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A Fantasia-cal night!

Is it just me, or other people out there who feel as if their "to do" list is so high it's going to crash down on them? Please tell me I'm not alone!

But this post is one of the things on the list, so I will whip it out quickly!

This weekend, after a week of too much rain and too much work, I took the kids (in the rain) up to Sydney. We had booked to see Fantasia, performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House. The orchestra played select pieces from Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 as the parts of the movie were shown on the big screen. My brother came too!

Now, if you are not familiar with Disney's 1940 film Fantasia, first of all, shame on you, and second of all - it was originally framed as a vehicle for Mickey Mouse. Walt wanted to create a mini-film and thought that a retelling of Goethe's 1797 poem The Sorcerer's Apprentice, set to a symphonic score by Paul Dukas. If you have been hiding in a cave somewhere, and have never seen this, take the time to stop now and enjoy:

Walt Disney met with conductor Leopold Stowkowski, and they decided to expand the concept by including several classical pieces with Disney animation. Interestingly, it was the first film ever in stereo! As much as my brother and I love it, however, it was not a success at the time of release and did not make a profit, putting an end to Disney's dream of releasing a new one with some old, some new pieces every couple of years.

Some music, such as Sorcerer's Apprentice, tells a story. Some music, such as Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral), can allude to a story:

or Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet score:

or Ponchelli's Dance of the Hours:

As with lots of films, ideas were developed and changed and removed. They actually created an entire sequence based on Debussy's Claire de Lune, but it was scrapped to make the movie run shorter. It was later included in Fantasia 2000 as a Bonus Feature:

But in 2000, Roy Disney produced another Fantasia movie, creatively called Fantasia 2000. Again, not a success at the box office, and something we are not as familiar with, but we LOVED the sequences.

Abstract ideas of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5:

In Fantasia, one of the hardest pieces for kids to "get" was an interpretation of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. It is difficult music to listen to. Disney set it to a visual interpretation of the history of the earth. In Fantasia 2000, they tackled Stravinsky's The Firebird, which is easier listening and I think, easier viewing, especially for younger kids:

The Pines of Rome (Respighi) is another symphonic poem that is challenging to listen to, but the Disney artists certainly got their "weird" on when they decided on space whales, which I guess you could interpret in many ways - we certainly had a some great discussions about it afterward. And a note here - the video WILL NOT BE THE SAME (and yes, I am shouting!) as hearing that crescendo of music live. Gave us goosebumps!!!

Right out of the comic vault comes our last two pieces: a biblical interpretation of Elgar's stunning Pomp and Circumstance (which appears to have no trace on YouTube probably due to diligent Disney copyrighters) and the grand finale of Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals (which you should make sure your children listen to in full, just sayin'):

It was a magical evening. It was a great experience for the kids, who loved it (I saw toes tapping and fingers snapping):

We got to see a live orchestra performing as well as listen to them:

And we got to spend time with my brother and enjoy one of Sydney's best assets, the Opera House:

How lucky are we that we get to count this as "school"????!!!!


  1. That was an awesome night. Worth it just for the ending of Pines Of Rome. Right up there as one of the best pieces of music I've ever heard there. Really turned around my impression of it.


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