Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
Fantasia (1940)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

The casual narrative from Deems Taylor prefaces the next segment, the best-known musical piece:

And now we're going to hear a piece of music that tells a very definite story. It's a very old story, one that goes back almost 2,000 years, a legend about a sorcerer who had an apprentice. He was a bright young lad, very anxious to learn the business. As a matter of fact, he was a little bit too bright, because he started practicing some of the boss's best magic tricks before learning how to control them.

3. Paul Dukas's The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a spectacular 8-minute sequence, the most famous section of the film - a concert piece by French composer Paul Dukas. It was originally an ages-old fairy tale that had been interpreted as a poem by Goethe - a story that illustrated the dangers of power over wisdom.

The segment opens with the Sorcerer (named Yen Sid, or Disney spelled backwards) practicing his craft, calling up a smoky spirit in the shape of a bat that he changes into a misty butterfly. Mickey Mouse is the lazy, young, and mischievous apprentice-magician of the powerful Wizard, assigned the tiring task of filling the large water vat in the cavern with buckets of water from an outdoor fountain. He wipes his brow, weary from carrying water. Left alone in the sorcerer's underground cavern after the Wizard yawns and then retires, he sees that the mystical Wizard has left behind his tall, pointed magical hat. The glowing, powerful blue hat is decorated with white stars and a crescent moon.

Mickey dons it and pretends to be the Wizard. Dabbling with spells, he extends his arms toward a broom leaning against the wall. He brings one broom to life with a bluish and white glow, and lures it to stand upright. Then, he commands it to move, hop, and sprout arms. The broom straws part to look like flippers so that the broom can walk like a seal. The arms and "feet" are taught to do his work, to carry buckets of water from the fountain to fill the huge vat. Mickey has a cute and cocky, hubristic attitude, broadly grinning at the success of his trick. He sits back in the Wizard's chair, orchestrating the movements of the broom, while watching it tirelessly fetch and tote water buckets. He soon falls asleep and dreams of power - he has reached greater heights above the earth on a high pinnacle in space - he pictures himself controlling the paths of clouds, stars, planets, and comets in the sky. Even the waves of the ocean and lightning bolts obey him.

Suddenly, he awakens to waves of water crashing over him. His chair is floating on water that fills the cavern. The persistent broom has filled the vat with thousands of gallons of water, causing a gigantic ocean and flood. Mickey cannot get the broom to stop and obey him, unable to control the spell he has created. The unstoppable broom walks right over him on its way to the fountain for more water. Desperately, in a memorable set of images, Mickey grabs an axe and splits the broom into splinters, shown on the wall in gigantic dark shadows. All is silent for a moment, until the fragments twitch and then proliferate, generating more brooms. Each broom mechanically carries two more buckets, marching in an army from the fountain into the cavern. In a futile attempt, Mickey attempts to bail out the room with a single bucket. The robot-like batallion of brooms continue their appointed task of fetching buckets of water, even when they become completely submerged. Frantically, Mickey jumps on the master's huge book of magic and spells, looking for an antidote, riding (actually surfing) in a swirling, out-of-control whirlpool of water that threatens to drown everything.

The Sorcerer makes a dramatic appearance at the top of the stairway just in time. With five sweeps of his hands, he parts and calms the waters - beautifully coordinated with the music, commanding the army of brooms to become one broom again. With piercing eyes, the Sorcerer summons his mischievous apprentice to chastise him. He retrieves his soggy, drooping hat. A sheepish Mickey has a variety of expressions on his face - guilt, embarrassment, and coyness. He hands the broom to the unsmiling magician. The wizard also conceals a slight look of concealed amusement on his face. As Mickey tiptoes away to cart buckets of water the hard way, he is given a whack on the backside with the broom, beautifully timed to notes and chords of the musical piece.

At the conclusion, Stokowski is in silhouette on the podium. Dressed in tails, Mickey's silhouetted figure runs up onto the conductor's podium and tugs on Stokowski's coat-tails to get his attention:

Mickey: Mr. Stokowski, Mr. Stokowski, (he whistles to attract his attention), ha, my congratulations sir.
Conductor: Congratulations to you, Mickey. (They shake hands)
Mickey: Gee, thanks, so long, I'll be seein' ya.
Conductor: Goodbye.

4. Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring depicts the 'scientific' beginnings of the cosmos, solar system, and the planet Earth and then life itself - billions of years of geological creation and the development of primordial life represented in a few minutes. The original revolutionary ballet, with its score simplified and rearranged for the film, was about the pagan sacrifice of a young maiden to appease the gods of Spring (nature). The ambitious sequence is divided into eight sections, and prefaced by the musicologist's narration:

When Igor Stravinsky wrote his ballet The Rite of Spring, his purpose was, in his own words, 'to express primitive life.' So Walt Disney and his fellow artists have taken him at his word. Instead of presenting the ballet in its original form, as a simple series of tribal dances, they have visualized it as a pageant, as the story of the growth of life on Earth. It's a coldly accurate reproduction of what science thinks went on during the first few billion years of this planet's existence. So now, imagine yourselves out in space, billions and billions of years ago, looking down on this lonely, tormented little planet, spinning through an empty sea of nothingness.

(1) Trip Through Space: Out in the cosmos, where spiral nebulae, comets, and meteors are imagined, an exploded emission of gas from the sun shoots off into space and solidifies into a ball of fire to eventually become Earth.

(2) Volcanoes: Earth is first envisioned as a molten mass with boiling seas, spouting and exploding craters, volcanic lava flows, and hot gases. After volcanic convulsions, mountain ranges are formed and the earth cools.

(3) Undersea Life and Growth: The genesis of sea life begins with microscopic, primitive, one-celled organisms. They evolve into hydras, annelid worms, jellyfish, and trilobites. The first fish appear, then lungfish, and then true amphibians that come onto the dry land and adapt to new conditions. This section imaginatively represents the evolution of sea life into land reptiles. The fins of Polypterus change to legs, and he walks up a submerged rock to the surface of the ocean.

(4) Pterodactyls: Flying reptiles of the Jurassic period, pterodactyls hang from a cliff and swoop down to catch prey. One flies too close to the water level and is snatched by a Mosasaur, a sea creature.

(5) The Age of Dinosaurs: The earth is soon dominated by huge reptiles, including the Dimetrodon, the Stegosaurus, the Brontosaurus, the Triceratops, and other graceful dinosaurs that roam the surface of the planet.

(6) Survival of the Fittest: Dinosaurs fight against each other. Two prehistoric monsters, a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a giant Stegosaurus, engage in a bloody, ferocious battle to the death. The king of the tyrant lizards, the T. Rex, is a frightening sight of enormous jaws and gigantic, pointed teeth. The defeated Stegosaurus expresses despair when its neck is broken and it realizes it is going to die.

(7) Extinction: The large beasts become extinct from the effects of a massive, blistering hot drought, providing bones and fossils for future discoveries. [The dinosaurs are 'sacrificed' to nature, as the maiden was in the original ballet.] The continental land masses become deserts.

(8) Forces of Nature: The dramatic effects of Nature are highlighted by an earthquake, tidal waves and floods (with rain, thunder, and wind) caused by subterranean volcanoes, and an eclipse of the sun.

A few of the musicians play a few bars of jazz in an informal jam session.

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