Fantasia Hits the Right Notes at the Hollywood Bowl

File the amazing concert performance of Disney’s 1940 classic Fantasia at the Hollywood Bowl this past weekend as another reminder of the glories of 2D animation. Thanks to the effortless charms of conductor John Mauceri and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, a balmy L.A. August evening was transformed to an ethereal experience as clips of the popular feature proved once again that there’s a reason the golden era of Disney animation continues to inspire new generations of artists.

Mauceri was a superb guide as he relayed bits and pieces of relevant information about the animated anthology which Disney had planned to keep fresh through the years by adding and subtracting projects set to music. Many baby-boomers first learned about classical music through the clips of this influential movie featured in the weekly series The Wonderful World of Disney on NBC. Although it wasn’t a critical hit at the time it was released, Fantasia is now considered a masterpiece for its evolutionary and at-times avant-garde approach to animation and the way it pushed the boundaries of the art form. Not to mention giving Mickey Mouse one of the best gigs of his long career!

Friday’s and Saturday’s sold-out concert version of the movie offered a chance to see Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue in D Minor’ directed by Samuel Armstrong; a segment from Beethoven’s ‘The Pastoral Symphony’ directed by Ford Beebe, Jim Handley and Hamilton Luske; ‘The Nutcracker Suite’ segment directed by Armstrong; Paul Dukas’ ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ directed by James Algar and Ponchieli’s ‘Dance of the Hours’ directed by Norm Ferguson and T. Hee. As a special bonus, audiences were treated to a premiere screening of the restored ‘Clair De Lune’ segment (set to the music of Debussy), which wasn’t part of the original release (and can be found on the 2000 Fantasia Anthology 3-Disc DVD release). Storyboards for an abandoned segment planned for Jean Sibelius’ haunting tone poem ‘The Swan of Tuonela’ also flashed on the Bowl screens during a performance of that piece.

The Bowl orchestra also accompanied a screening of the 2003 Oscar-nominated short Destino, which was originally planned by Salvador Dali and was later finished by producers Roy E. Disney and Baker Bloodworth, director Dominique Monfery and writer John Hench. The surreal toon was set to music by Armando Dominguez.

Attending the event and praised by Mauceri for his efforts in making the evening was none other than Roy Disney, who was clearly enjoying the concert with his family. Unfortunately, the Bowl program didn’t include any of the newer Fantasia 2000 segments, which Roy worked hard to bring to the big screen a few years back.

As this is Mauceri’s final season with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the appreciative crowd whole-heartedly applauded the conductor for his congenial manner and grace as the host to this special Disney journey. As a result, Mauceri and company came back with an irresistible version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘The Flight of the Bumblebee,’ accompanied by the Disney Short Bumble Boogie (the one in which the hapless bee is attacked by the piano keys), which was part of the 1948 release, Melody Time.