Some men search for Shangri-La. Me? For over 30 years now, I've been in pursuit of any & all information pertaining to Walt Disney Animation Studios' aborted "Fantasia" follow-up, "Musicana."
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Seriously. I can tell you the exact day that this obsession of mine started. It was October 26, 1980 and the Los Angeles Times had just published an article entitled "Disney Films: Chasing the Changing Times."
If you're a Disney history buff, I urge you to chase down this piece by Wayne Warga. For it's this kind-of-fascinating time capsule of what was going on at the Mouse House at that moment. Including this kind-of-ironic (given the high profile holiday film that Walt Disney Pictures is about to release to theaters) gem:
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Among the projects now being developed at Disney:
Anyway, toward the very bottom of this Los Angeles Times piece, Warga talks about what's going on on the animated side of things at Disney. To be specific:
The animation department is steadily recruiting, and plans are on the boards - as they have been for several years - for "The Black Cauldron," a major animated film. And while that is in story development, Woolie Reitherman and Mel Shaw, two Disney veterans, are starting work on "Musicana," an ambitious concept mixing jazz, classical music, myths, modern art and more, following the old "Fantasia" format.
But after this tantalizing tease in the LA Times, "Musicana" 's trail kind of went cold. At least as far as articles in magazines & newspapers about this ambitious "Fantasia" follow-up were concerned.
Oh, sure. Occasionally something "Musicana" -related would bubble up to the top. Take - for example - that version of Hans Christian Anderson's "The Emperor's Nightingale " that Disney Press released in 1992. This 32 page picture book said that it was "From the Disney Archives Series." But truth be told, all of this John-Lasseter-designed artwork that was featured in "The Emperor's Nightingale" had been pulled from WDAS' own Animation Research Library. Where it had been in storage ever since production of "Musicana" had officially been shut down in 1983.
To be fair, animation historian Charles Solomon did devote a page or two of his 1995 book, "The Disney That Never Was: The Stories and Art of Five Decades of Unproduced Animation" to "Musicana." In addition to showcasing a few pieces of concept art, Solomon includes a two paragraph description of this abandoned production. Which read:
During 1982 - 83, a crew at Disney began developing "Musicana," which inspirational artist Mel Shaw says would have combined "ethnic tales from around the world with the music of the various countries."
Sibelius' Finlandia was chosen for a battle between an Ice God and a Sun Goddess that produced the myriad lakes of Scandinavia. Shaw's powerful pastel drawings show the half-seen figure of the Ice God emerging from cloud banks and craggy mountains.
A sequence set in the Andes involving a beautiful bird / girl was intended to illustrate the songs of Yma Sumac. The United States would have been represented in a jazz fantasy on a Southern bayou featuring caricatures of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.
John Lasseter, who later won an Oscar for the computer-animated "Tin Toy," worked on a version of "The Emperor's Nightingale" with Mickey Mouse as the owner / caretaker of the real bird.
Although the preliminary art contains some unusual touches, including Death appearing to the Emperor in the flamboyant makeup of a Peking Opera performer, the designs lacked the elegance of the version developed at the studio during the 1930s, "Musicana" was eventually shelved in favor of "Mickey's Christmas Carol" (1983), a featurette adapted from Dickens's holiday classic.
But - to date - that's pretty much all that was out there about "Musicana."
But all that changes tomorrow with the release of that 4-disc Blu-ray version of "Fantasia / Fantasia 2000." You see, this Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment release not only features versions of these Disney animated classics that - thanks to the efforts of Dave Bossert and his hi-tech restoration team - actually look better than "Fantasia" & "Fantasia 2000" did during their initial theatrical releases, it also includes a terrific 9 ½ minute documentary about "Musicana."
And WDSHE really did right by this bonus feature. It not only got Mel Shaw to come on camera to talk about "Musicana," the Studio also got industry vets like Don Hahn, Steven Hulett, Burny Mattinson, Ruben Procopio and David Spafford as well as Disney historians Didier Ghez & Charles Solomon to talk about how ambitious this "Fantasia" follow-up was going to be.
You see, Shaw was sincere when he said that "Musicana" was going to take a more worldly approach to music & storytelling that the original "Fantasia" did. Take - for example - the Africa-themed sequence that Disney Legend Ken Anderson designed for this proposed animated feature. Which was to have shown what happened when a greedy monkey pulled a diamond tooth out of the mouth of his village's Rain God statue.
Likewise this movie's "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" sequence was looking to put out a whole new spin on that classic adventure story. With colorful birds now standing in for all of the human characters who typically populate this tale from the "1001 Arabian Nights."
If you check out this Bonus Feature on the "Fantasia / Fantasia 2000" Blu-ray, you'll get to learn about the then-managers of the Mouse House opted out of "Musicana" (i.e. supposedly because they were concerned about this proposed animated feature's commercial prospects) ...
... Which is kind of ironic. Given that a more recent set of Mouse House managers cancelled "Fantasia 2006" (i.e. the already-in-production sequel to "Fantasia 2000." Which -- just like "Musicana" -- was supposed to have featured a more global approach to its music choices) also because they were concerned about the commercial prospects for that animated feature. Which is why sequences that had already been completed for "Fantasia 2006" (i.e. "Lorenzo," "One by One," "The Little Matchgirl" and "Destino") ...
... wound up being standalone shorts.
Speaking of "Destino," this rarely-screened short is also included as a Bonus Feature with the "Fantasia / Fantasia 2000" Blu-ray. Which really makes this 4-disc set a must-have for any serious animation fan.
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But as for me, just getting to see this much "Musicana" artwork all in one place makes this Blu-ray a real treasure. More to the point, it then allows me to move on to my next Disney-related obsession ...
... which is getting to see the story reel for the first version of "Pomp & Circumstances" that Disney animators proposed for "Fantasia 2000." Which supposedly features the too-cute-to-be-believed concept of every Disney princesses & prince marching in (to Sir Edward Elgar's music, of course) into this grand cathedral. Where they then presented their sons & daughters to an audience full of Disney characters.
Has anyone out there actually seen this footage? I'm told that Dave Bossert recently showed this work-in-progress version of "Pomp & Circumstances" to an audience full of animation fans on the Disney Cruise Line. If you saw this piece of animation, what was it like? What do you remember from the piece?Your thoughts?
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Superb article, Jim. I can't wait to watch the mini-doc on Musicana!
My ultimate Disney quest is as much info on "The Search for Mickey Mouse". I wish they would have made it !
Jim, do you have any info on why the other shorts from Fantasia 2006 were dropped from this new Blu-ray, and whether we can expect them to be released any time soon?
Thanks for the article, Jim. Do you have any idea where to find copies of the shorts Lorenzo and The Little Match Girl?
I believe the little match girl was an extra on the Little Mermaid Platinum edition dvd released in 2006.
At a screening of Fantasia 2000 at the El Capitan earlier in the year the panel discussed that segment. They said they brought in the retired greats like Marc Davis and Ward Kimball to oversee their characters for the pomp and circumstance scene. Ward Kimball said the idea was crazy.
Little Matchgirl is available on iTunes at itunes.apple.com/.../viewMovie
Awe... I remeber seeing the commercial for Fantasia 2000 when I was 5. Now I've seen both Fantasias and I'm overwhelmed by amazement. And this Musicana looks soo cool I would have loved it if they made it. Or at least gave them out as shorts like the ones of Pixar or One by One.
Or like the Little Match Girl too :)