Fantasia is a animated film which was a Walt Disney experiment in color and music. It was released on November 13, 1940. Having originally designed the film as a single cartoon episode of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Disney realized that the full work would be too expensive to do. Taking the advice of Leopold Stokowski, he decided to expand it into a single film with several musical pieces.

Bela Lugosi served as a live action model for Chernabog, the demon in Night on Bald Mountain. Lugosi spent several days at the Disney studios, where he was filmed doing evil, demon-like poses for the animators to use as a reference.

Fantasia was the first film released in a multichannel (stereo) sound format (see Fantasound). The film also marked the first use of the click track while recording the soundtrack, overdubbing of orchestral parts, simultaneous multitrack recording and lead to the development of a multichannel surround system.

The composers and their works used in order are:

The movie won two Honorary Academy Awards:
  • Walt Disney, William E. Garity and J.N.A. Hawkins - For their outstanding contribution to the advancement of the use of sound in motion pictures through the production of Fantasia (certificate).
  • Leopold Stokowski (and his associates) - For their unique achievement in the creation of a new form of visualized music in Walt Disney's production Fantasia, thereby widening the scope of the motion picture as entertainment and as an art form (certificate).

Fantasia was not a box-office hit upon its initial release, and critics of the time felt that Disney was attempting to reach a "high-brow" audience. The movie did not turn a profit until its re-release in the late 1960s. Its failure left Disney in financial straits, which is why he followed Fantasia with a relatively low-budget feature, Dumbo.

The 1960 theatrical re-release was edited, and at least one character--Sunflower, a centaur--was eliminated from the edited version. According to the Memory Hole, "Performing menial duties for the blonde, white female centaurs, Sunflower is a racial stereotype along the lines of Amos and Andy, Buckwheat, and Aunt Jemima."

In the 1970s, Fantasia was a favorite movie of those who liked to take illicit drugs and watch the film's colorful sequences. Though that association eventually faded, the film's reputation has grown steadily until it now is generally acknowledged as one of Disney's legitimate masterpieces and a shining example of American animation at its finest.

In 1976, Italian animator Bruno Bozzetto released a parody of Fantasia called Allegro non troppo.

Disney had wanted to release a new version of Fantasia every year, with a different musical scene, but this proved too costly. In 1999, an update, Fantasia 2000, was finally produced and released in IMAX theaters.

The original film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

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