Wednesday, September 14, 2011

#3: Wordless Stories - Fantasia review, part 1

Fantasia, 1940
Watched September 5 & 10, 2011

(c) Disney - isn't Mickey adorable?
Okay, I have a confession to make. I did not make it through Fantasia in one sitting.

But in my defense, I started watching it at midnight after a busy and tiring (but fun!) weekend in New York, just a few hours before having to wake up to catch a flight the next morning. So, you really can't judge me, all you Fantasia lovers! I did much better than Jen, who fell asleep during the Nutcracker's Suite! I watched until the 'intermission' and finally finished the second half this past weekend. (Shout-out to my friend Jon for procuring the movie at the last minute by some probably-illegal-method-of-which-I-didn't-ask. You know, the whole plausible deniability thing.)

Having watched this film and concluded that it was boring as a kid, I wasn't sure what to expect this time around. While it still didn't blow me away, I think I'm now mature enough to say that I at least appreciated it. :) So I'm going to break this review up into 3 parts, choosing 3 (of the 8) scenes that were particularly interesting to me. We'll start with my favorite. 

The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Dukas

As the film's most famous scene, the Sorcerer's Apprentice is what stuck in my mind from watching it as a child, and is still what captivates me the most today. A little bit of history -- Walt Disney and conductor Leopold Stokowski had first begun collaboration around just this one scene. They had intended it to be a short, in line with Disney's other "Silly Symphony" pieces.

So it's probably for this reason that Sorcerer's Apprentice has the most well developed story. Based on an actual poem by German poet Goethe, and using musical composition by Dukas, also based on Goethe's poem - it is the most cohesive and engaging section of the entire film (in my humble opinion). Also not insignificantly, it features Disney's beloved character Mickey Mouse, who was used here to reintroduce him to audiences. (This is the first time we see him in his 'modern' design - with more expressive eyes and a pear-shaped body.)

Now, I'm not sure what Goethe's original intention for this story was, but I found the relationship between Mickey and the sorcerer to be oddly familiar. The sorcerer (whose name is Yen Sid - points to the first person who gets why that's his name!) not only possess power but has a mastery over it that Mickey, his apprentice, cannot begin to fathom. Mickey's task of carrying pails of water seems tedious and laborious. When he tries to use the sorcerer's magic to alleviate his work, he finds that he cannot control it, and things get quickly out of hand. Even in his state of panic, he tries to fix it on his own, never calling the sorcerer for help. In fact as he tries to make the broom stop carrying water up and down the stairs, it gets worse when the splinters of wood grow into new brooms. When the sorcerer finally comes to calm the chaos, Mickey sheepishly hands back the sorcerer's hat (which, by the way, the sorcerer didn't even need to wear to produce the magic that made all the water vanish).

Isn't this so much like my attitude towards God? The parallels are so striking I wonder what other possible interpretation there could be (ok, perhaps my Christian worldview leaves me a bit biased). As I live to serve God, I take things into my own hands, either out of laziness or pride, or both. As a result, I try to control  more than God has asked of me, and quickly find that it is too much for me to handle. Instead of admitting this, however, I make things worse by trying to fix it myself. When God intervenes and sets things right again, I smack my forehead and think, how could I have been so stupid? Why didn't I let him do that in the first place? I'm reminded of my own limits, and of God's infinite power. 

It's incredibly humbling to be convicted of my own sin and pride by an animated film. I suppose God can use anything to teach us.

To be continued...


  1. Yen Sid backwards is Dis Ney! :)

  2. I disliked this movie as a kid as well, I always looked at it and said "This is the boring Disney Movie". It's so true that God totally sets things right when we mess up. I'm amazed by it, but then I'm even more amazed at how he responds when He does set things right. It's this sense of "You silly child, let me explain again, that when you call out I'm here." Reminds me so much of Peter on the water trying to walk with the Lord and he calls out. So maybe it is Faith thing like Peter that makes us focus on us doing it ourselves? Gosh His grace is nice when mess up, no condemnation :)