Art House

Fantasia Is Fucking Racist

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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. recommended

Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.


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Posted by Avtar on August 3, 2011 at 10:05 AM · Report this
reverend dr dj riz 2
god... the crows in dumbo..a few centuries ago i met a guy through the stranger personals that seemed pretty date-able. so we hook up have dinner, go to my place for wine, weed and an innocuous chat before the deed. he brings up disney, i bring up the crows, and next thing i know shorty gets up, puts his clothes back on and leaves....drives back to his hole in tacoma at 3am over some fuckin cartoon crows masquerading as black people..
Posted by reverend dr dj riz on August 3, 2011 at 11:00 AM · Report this
The dancing mushrooms are pretty bad, too.

I've noticed that people get really upset if you criticize the racial subtexts of children's films, though. Since we have this general cultural narrative of racism=bad and people who like racist things=bad people, if you point out that there are problematic things going on then people get defensive. They don't want to think deeply about the stuff they love because then they would either have to give up the feelings of enjoyment they get watching these things, OR consider themselves "bad people."

Of course this is all unconscious on their part, it would be a lot fucking easier to have civil discussions if people were self-aware in any way.
Posted by sahara29 on August 3, 2011 at 3:28 PM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 4
"Jazz is America's classical music."

I first heard this in the 80's, and it was an old saw by then.

Well, Charles, better late than never...
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on August 3, 2011 at 10:17 PM · Report this
deadlyfingers 5
Charles, this film was made in 1940, long before bebop existed. Folks like Miles, Monk, Mingus, Trane - even Hank Jones - didn't come along and bring the art of jazz to its zenith until much later. Forgive the filmmakers for not including a piece by Cab Calloway (though that probably would have been quite entertaining).
Posted by deadlyfingers on August 3, 2011 at 11:18 PM · Report this
6 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
@2, that is HILARIOUS.
Posted by planned barrenhood on August 4, 2011 at 3:29 AM · Report this
No mention of Sunflower, no care.
Posted by suddenlyorcas on August 4, 2011 at 8:30 AM · Report this
@5 by 1940, Duke Ellington and George Gershwin had already begun to elevate jazz from being just dance music. The Rite of Spring wasn't all that much earlier than An American in Paris.
Posted by aurora f on August 4, 2011 at 9:04 AM · Report this
It's just more a challenge every day and in every way not to let your P.C. guard down...

I just say give up and love it all, enjoy those black crows for what they are, let a '40's classic be just what it is... brilliant for its time and still well worth enjoying without having to clog your mind with senseless paradoxes. Damn- by now, we all get it. It still won't keep me from enjoying either this movie, or Gone With the Wind, or old minstrel movies.
Posted by raw.UNC on August 4, 2011 at 11:21 PM · Report this
As a gigging classical musician, I guess we are all racist because we sometimes break into jazz jams even in 2011. Jazz is fun to play and those classical musicians taking part and honing their chops can begin to see the flip side of music making from the conservatory style of music making. That said, only the bass players, percussionists, brass players, and a smattering of woodwind players ever seem to have anything to say, mostly because they have some background playing changes.

I guess what made me chortle over Mudede's piece is that like Ken Burns, he tries to make jazz only a black musical idiom and any other musician playing in the style, just aping "this dignified jazz".

The reality of orchestral playing is that some of those players will go play a jazz gig later that evening, and perhaps play with an ethnic band the next day, or hit up a musical theater series, and then perform in a chamber music concert to round out the week.

It's the joy of music making that creates the outbursts whether or not the scene in Fantasia was predetermined or not, it comes across to me as a bunch of players shooting the breeze musically between other music making.

Now, the quality of the orchestra in question could be discussed more fully. Any of the local semi pro orchestras in the area play better than these guys did under Leopold.

