Fantasia - Disney Films Project

Fantasia is the third movie in our Disney Films Project and there are nine different short segments that are put together to form this film.

 

Alex created artwork for each piece and he will add some commentary for each number.

Fantasia

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach. This is the first impression of the film, and the abstract animation really does its work. That said, the real height of this piece is the last shot, with Leopold Stokowski's conducting synced to the animation.

Nutcracker Suite by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. At this point, the film winds up lulling most people to sleep (including Riley and Katie). However, the renditions of various creatures (including a group of various flowers,  and a short dance with several mushrooms) are worth watching. 

The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Paul Dukas. Believe it or not, this is the short that started Fantasia! Rising costs for the short's production led to the Fantasia series of shorts being produced. All of the animation is spot on to the music, and the whole thing stands the test of time. This is the piece most people think of when you mention Fantasia and it certainly is the one that has kept the film in Disney's culture. Mickey's sorcerer hat is still a popular item today - just look through any Disney gift shop!

Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky. Speaking of time, here's one piece that stutters a bit in modern viewings. The science was sound at the time of release, though, so you can't fault it too much. Also, the whole thing is some of the most realistic animation in Disney.

Intermission/Meet the Soundtrack. At this point, the film breaks off, then returns with a series of sound gags. This is cute, and between the both of these, all prospective audiences should be awake for the rest of the film. (Actually walking around at the start of the intermission is recommended.)

The Pastoral Symphony (The 6th) by Ludwig van Beethoven. Here, the whole thing shifts back to generating a scene. Disney really nails the party and thunderstorm, replicating one of Beethoven's apprentice's description. The segment in general shows good Greek focus, and we'll see more of this inspiration later.

Dance of the Hours by Amilcare Ponchielli. Hello, Muddah. Hello, Faddah... Seriously, this is one of my favorite sequences animated. The general tone is humorous, and the whole thing could very well stand on it's own. 

Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky. That's a strange looking letter A!  Anyway, this segment features some of the most nightmarish imagery, and is also paired with intense music. This could honestly be described only as "someone thinking dark thoughts very clearly."

Ave Maria by Franz Schubert. Therefore, it makes sense that the counterpoint to Bald Mountain is more unfocused, with scenery and camera taking the stage. The shots seen here are spiritually charged, reaffirming faith's triumph. Honestly, this may be our last shot of Walt as a spiritual man. 

But what a finale. The final shot suggests all the peace and comfort of religion, without being overly complex. That's an achievement any artist would struggle with, pulled off with ease by Walt's staff.

Katie's drowsy thoughts:

I struggle to stay awake during this film and I usually am out by the time the Nutcracker Suite starts up. I feel somewhat guilty over that because I really respect the artistic beauty of the music paired with the animation. I have watched all the segments, but never in the same sitting.

I think Fantasia was a groundbreaking film that was probably quite ahead of it's time. In fact, Fantasia was most popular during the sixties and seventies when people reportedly enjoyed with with some illegal substances to enhance viewing. People seem to either love this film or hate it. I wish I could love it, but it's just not really my thing. I do appreciate the great artistic endeavor that Walt and his team took on with this though. I'm only giving it 2/10 Mickey heads which I know will upset some fans. 

 

Second Opinion With Alex Nelson:

This is the most realized art film Walt made, and it's also a landmark for the studio, with attempts made at early surround sound. Best appreciated by those with a ready focus, this is Walt's early work in music and cartoons brought to it's apex.

7/10 Mickey Heads for sheer focus. While not as stimulating to an early crowd, this is the great film that stood for what Disney could do. (We won't see much of that for the moment, as we are entering the territory of package films. But the best is yet to come, I promise!)

Riley's zzzzzzzs:

Riley slept through almost the entire showing of Fantasia and decided to just bow out of this review. She gives it a lot of zzzzzzzzs. LOL!

 

As Alex enjoys Fantasia quite a bit, and Katie is a fan of Sorcerer Mickey, we have a few toys around relating to this film. One of our favorite memories is when Alex's Grandpa placed a Sorcerer Mickey stuffed toy in our room in the Disneyland Hotel back in 1999 to greet Alex when we arrived (there was a Minnie Mouse for Riley). The cool thing is that Alex still has this Mickey today.

Note the Mushu pajamas as well. This was a big Disney phase in our lives!

Trying on the sorcerer's hat in the Disney gift shop during that same 1999 trip. Also, wearing Pixar merchandise. We drink the Kool-aid when we are there!

 

Fantasia has a remarkable history and there are many interesting facts about Walt's vision for the idea. Here are a few cool links to check out:



Pinocchio - Disney Films Project

We recently watched and reviewed Disney's 2nd animated masterpiece Pinocchio for our Disney Films Project. 

