Fantasia (1940)

The world’s top conductor Leopold Stokowski was a bit of a rock star, associated with dating Greta Garbo and jetsetting around the world. Walt Disney pioneered family entertainment with the risky, but wildly successful Snow White. The two couldn’t have been more opposite, but when Disney described his idea to animate famous classical works and Stokowski offered to conduct, Fantasia quickly inflated from a series of classical shorts to an overblown road show presented in quadrophonic sound! Even “Smell-o-Vision” was considered to enhance the film, but was thankfully discarded when Disney couldn’t clear the air before the next scent was introduced (Smell-o-Vision, a system that puffed odors into the theater was actually used in the 1960 film Scent of Mystery and later lampooned with scratch-n-sniff cards as Odorama in the John Waters film Polyester).

Disney’s folly nearly bankrupted the studio. Given free-reign to interpret as they saw fit Uncle Walt basically handed over control to his top animators with uneven results. Many took every opportunity to add nipples and overt sexuality to what was thought would be adult entertainment. Some segments are dry and pompous, some remain at the pinnacle of animation as fresh and funny as when they were made. Disney always intended to re-release Fantasia with new sequences every year, so it’s possible his motive was to branch out his animation studio into different looks and specialized styles — a legacy that would be unique to Disney Studios and enable them to become the most accomplished animation studio in the world.