Fantasia Is Fucking Racist
dir. James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Ford Beebe, Norman Ferguson, Jim Handley and T. Hee
Fantasia? The stoner's delight. Take some drugs, flop in your seat, look up at the screen, and see those magical horses flying around the clouds and palace. Very trippy. And it's kind of cool for stoners to appropriate a kids' flick, a film for the innocent, a family values film. That's about as far as most thinking goes with this Disney classic, which was released not long after Hitler attacked Poland and plunged the world into war and madness.
But here is something that has always bothered me about Fantasia. It happens in the intermission after the history of the world (up to the extinction of the dinosaurs). As the musicians of the orchestra return from a break, a jazz jam spontaneously emerges. There is a little jumpy bass, a little hip tapping and twirling, a little blowing from the clarinetist. Jazz is not serious music, but fun music. The musicians are letting their hair down. You get the picture.
After the brief jazz session, the orchestra gets back to the grave business of performing the noble works of old Europe. I have always hated this scene. The great jazz pianist Hank Jones, who died last year at the great age of 91, probably hated this scene, too. Jones rightly thought that calling modern jazz "bebop" was terrible because it failed to express the kind of technical mastery the form demanded. Jazz is not music for the intermission; it's as rich, as innovative, as brilliant as the best in the classical canon. Jazz is America's classical music. There, I said it. I got it out of my system. But don't get me started on the crows in Dumbo.
Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.