  Card image from Disney.com. The pin is one we got from a cast member trade in Walt Disney Word back in 2008.

 

Card image from Disney.com. The pin is one we got from a cast member trade in Walt Disney Word back in 2008.

It was amazing to see how much animation improved in just two short years. Pinocchio was released in February of 1940 and unfortunately, the timing of World War II hurt it's box office success.

Later generations have praised the movie, which you'll hear a lot of during these reviews. The soundtrack in particular has stuck in people's heads. (Including the theme for Disney itself, When You Wish Upon a Star.) The characters are still popular in today's Disney culture and Jiminy Cricket in particular has been a lasting icon.

Our family has enjoyed this movie in the past, but there are definitely some dark parts of the story. It was interesting to watch it again after not seeing it for at least ten years.

Katie's thoughts:

For me, the best part of this film is in Gepetto's cottage at the beginning of the film. I love all the clocks and toys with moving parts. His joy and sweet personality are fun to watch and I like Jiminy as a character. Figaro and Cleo are cute little sidekicks. I sort of wish they all could have just lived happily ever after without all the struggles. But, then how do you make a movie out of that? Naturally, the storyline has challenges to be overcome and the movie is based on an Italian novel and the Disney team struggled to tell the story in an appealing way which meant they had to change a lot of the details.

I really don't like the donkey story line, but the rest of the movie is quite charming. I especially love the musical number with all the marionettes. That is an amazing segment of animation! In the end, the movie feels like a good tale of how morals and choices can impact your life. I give Pinocchio 6 out of 10 Mickey heads on our rating scale.

 

Second Opinion With Alex Nelson:

I came into this movie expecting to dislike it, as this film terrified me as a kid. Time, however, has refined the film into a work that stands above and beyond as a technical and story-tale master work. (Save a few odd happenings here and there. Like, why is the talking fox astonished at a wooden boy?)

Overall, this isn't the best film, but it's impeccable in working. Technically perfect, but not for the younger crowd.

Alex's Verdict: 7/10 Mickey Heads. It's the best morality tale Disney ever made. Still, it's oddly spiritual. Is this Walt's Missouri background showing, or a fault in the tale? Ah well, it's better than the original!

Riley's Rave Review

I really liked this film when I was a young child because I didn't really understand all the dark parts of the story. As I got a little older, it became less of a favorite. Now, I can appreciate it for what it is and I think it's a great example of a moral tale.

I give this film 6 out of 10 Mickey heads.

 

Facts about Walt Disney's Pinocchio:

  • The Village Haus in Disneyland has a crooked exit sign being pulled by Figaro, a result of one of the support beams blocking the natural exit sign area. 
  • Speaking of Figaro, he occasionally appears as Minnie Mouse's pet cat. 
  • Jiminy Cricket originally had a more cricket-like design, which was refined because it didn't seem sympathetic enough. (Now compare Cri-kee from Mulan.)
  • Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland appear as books in the opening. Both were in active development around this time, with production halted for the war.
  • Jiminy Cricket headed up a series of films for the Mickey Mouse Club called I'm No Fool. These would be expanded into schools as requests permitted.

One more fun little tidbit...

From 1998-2001 we had a black and white cat (that we adopted from a local animal shelter) that we named Figaro because it looked like the cat from Pinocchio. We also felt the name was fitting because Alex had wished upon a star for a cat, just like Gepetto wished for a real boy. Obviously, his wish came true!

I searched high and low for a stuffed animal version of Figaro because my daughter really wanted one for her collection. I finally found this one on ebay. Not sure what ever happened to it, but I'm guessing it got worn out with time. So did the cat.

Snow White - Disney Films Project

We've officially started our Disney Films Project where we will be watching, reviewing, and ranking 50 different Disney movies.  Of course, we need to start at the beginning with Snow White.

  picture from the Disney Snow White photo gallery

The viewing committee for this project consists of me, my son Alex, and my daughter Riley. We are all adults and big Disney fans. I have to admit that none of us were thrilled with idea of watching Snow White again though since it isn't our favorite. A lot of the issue is the voice of Snow White since it is a little on the annoying side. My daughter can't stand it! But this is an important movie in the Disney timeline and we wanted to give it the respect it deserves. As a result, we enjoyed it a lot more than we have in the past.

We still don't adore Snow White's voice (especially her singing voice), but we appreciate the groundbreaking nature of this film and admire the talent behind it. We felt like the plot moved along a little too slowly, but we are definitely used to a more modern and quick-paced approach. The physical humor of the dwarfs interacting with each other was a highlight of the film and the queen sure is evil. Very memorable villain!

