Later this month, the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra will be lighting up the Royal Albert Hall as they perform “best-loved moments” from Disney’s Fantasia and Fantasia 2000. It’s unsurprising, that of all of Disney’s great accomplishments, these are the pictures that are chosen for live orchestra. That’s sort of their thing. It would be like being surprised when Bruce Willis makes an awful action movie, or when James Corden inflates his own ego.
Believe it or not, even in 1940 when Fantasia was released, classical music was in decline. The war had started and music was being produced that gave a morale boost, and that could be sung by sexy ladies to make everyone forget their woes. Toccata and Fugue in D Minor was, shall we say, not exactly top 40. But Disney brought it into people’s lives via movie theatres, and made it current by putting it to stunning animation that even now, in the days of CGI and computer animation, remains whimsical and enjoyable.
Now these live performances of movie scores are becoming more commonplace than a Greggs on a Lancashire High Street; but not so much for animation. You could find a performance of E.T, Pirate’s of the Caribbean, or Titanic with relative ease. Performances like this Fantasia one are very few and far between.
Is it because there are a lack of animated films with great scores? Definitely not. Here are a few more just from Disney that would leave you goose-bumped, giddy and gripping your gusset.
Composed by Scotsman Patrick Doyle, this Disney-Pixar beauty was warmly received by audiences not only for it’s story and stunning scenery, but for it’s refreshing ‘I don’t need a man to make me happy’ protagonist Merida. The score itself obviously takes huge influence from Scottish and Celtic traditional music, combining huge crescendo with delicate flute work. In that respect, it has similarities to James Horner’s score for Titanic, and much like that, I know it would sound exceptional live.
The Lion King
Lean, mean scoring machine Hans Zimmer’s animated triumph. Once teamed with music and lyrics by Elton John for the soundtrack, this was a ship that couldn’t sink. I recently included one of the many beautiful pieces of music from this film in my “Goosebump Scores” article, and for good reason. The score has controlled grandeur, and builds to an exquisite finale. Having heard just a small segment of this performed live at Zimmer’s previous 2 tours, I can vouch that it’s one of the greats.
Beauty and the Beast
I may be cheating a little with this one, as since the live action remake hit our screens you can’t move for showings of this film. The Royal Albert Hall themselves in fact are having a performance of the live action version with an orchestra around Christmas; but I’d love to see an animated performance to couple it. The two scores are of course similar, as Alan Menken composed both variations of the movie, but still there are subtle changes across both movies. I guess you’ll have to watch both to figure them out for yourself. Still, they both retain the score’s balanced combination of light and dark (beauty and beast, you could say).
With the whole score being adapted from Tchaikovsky’s ballet, Sleeping Beauty, this score accomplished what Fantasia did, in keeping classical music current. Paired with one of the scariest villains off the century, you’ve got a masterpiece on your hands. Just imagine what we could accomplish if we set Trump to some Bach or Mozart! Even the title song of the soundtrack, Once Upon A Dream, was derived from ‘Grande valse villageoise’. If lil’ ol’ Tchaikovsky were still around he’d be filing the fattest lawsuit you’ve ever seen.
One of the stars of the “Disney Renaissance”, this flick – based on the story of a Chinese Warrior Woman – blends old and new in its score with traditional Eastern instruments mixed with big brass and strings. Jerry Goldsmith’s work on this movie saw him nominated for an Academy Award, and you can see why. There’s power and beauty that can’t be accidental bearing in mind the subject. It would be a spectacle in person!
Perhaps a film thats poignancy is not to be ignored in modern day, it’s score drives the heartbreak and pain in the picture and makes it real. Of course, this is a story that maybe shouldn’t have been “Disneyfied” but if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. In saying that, I can’t imagine we’ll see a Disney animation called “Gaddafi” anytime soon. But coming back to the point, the music of Pocahontas has fluidity that mirrors that of the rivers, forests, and elements that the film champions. Perhaps this could be a live score with 4DX? Who knows.
So c’mon orchestras, show us what you’ve got!
You can catch Fantasia performed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall on October 23rd.