Disney's Fantasia was a magnificent feat of music and animation that was ahead of its time. The film has been lauded and showered with praise as a triumphant masterpiece for years, but let's get real. Not all the sequences are created equal.
Yes, the animation is still beautiful. Yes, these are some of the greatest pieces of music the world has ever known, but some sequences are just better than others. It might be a better choice of music, a better artistic direction, or a better narrative put to the music, but the different sequences of the film are all just that: different. Though dedication and skill went into creating the sequences, even Walt Disney himself surely had one he favored. Here are the seven sequences from Fantasia, ranked.
7 Toccata En Fuge
"Toccata En Fuge" by Johann Sebastian Bach is perhaps the weirdest segment in the feature. The animation for the opening segment is perhaps one of the most abstract pieces ever conceived by Disney, but that doesn't mean it doesn't merit any praise.
The splashes of color, dancing light, flying shapes, and billowing clouds and rays create a sort of experimental display of animation. It's like we're actually peeking into the mind of the artist or animator as they create what they see upon hearing this piece of music. Not the worst way to open a piece of film like Fantasia, but some less interested viewers might fall asleep.
6 Rite of Spring
If you're even the slightest bit familiar with this sequence, you know it due to one factor: dinosaurs. As stated by the host, Deems Taylor, "Rite of Spring" by Igor Stravinski has been associated with a series of tribal dances. Disney, however, decided to tell the story of life on earth, beginning as bacteria and micro-organisms before evolving into large beasts that walked the Earth millions of years ago.
This sequence might be a favorite for some. Who doesn't enjoy a good walk with dinosaurs every now and again? Still, we can't say it shines as bright as some of the rest of the sequences on our list. If we showed you a still of this sequence, could you identify the piece of music associated with it, or even the name of the film it comes from? At least we get some impressive dinosaur fights.
5 Pastoral Symphony
With Beethoven's "Pastoral Symphony," we start to see a more defined narrative in the film's sequences. Instead of the typical nature scenes often associated with pastoral pieces of music, Disney hits us with some classic mythology, complete with centaurs, cherubs, and the gods of the Greek/Roman pantheon. Aside from the infamous Sunflower debacle, there's a lot to love about this sequence. Who doesn't love the absolutely adorable intoxicated antics of Bacchus and Jacchus?
Though perhaps not the most memorable scenes from the list of sequences, "Pastoral Symphony" definitely stands out from the rest of its peers. Images of Zeus hurling his thunderbolts, the family of pegasi, and the centaurs certainly spring to mind whenever we think of it. Not nearly as iconic as some of the others on this list, but definitely some middle ground.
4 The Nutcracker Suite
Snowflakes, Russian thistles, goldfish, flower fairies, and dancing mushrooms help cement Fantasia's take on Tchaikovski's "Nutcracker Suite" as one of the most memorable and recognizable features from the film. Though no nutcracker appears in this version of the music from the famous ballet, Disney's re-imagining takes the music from the Christmas tradition and uses it to tell a story of the seasons.
We see scenes of fairies painting the world with beautiful blooms, flower petals falling over waterfalls, wild mushrooms resembling Chinese royalty, goldfish performing an underwater fan dance with their tails, and frost sprites freezing a lake with their graceful steps. This sequence is truly one of the more imaginative creations inspired by Tchaikovsky's works, and definitely a scene that stays with the viewers after the performance ends.
3 Dance of the Hours
"Dance of the Hours" by Ponchielli is a veritable cavalcade of ridiculousness only those gifted minds at Disney could have created. With a troupe of bubble-blowing elephants, long-legged ostriches, tutu-sporting hippos, and cape-clad alligators taking centerstage, the scene is a treasure trove of comic gold. "Dance of The Hours" is an underrated sequence not only in this film, but perhaps in the Disney canon.
Everyone remembers the mismatched romance between Hyacinth Hippo and Ben Ali Gator, but the ostriches and elephants tend to get cast to the side. There's a lot of good things going on, as well as an entertaining piece of music that frames the entire sequence. We'd be lying if we said we didn't suspect the Looney Tunes gang had taken a page or two from this segment.
2 Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria
Deems Taylor said it best: the two pieces of music are so utterly different in construction and mood that they set each other off perfectly. It is the struggle between the profane and the sacred, this dichotomy of subject matter, music, imagery, and animation styles, that have us drawn to this sequence.
"Ave Maria" is similar slightly to "Toccata En Fuge" in that it has a strange mystical quality to it. Seeing the monks carrying lights into a chapel-esque forest is beautiful, but still a touch surreal. The part everyone remembers will always be Chernabog and his legions of darkness spewing out from the depths of Hell, and all under the Disney name. "Bald Mountain" let the animators go absolutely wild, thinking up the eeriest things they could put to paper, but it still pales in comparison compared to our number one scene.
1 The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Admit it, there was no way we couldn't put this as our number one spot. "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" by Dukas garners a great deal of its fame thanks to this Mickey Mouse feature. Today, you can't hear the opening notes of the piece without immediately going to the image of Mickey, a wizard hat, and a sentient broom. Not to mention, this is arguably the most famous Mickey Mouse moment in the history of his career.
From the time Mickey puts on the magic hat to when he congratulates Maestro Stokowski upon the piece's completion, we are treated to pure Disney magic. This sequence has been parodied, referenced, and recreated dozens of times over, even by Disney themselves. You can't think of this film without thinking of Mickey Mouse and this iconic sequence.