Strange and wonderful are the premieres (pronounced "premiérs") of Hollywood: the trappings of publicity; the lights and decorations painting the gaudy lily of the Carthay Circle Theatre (where the big premieres are held); the pushing, stargazing crowds; the troops of real live stars ("I seen him! Didja see her?"). This week Manhattan sees a premiere stranger and more wonderful than any of Hollywood's. The celebrities present, the publicity, the lights on the marquee, may be lost in the blare and blaze of Broadway. But strangeness and wonder belong to the show itself. It is Walt Disney's latest, called Fantasia.
As the audience enters and the theatre fills with the sweet confusion of an orchestra tuning up, there are no musicians in the pit. As the curtains part, a huge symphony orchestra appears hazily, on the screen. Before it steps a thin, grinning, bald-headed man. He introduces himself as Deems Taylor, welcomes the audience, on behalf of Leopold Stokowski and Walt Disney, to "an entirely new form of entertainment." When he finishes, Leopold Stokowski himself, his back to the audience, steps into the picture, raises his arms, and the great orchestra swirls into Bach's D Minor Toccata and Fugue.
The music comes not simply from the screen, but from everywhere; it is as if a hearer were in the midst of the music. As the music sweeps to a climax, it froths over the proscenium arch, boils into the rear of the theatre, all but prances up & down the aisles. The hazy orchestra begins to dissolve, and weird, abstract ripples and filaments begin an unearthly ballet in Technicolor.
This is the beginning of a symphony concertbut what a concert! Illustrated by Walt Disney; written by Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Dukas, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Schubert; conducted by Stokowski; master-of-ceremonied by Deems Taylor; played by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Mickey and Stokowski together put on a brand-new act.
When Stokowski's orchestra swings into Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, the ballet on the screen turns into flowers, fairies, fish, falling leaves, mushrooms. Mickey Mouse appears in the title role of Paul Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice, with silent gusto steals the bearded sorcerer's magic cap. commands the broom to fetch water, forgets how to stop it, nearly drowns in the deluge that follows. To Igor Stravinsky's rip-roaring Rite of Spring, a primeval world, complete with dinosaurs, bubbles up, parades by, dies down. To Mussorgsky's spooky Night on Bald Mountain, hobgoblins and beldams ride their brooms. To Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, centaurs and centaurettes, Pegasus, Mrs. Pegasus and a nestful of little Pegasi gambol and fly; Bacchus and his crew get a good drenching when the storm comes up. The whole cinesymphony concert lasts two hours and a half (intermission included).