Original Walt Disney production cel on Courvoisier background from Fantasia. From the Pastoral Symphony segment.
Walt Disney’s third feature-length film, Fantasia, was originally planned as a short featuring Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer’s apprentice. It was a marriage of animation without dialog set to Paul Dukas’s classical orchestral piece The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Walt Disney partnered with legendary conductor Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra to record the music.
As production progressed, Disney realized that animation was the perfect means of reintroducing classical music to the general public and decided to expand the project to include more shorts interpreting other compositions. He again went to Stokowski to help with the selection of additional music, resulting in seven more selections to bring the total to eight animated shorts. The final challenge was to name the film. Disney held a naming contest at the studio, and Fantasia was the clear winner.
Fantasia was not an instant success when it was first released in 1940 and had its share of controversy over brief nudity. But it stood the test of time as more and more people began to appreciate the film’s innovation and imagination. Fantasia inspired the 1946 Disney feature film Make Mine Music, which used popular music of the time instead of classical; was rereleased in 1947 along with several other Disney classics; and had its own sequel in the year 2000 called Fantasia 2000, which featured seven new animated shorts set to classical music.