Fantasia (1940), So Much More than a Magician’s Apprentice

In this week’s podcast we talked about Bridges, an animation that follows the journey of a fisherman as he travels up and down the river Tyne. Ed Carter wrote the music alongside the great Northern Symphonia to create the conversations between the boatman and each bridge along the Tyne. If you haven’t already seen the podcast I would encourage you to hop to it!

Seeing this piece at the Great Exhibition of the North reminded me of the power of animation and music, specifically classical music has when they are together. Many people would argue that classical music is a genre of music that can be rather inaccessible and people are put off by the ridiculously wordy names of the pieces (which can be intimidating). But classical music is in many other things we love, particularly movie soundtracks (I’m looking at you Pirates of the Caribbean) and I would argue that animation can make it easier to interact with.

When I was young, one of my favourite movies was Fantasia (1940). Fantasia combined a classical music soundtrack of well known pieces and created animated stories based on them. Originally used to promote Mickey Mouse (who appears as the sorcerer’s apprentice), it initially didn’t reach the acclaim that was intended. But due to it being rereleased and remastered over the years, in 1998 the American Film Institute ranked it as the 5th greatest animated film in their top 10.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen this movie but it has inspired me in so many ways and opened up the world of classical music to me. I didn’t know the names of the composers or what the orchestra was called, I just liked the one about the flowers or the one about the flying horses. It wasn’t until years later that I found out what the names of the pieces of music actually were. But then it wasn’t so much about what the music was called and who did it best. It was about bringing the music alive and into a visual format that always works so well; animation. Some of the pieces tell a definite story like the mystical countryside of Beethoven’s pastoral suite (one of my favourites) and other pieces were more abstract images.

One such abstract piece is the intermission part. A line called the soundtrack, which is shy at first, is given many different types of instruments and pieces of music to visually demonstrate. It translates the feeling of the music it into patterns and colours.

The line is given a sort of personality through the animation and the musical expression, very similar to the lines and patterns present on each of the bridges of the river Tyne. This is why animation works so well for music because it isn’t bound by reality, it can create anything in relation to the music, however abstract. Ed Carter alongside Novak who did the animation for Bridges were able to create different personalities for each bridges which was very cool to see.

I hope that people are able to look past all the fancy names and worrying about not ‘getting’ or understanding classical music. Classical music is such an art form that shouldn’t be about getting it right. Like any piece of art it’s about how it makes you feel. I believe animation and seeing things helps to see what the music may be about and encourage others to paint their own pictures in their minds eye. If you can, please try and see all of Fantasia (1940) if you haven’t already, it is such a masterpiece.

Ellie :0

Soundtrack intermission Fantasia (1940)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTM48pwoXAo

Can you think of any other pieces of classical music and animation matches? Or have any thought? Please send your responses to heyartwhatsgood@gmail.com

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