Deems Taylor: What you’re going to see are the designs and pictures and stories that music inspired in the minds and imaginations of a group of artists.
Beware: Spoilers may follow
The third film ever produced by Disney was something entirely different from the norm. It didn’t have much in the way of any connected story and had no dialogue outside of the host at the start of each segment. What resulted was a breathtaking and emotional experience through and through.
As stated before there is no standard three-act structure. Rather it is several different segments combining classical music with Disney animation. Sometimes the segments are not stories. The first couple segments (Toccata and Fugue and Nutcracker Suite) in particular are merely abstract imagery of what one’s mind might perceive when hearing it. From there on out it goes into more coherent stories starting with Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. This is actually how the idea for the film came about in the first place. Walt Disney merely wanted to do a short with Mickey Mouse as a magician. But as production costs rose they decided to go even further.
The first two Disney films were very strong in their emotional simplicity. This movie knew how to master that. The stories, imagery, and animation know how to evoke feelings within the audience at every turn. And the classical music utilized in each piece builds upon those very emotions. Even the first two segments, which have no story, can evoke emotion or showcase beauty through something so simple as the falling of leaves or the changing of seasons.
Even The Sorcerer’s Apprentice one of the more cartoony parts of the whole film manages to give a sense of awe and horror as we see Mickey’s dreams of being a master magician controlling the cosmos and even reality in addition to his desperate attempts to stop the spell he started.
Night on Bald Mountain and Ave Maria is the perfect segment to end the movie on. The two contrast with one another brilliantly. The nefarious Chernabog (who has an amazing design) unleashing evil spirits upon the world only to be stopped by the angelus bell marking the end of the night and the beginning of dawn is truly a sight to behold.
With all of this said however some might wonder why there aren’t more films like this. While Disney wanted to continue doing this and the movie did great critically and while a financial success it cost far too much to make and didn’t make enough to warrant the project any further. However, the popularity for this movie increased over the years resulting in us getting a sequel almost 60 years later (alas the discussion on that movie is for another day).