1940 "Look" Magazine Article Introduces Disney's FANTASIA

Besides the front-cover teaser that asks "Will Stalin Fight Hitler?" and an article on what to expect on your first day in the army (America was reluctantly ramping up for WWII at the time), the following Table of Contents item jumped off the page: "First Color Pictures From Walt Disney's New Movie, Fantasia."

Among the numerous interesting facts and colorful stills from the 1940 Disney film covered in the article, we found a few items particularly fascinating. While we know the film was presented in the then revolutionary "Fantasound," an early stereophonic sounds process developed by Disney specifically for this film, what we didn't know are some of the finer machinations of the process and how it was integrated into the viewing experience. Though they didn't know it at the time, it sounds like these guys were dabbling in what would later become industry standard sound techniques such as Dolby Digital 5.1, THX and the like.

Another shocking note is the single admission ticket price of $2.50 - remember, this was 1940 when it typically cost just .25 to watch a movie anywhere in America. It was hoped the film would eventually be screened in 76 cinemas across the country in 1940 and the coming years, but Fantasia, featuring Fantasound, never expanded beyond the initial roadshow engagements in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, Baltimore, Washington, Minneapolis, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Cleveland due to the amount of the then-complex equipment involved and the time necessary to make the installation.

Following are the color photos along with a transcript of the original article that appeared in the December 3, 1940 issue of Look Magazine. Enjoy!

Disney Revolutionizes Movies Again in Masterpiece Which Visualizes Some of the World's Greatest Music

These scenes are from the most daring and revolutionary motion picture since 1927, when Al Jolsen, in The Jazz Singer, crooned a dirge for the dieing silent film. These stills are from Fantasia, a $2,500,000 super silly symphony by Walt Disney.

Fantasia presents a visual interpretation of music, by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, Deems Taylor appears on the screen to explain the eight symphonies from which movements are played.

Elaborate and beautiful, the feature is daring in picturization. It includes a coldly scientific account of the creation and evolution of life - a subject most movie producers prefer to skip. It also introduces Bacchus as a genial old sot. Goblins, satan and lesser demons make some parts of Fantasia more frightening than the witch sequences which many parents criticized in Disney's great Snow White.

Most revolutionary aspect of Fantasia, however, is its new treatment of sound called "Fantasound," developed by Disney technicians and perfected by RCA. For this treat to the ears, a special soundman controls a "mixing panel" similar to those used by radio engineers.

Instead of coming from a single source behind the screen, sound comes from all over the theater. It is fuller, richer and has a wider range than any system now used in theaters. Because this requires special complex and costly equipment which theaters do not yet have, Fantasia will be shown first in just one theater - in New York. It will play there more a year, with a night top price of $2.50, and slightly lower prices for afternoon.

Eventually, 12 complete "Fantasound" outfits will be assembled. Under present plans it will require four years to show Fantasia in 76 theaters throughout the country. Unless "Fantasound" becomes standard theater equipment, the picture will never play at popular prices.

 

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