enjoy Fantasia is to just watch the good shorts and skip the rest.