When, in 1940, Walt Disney released Fantasia, his radical arrangement of animations set to classical music, he fancied that he might add new segments to it every few years so that it could grow with its audience. Alas, it was not to be. The cost of installing the new ‘Fantasound’ technology in cinemas, plus a public mood made inhospitable by war, meant that his fantasy was soon a box-office flop.
So he would, no doubt, have been delighted to see Fantasia, accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, moving with the times 72 years later, as part of the Royal Albert Hall’s Live in Concert series. In an age of event cinema, where owners of high-tech home-entertainment systems want experiences beyond the film itself, this innovative programme will also host screenings of Singin’ in the Rain in March 2013 (www.royalalberthall.com).
The whimsical Fantasia is well suited to the immediacy of live music. Amid the domed grandeur of this iconic Victorian building, classical-music aficionados, toddlers dressed in Cinderella outfits and young couples reminiscing about their first experience of the film convened, giggling at the mushrooms in the Tchaikovsky-scored ‘Chinese Dance’, and emitting a communal gasp at Zeus’ rage during Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. Disney himself, derided by some as the master of the middlebrow, joked about one sequence: ‘Gee, this’ll make Beethoven!’ But well into the 21st century his radical union of cartoons and classical music still has the power to bring the maestro to younger ears.