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Archive for January 9th, 2015

Wonderful World of Disney: “The Legacy Collection: Fantasia” Coming Soon

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Fantasia - Legacy Collection

When considering the history of Walt Disney Studios, Mickey Mouse is always front and center.   Lovably scrappy Mickey became a breakout smash with 1928’s Steamboat Willie, setting the company on the path to becoming the all-encompassing entertainment conglomerate it is today.  The character himself, however, has had several ups and downs over the years.  One of these down periods was during the late 1930s when Walt Disney felt that Mickey wasn’t reaching the same heights of popularity he had previously.  To remedy this, Disney decided to go back to the format of his earlier Silly Symphonies (which would feature a different character in each short subject) – but this time, with Mickey Mouse.  Disney intended to craft a less-comedic-than-usual short with Mickey entitled The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, set to the music piece by composer Paul Dukas of the same name.  When the short ran over-budget, however, Disney elected to craft an entire film of shorts of similar nature.  This groundbreaking collection became the studio’s third full-length animated feature:  1940’s Fantasia.  Now, to celebrate its 75th anniversary, Walt Disney Records is continuing its Legacy Collection series with the 4-disc release of The Legacy Collection: Fantasia on January 13, 2015.

Fantasia features eight segments (directed by different directors), each set to a different classical piece by composers including Bach, Stravinsky and Beethoven. The entire effort was overseen by Disney as well as story men Joe Grant and Dick Huemer.  Composer and music critic Deems Taylor introduces each piece in a live action segment. For the all-important soundtrack, Disney brought in Leopold Stokowski to conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra on seven of the eight parts (Stokowski conducted a group of musicians from Los Angeles on “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”). A new multi-channel recording system was invented to capture the orchestra.  Deemed Fantasound, it pioneered many techniques for recording multiple channels still in use today.

Fantasia was first released in roadshow presentations in 1940 and 1941.  The first began on November 13, 1940 at the Broadway Theatre in New York City.  Each roadshow employed the Fantasound set-up.  The demands of World War II shortened a planned 5-year run of roadshows and Fantasia was given to RKO to distribute in a more traditional manner.  RKO presented the film with a mono soundtrack and edited it down from its initial running time of 2 hours and 5 minutes to, at one point, a short one hour and 20 minute run time.  Upon its 1946 re-release, Fantasia was edited to run one hour and 55 minutes, becoming the standard for all subsequent re-releases.  Following that 1946 re-release, Fantasia has had seven more runs in theaters, in varying aspect ratios and eventually in stereo sound.

For the 1982 re-release, Disney had the entire soundtrack re-recorded in digital sound.  Irwin Kostal (West Side Story, Mary Poppins) conducted a 121-piece orchestra for the new recording.  This recording took into account the various edits that had been used over the years.  This new edition was also re-released in 1985.  But for the film’s 50th anniversary in 1990, the original soundtrack conducted by Stokowski was digitally remastered for the first time and the film negative was restored.

Upon its initial presentation in 1940, Fantasia did not have a soundtrack release.  (Disney had actually spearheaded the concept of the commercial soundtrack release in 1937 with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.)  It would take until 1957 when the full score (sans spoken intros) was released on a mono 3-LP set by Disneyland Records.  A stereo version would follow.  In 1982, Irwin Kostal’s digital re-recording received a 2-LP release.  Both versions of the soundtrack have since been released by Walt Disney Records on CD.

What will you find on the new Legacy Collection edition?  Hit the jump for that info, plus pre-order links and the full track listing! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 9, 2015 at 11:20

Posted in Reissues, Soundtracks