When I was little, someone tried to get me to watch Fantasia. Once I found out it was a series of shorts based on classical music with no dialogue between the characters, I was completely uninterested (though it did seem a better option that spinach). In fact, it wasn’t until I was in my 20’s and married that my in-laws gifted me a Blu-ray of Fantasia and Fantasia 2000, with gift receipts, given my Disney obsession. They were shocked to learn that not only did I not own the films, but that I hadn’t even seen them. Within a few days, James and I found ourselves sitting in our darkened living room, sinking into our plush couch with a bowl of freshly popped popcorn (my sister-in-law gave us a popcorn maker—our families definitely know all about our love of films). Fantasia began, and I was awestruck.
I love animation and storytelling, which is why I started my Disney project. The Nutcracker Suite will always be my favorite part of this film, and I will most likely skip the dinosaur bit. Fantasia was reportedly Walt’s favorite project (and only his third feature film) because he planned on re-releasing it, adding new shorts and subtracting others. In the writing world, writers feel as though they are never finished with a manuscript; it may draw indecisive people like me in because you can always change it, work on it, improve it. Walt, being the great storyteller he was, undoubtedly looked to Fantasia the way a writer looks at a manuscript. It was his opportunity to continually work on something he loved.
Fantasia was also Walt just plain showing off. The animation in this film is incredible. I can’t even name all the technical inventions this movie inspired. In fact, until the discovery of a notebook decades after the film was released, modern animators didn’t know how the hand-drawn animators accomplished many of the effects seen in Fantasia. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice will always be a fun one for me, if only because it has Mickey Mouse. Walt believed in creating a quality product; to do that, he spearheaded inventions of new animation techniques in order to craft little details that would only be on screen for a few short moments.
It is currently mid-October here in Alaska, and James and I have decided on a house that we’re planning to put an offer on this week. We had our first heavy frost last night; when I took the dogs for their morning walk, the world seemed to sparkle. It was mostly quiet, the yellow leaves hung heavy with frost as the sun rose from behind the mountains. The tall grasses, which often remind me of the wheat plains before harvest in Oklahoma, shimmered in the widening glow of the morning light. As the sun climbed higher and cleared the tree tops of the forest behind our apartment, little drip-drops of melting frost mingled with the swish of leaves falling, their stems too fragile to hold onto the tree any longer. At first I paused, hearing soft noises always makes me look for moose (a mother moose and her two calves have revealed themselves to be hanging out in that forest behind us before; looking for moose near our home is another perk of living in Alaska).
I mention this beautiful morning scene because I was reminded of it hours later, plopped on my couch with our 45 pound black-lab mix, Nala, snuggling up next to me (yes, she is named after The Lion King—you shouldn’t be surprised. Charlie, our 70 pound collie, is named after All Dogs Go to Heaven; Layla, our black lab-German shepherd mix, is named after the Eric Clapton song; I promise we’re usually more original). The fall air was cool and crisp, a warm puppy was in my lap, and a Disney movie was playing—in short, it was an ideal Sunday afternoon. Then, during my favorite sequence (the Nutcracker Suite), I noticed something: the spider web sparkles with dew the same way our wheat-like grasses sparkled with frost. When looking at the frost, I wondered What would Disney do with that? How would he make it look? Within hours, I had my answer. They created a special way to film that sequence with light and dew. If there were a moose in the shot, it would have been too surreal.
While my childhood attention span couldn’t cope with nonverbal communication and inferring meaning from music, my adult self loves it. I also quite enjoy Fantasia 2000; partially due to the simple enjoyment of seeing Walt’s wishes carried out (at this point I think of him as an especially cool uncle, despite any shred of possibility I could actually be related to him), but also because the simple beauty and majesty of animation paired with music is just enchanting.