Katie's thoughts - I have to give this a fairly good rating just because of the pioneering work involved. What would have happened if this film flopped as everyone predicted? However, the princess is fairly flat in my opinion and I've come to terms with the idea that this will never be on my favorite film list. I do enjoy the dwarfs though. I'm giving it 4/10 Mickey Heads.

 

Second Opinion with Alex Nelson: Early animation, odd pacing, and a lot of sight gags, but this film resonates for a very good reason.  It's not the type of film that deserves too much ripping into, and as the film progresses, you get more of a sense for our title character. By the ending, you do feel for what you've seen, despite any ribbing you've given the film. That said, the sight gags go on a while, which made sense at the time, but now feels like padding. 

Alex's Verdict: 5/10 Mickey Heads.  While lagging in the initial plot, the whole thing pulls together nicely, and makes a lasting impression. Still, other films will do what this does better.

 

Riley's Rave Review: First of all, I can't stand Snow White's voice. The high-pitched strains sound like an animal in pain, particularly during the musical numbers. The message of the story, however, is much more bearable, and I enjoy the addition the Dwarfs give to our heroine. The lessons of hard work, patience, and adapting to one's situation make this film more than the initial presentation.

Riley's Rating: While this film is good, it's not among my favorite films, and I give it 4/10 Mickey Heads. It's a fair start, but there will be better films to come.

 

Facts about Walt Disney's Snow White:

  • Snow White was the first feature length animated film for Walt Disney. It was also the first feature length animated feature to be produced in English and also the first in technicolor. Lots of firsts!
  • Live animals were kept at the studio for the animators to use as reference.
  • Prince Charming is on screen for less than 2 minutes of the entire film.
  • Walt won an honorary Academy Award for his pioneering work on this film. (One large Oscar with seven smaller ones in back.)
  • Walt risked a lot to make the film happen and even used his own house as collateral to borrow money for the project.
  • The film was a financial success when it was released during the Great Depression and went on to gross $6.5 million worldwide by 1939. Nobody thought it would be successful, even Walt's own wife Lillian.
  • When it was re-released in 1944, it was the first film to have a soundtrack published.
  • The American Film Institute listed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as the number one animated classic film of all time.
  • Along with Pinocchio, it is widely considered to be Disney's greatest film.
  • The Beatles song "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" is based on the first lines of the song "I'm Wishing" in this film. 

Sources: History.com this day in history.  History.com 75th anniversary of Snow White. The Beatles Bible.  Mental Floss 23 things you didn't know about Snow White and fun facts about Snow White from Oh My Disney. 

Because Snow White is not high on our favorite list, we don't have a lot of related toys or merchandise. I do own this cute figurine that came with the Disney Store Princess set and I had a great time photographing her with a berry that was just the right size to be her poisoned apple.

Back in 1995, when Alex was only two years old, he used to love playing with this set of the seven dwarfs that belonged to his grandparents. He loved them so much that they ended up coming home with us. I'm not sure what ever happened to them, but I noticed they are available again on the Disney Store site. Probably because of the popularity of the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Disney World. We've never ridden that train, but we hope to someday!

 

Thanks for the memories Snow White!

 

Disney Movies Project

We are tackling a great big project here at Toy to the World headquarters (aka our house) where we are going to watch 50 Disney movies and write about each one and then rank them according to our favorites. Yes, this will take a while! There are technically 54 movies (according to many lists) in the Disney canon, but we are skipping a few of them because they make us too sad (looking at you Dumbo & Bambi). We added a few others to bring our list back up to a total of 50 movies. 

We will link up each movie to our review post as we complete them.