Oh, by the way, my 2 year old is terrified of the Mussorgsky "Night on Bald Mountain".
Posted by Why are there cars? on August 5, 2011 at 8:53 AM · Report this
undead ayn rand 12
*holds @10's eyes open Clockwork Orange-style and forces him to watch the clip arrangement from Bamboozled over and over again*
Posted by undead ayn rand on August 5, 2011 at 11:27 AM · Report this
schmacky 13
@11: Your comment is about 10 million times more interesting and insightful than Mudede's useless blather. Thank you.
Posted by schmacky on August 5, 2011 at 11:35 AM · Report this
Roscoe 14
Charles is so busy getting all pissy about the film's alleged bias against jazz that he forgets, if he ever knew, about the explicitly racist joke in the Pastoral Symphony section that has been edited out of the film.…
Posted by Roscoe on August 5, 2011 at 1:25 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 15
@12 That clip arrangement makes me want to vomit every time. Mainly because I'm offended Spike Lee felt the need to hit us over the head with a sledgehammer 10 times the size of what's necessary. He ruined an otherwise great piece of angry biting satire by tacking an obvious "ARE YOU GETTING IT YET" finale on it. It would have been like Network putting a clip arrangement of Vietnam news reels and An American Family at the end while playing some sappy Captain & Tenille amd having the characters mope around for 20 minutes instead of letting them all fall to their fateful demise.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on August 5, 2011 at 5:01 PM · Report this
deadlyfingers 16
@15: You should check out "Dogville" - I'm sure you'll love it.
Posted by deadlyfingers on August 6, 2011 at 9:29 PM · Report this
Both @11 and @4 are on to something. Making sure everyone understands something as "art" or "America's classical music" or whatever is a quick way to kill our ability to delight in, laugh, cry or be amazed by it. When we're indignantly scolded that a work's importance isn't properly being appreciated, we then have to peer at it with our hand-held spectacles while wearing a tuxedo, and stroke our chins instead of enjoying it. Being saddled with the idea that classical music was serious art slowed me way down in terms of getting into it.

Mudede's point is taken, though. America is a racist country and Disney made racist movies. Thank God we're trying to do better and even making some progress. Fantasia isn't going to be unmade at this point, and neither will it or should it be banned. Solution: Stoners and trippers, as you watch Fantasia, pause to ponder egalitarianism and your social responsibilities!
Posted by Pablo Picasso on August 7, 2011 at 7:41 AM · Report this
JunieGirl 18
When I read the headline, I thought for sure he was going to comment on how all the little centaurs in the Pastoral scene were matched up by color. Purple boy centaur with purple girl centaur, etc...
Posted by JunieGirl on August 7, 2011 at 9:51 AM · Report this
Practiced indignation leads to worthless writing.
Posted by El Oso Roñoso on August 7, 2011 at 1:14 PM · Report this
Fantasia is also obviously classist, as it doesn't include any Bluegrass, implying that Disney hates poverty stricken Appalachians.

Also, there's no Klezmer music, gospel or Buddhist monks throat-singing in the film-- obviously religious bigotry.

And no show tunes or bad techno music, so the film's obviously homophobic.

Those brooms that attack Mickey aren't just splashing him with buckets of water-- they're splashing all of us with buckets of hate. The film is drenched in it.
Posted by bobbyjoe on August 7, 2011 at 5:28 PM · Report this
Saw the headline, figured it was about the mushrooms et al. You have totally misunderstood the delightful, spontaneous outburst into jazz.
Posted by Suzy on August 7, 2011 at 9:39 PM · Report this
Really? So jazz is black? Isn't that a little racist in reverse?
Posted by cockyballsup on August 8, 2011 at 7:36 AM · Report this
bigg 23
OMG, nobody tell Charles about Song Of The South - the blatant racism in it would probably render him speechless.
On second thought, hey Charles!!!
Posted by bigg on August 8, 2011 at 9:23 AM · Report this
@22 There's no such thing as "reverse racism" - what's reversed is your expectation about where racism supposedly comes from. But as a phrase, reverse racism is meaningless.
Posted by sahara29 on August 8, 2011 at 9:06 PM · Report this
Los_del_Mango 25
I thought the main problem with Fantasia was that it was shit?

Two hours of absolutely Christ-knows-what. Mickey Mouse and the brooms were pretty good, though.
Posted by Los_del_Mango on August 10, 2011 at 6:55 AM · Report this

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