Wednesday with Walt: Music in Motion

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Wednesday with Walt: Music in Motion 1

“There is a natural hootchy-kootchy motion to a goldfish.”  – Walt Disney

Alright, Disney friends, I have to admit I chose this quote today because it gave me a chuckle! Thank you, Mr. Disney, for still being able to make me laugh nearly 45 years after your passing. Walt was talking about the Arab Dance portion of “The Nutcracker Suite” in Fantasia. If you haven’t seen it in a while, you might enjoy watching it again soon.

In this part of the film, distinctly feminine fish with long eyelashes dance around together, and then one on her own does a sultry number like a harem girl with her tail for a veil, and then bashfully disappears in clouds of bubbles. Walt wanted his artists to make the goldfish very feminine and sexy, using their “natural hootchy-kootchy” motion. He had a knack for really paying attention to how things moved and brought that to the screen. I find it amazing how he was so “present” at any given moment, as I have trouble just trying to focus on one thing at a time. His ability to concentrate must have been  just like my daddy’s — another man in my life I considered to be a genius.

When Walt decided to make Fantasia, his idea was always for the film to be void of dialogue; only the music and, of course, the animation. Ultimately, he wanted the viewer to truly “hear” the music. He had chosen Leopold Stokowski, conducterof the Philadelphia Orchestra,  to conduct the music and Stokowski had once said that, “the beauty and inspiration of music must not be restricted to a privileged few but made available to every man, woman and child. That is why great music associated with motion pictures is so important, because motion pictures reach millions all over the world.”

Walt wanted Fantasia to be simply “music you hear, and pictures you see.”  This idea is what lead to the creation of “Fantasound,” a revolutionary sound system made especially for Fantasia. This new system ensured proper sound synchronization and quality, especially important when a film contains beautiful music such as:

-Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach
-The Nutcracker Suite by Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky
-The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky
-The Pastoral Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven
-Dance of the Hours by Amilcare Ponchielli
-Night on Bald Mountain by Modeste Moussorgsky
-Ave Maria by Franz Shubert

The name “Fantasia” was chosen for the film as the name certainly seemed appropriate to the film. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word means:  a free usually instrumental composition not in strict form; and a work (as a poem or play) in which the author’s fancy roves unrestricted. I agree that both certainly apply to Fantasia.

In an interview with Walt’s wife, Lillian, entitled “I Live With A Genius,” which was published in the February 1953 issue of McCall’s (yes, I do), she describes Walt’s genius through many examples of his life. While discussing Fantasia in particular, she said, “He knew nothing about music, but he began to study it. To this day he cannot carry a tune, but he has a vast knowledge and understanding of all kinds of music. He seldom wastes time being proud of anything he has finished, but of everything he has made he is most pleased with certain sections of Fantasia, which showed music as it looks to Walt Disney in cartoon and color.”

Genius indeed!

Wednesday with Walt: Music in Motion 2

Wednesday with Walt: Music in Motion 3

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