It’s hard to believe that Disney Animation was ready to take on a project as ambitious and unusual as Fantasia as just their third feature film. But a team with more experience may not have even tried. “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” the mascot piece of the movie, originated as a concept for a standalone Silly Symphony cartoon intended to be a comeback for Mickey Mouse. But it went staggeringly over budget, and so the decision was made to compile it with multiple other short sketches set to classical music, present the soundtrack with Disney’s brand new sound system Fantasound (an early attempt at what would become surround sound), and tour it as a roadshow.
It wasn’t profitable at first – WW2 made it impossible to distribute to Europe, and the Fantasound equipment was expensive – but audiences came around. Disney’s ambitious experiment with classical music ranging from cheery, sweet selections from The Nutcracker Suite to Mussorgsky’s dark, moody Night on Bald Mountain, and with striking, surprising animation that looked nothing like what a Disney audience had come to expect, is now the 23rd highest grossing film of all time and a universally acclaimed classic of animation that has been on Tampa Theatre’s Summer Classics wish-list for a long time.
The Summer Classics Movie Series has been presented by Bank of America since 2015. Promotional support for the series is provided by WEDU-PBS.