1.    Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
2.    Pinocchio (1940)
3.    Fantasia* (1940)
4.    Dumbo (1941)  - won't be watching this because it's too sad!
5.    Bambi (1942) – won't be watching this because it's too sad!
6.    Saludos Amigos* (1943)
7.    The Three Caballeros* (1945)
8.    Make Mine Music* (1946)
9.    Fun and Fancy Free* (1947)
10.    Melody Time* (1948)
11.    The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad* (1949)
12.    Cinderella (1950)
13.    Alice in Wonderland (1951)
14.    Peter Pan (1953)
15.    Lady and the Tramp (1955)
16.    Sleeping Beauty (1959)
17.    101 Dalmatians (1961)
18.    The Sword in the Stone (1963)
19.    Mary Poppins (1964) - how is this not considered canon? We added it to our list.
20.    The Jungle Book (1967)
21.    The Aristocats (1970)
22.    Bedknobs & Broomsticks (1971) - again, we think this should be canon.
23.    Robin Hood (1973)
24.    The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh* (1977)
25.    The Rescuers (1977)
26.    The Fox and the Hound (1981) – won't be watching this because it's too sad!
27.    The Black Cauldron (1985)
28.    The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
29.    Oliver & Company (1988)
30.    The Little Mermaid (1989)
31.    The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
32.    Beauty and the Beast (1991)
33.    Aladdin (1992)
34.    Nightmare Before Christmas (not considered canon but we added it as our choice)
35.    The Lion King (1994)
36.    Pocahontas (1995)
37.    The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
38.    Hercules (1997)
39.    Mulan (1998)
40.   Tarzan (1999)
41.    Fantasia 2000* (1999)
42.    Dinosaur (2000) – won't be watching this because we don’t think this is canon.
43.    The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
44.    Atlantis The Lost Empire (2001)
45.    Lilo & Stitch (2002)
46.    Treasure Planet (2002)
47.    Brother Bear (2003)
48.    Home on the Range (2004)
49.    Chicken Little (2005) – won't be watching this because we don't like it.
50.    Meet the Robinsons (2007) – won't be watching this because we don't like it.
51.     Bolt (2008) – won't be watching this because we don't like it.
52.    The Princess and the Frog (2009)
53.    Tangled (2010)
54.    Winnie-the-Pooh (2011)
55.    Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
56.    Frozen (2013)
57.    Big Hero 6 (2014)

*compilation movies consisting of several short segments.

The viewing committee for this project consists of me, my son Alex, and my daughter Riley. We are all adults and big Disney fans. We are each giving our own review and ranking and at the end of the project, we will put together our own list of favorites from top to bottom. It's going to be a BIG and FUN project!

 

 

The LEGO Americana Roadshow

I absolutely cannot believe my good luck in stumbling on to this display, and on my birthday to boot! I knew this tour was going on, but I had not checked yet to see if it would be in Utah. I kind of assumed it wouldn't be. Bad on me!

We happened to be at Fashion Place Mall on March 10th because I wanted to go to The Container Store and The LEGO Store for my birthday. I was surprised (and delighted) to find out that the LEGO Americana show was happening there at the same time. Cyber Ace (Alex) and I had a great time looking at all the displays. I handed him the map and he guided us through the exhibits.

It was only moderately crowded at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon so it was a great time to go. It was a little hard to photograph all of the buildings with mall lighting and stores/people in the background, but hopefully you can get a feel for how amazing these structures are.

The Washington Monument. I've seen the real one in DC and I thought they did a great job replicating it here. I love the flags around the base.

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The Liberty Bell was a sight to see. I've never seen the actual one in person.

They even replicated the famous crack and the same misspelling of Pennsylvania as "Pensylvania" that is on the original.

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The Jefferson Memorial is another monument that I've been lucky enough to see in DC and I loved it in LEGO form as well.

jefferson

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I have not been to the Old North Church, but I would love to see it someday.

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The Statue of Liberty was a highlight during our 2012 trip to New York City and it was great to see it as a LEGO monument.

Alex used his iPhone as his own torch. lol!

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The White House is an amazing building and I've even been inside the real one for a short tour. I loved the LEGO version!

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Independence Hall is a place that I've never been, but we have watched National Treasure so we joked about wondering if Ben Franklin's glasses were hidden in one of the bricks.

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The Supreme Court building was getting a facelift when we saw it in DC, but it was still beautiful. The details on the LEGO Supreme Court were really neat as well.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the sign for this one. Oh well. I really love the detail on the top of the building.

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The Lincoln Memorial was my very favorite monument when I saw it in person. It is also very stunning in LEGO form.

lincoln

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The most impressive piece of the display was definitely the Capitol Building.  Just like the real structure (which I've been to), it was a massive and sprawling work. The dome is a masterpiece for sure.

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Pretty amazing! If you are in the Salt Lake area, I totally recommend getting to Fashion Place before March 22, 2015. If you are hoping to catch the LEGO Americana Roadshow on tour, here is a schedule of the remaining stops.

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood

Mr. Rogers was my neighbor when I was growing up in the early 1970s. No, he wasn't literally my neighbor, but it felt like he was. I loved his soothing manner, his sweaters and tennis shoes, and that trolley that took us away to the land of make-believe. I really wanted my very own trolley!

Image from Roadtrippers

Image from Roadtrippers

I've been thinking about Mr. Rogers lately as I've seen a few merchandise items from the Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood show in local stores. I'm happy to see his creations bringing joy to a new generation of children. 

I also ran into a feature on Roadtrippers about Mr. Rogers Neighborhood set on display in the Heinz History Center in PIttsburgh, PA. That's a long way from Utah, but if I'm ever in that area, I will definitely go see that exhibit.

The Fred Rogers Foundation is doing a wonderful job carrying on the the work of my favorite neighbor. 

Here are some of his factory tours if you want to watch: