Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Fantasia

FANTASIA

(1940)


Notes: ThisDisney film includes a depiction of “primitive life”–asegment which features the rise and fall of dinosaurs–set toIgor Stravinski’s “Rite of Spring.”


Summary: While the orchestra prepares, a narrator explains that Disneyand his artists have attempted to create their own version ofStravinski’s notion of “primitive life.” “Theyhave visualized it as a pageant, as the story of the growth oflife on earth. It’s a coldly accurate reproduction of what sciencethinks went on during the first few billion years of this planet’sexistence.” The narrator defamiliarizes us: “So now,imagine yourselves out in space, billions and billions of yearsago, looking down on this lonely tormented little planet spinningthrough an empty sea of nothingness.”

The supposedly progressivist evolutionary narrativebrings us galactic, volcanic, and oceanic perspectives. The primordialsoup reveals protozoa from which finally saurians emerge. Wefocus then on dinosaurs: ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs in the water,and bat-like pterodons stealing food from each other. In a shadowyand rainy jungle, plant-eating and water-drinking animals wandersluggishly. Inevitably a tyrannosaur looms and the dubious Edenhas passed. The creature has a squarish machine-like head andjaws and grasps voraciously at anything it can. It kills itsprey at a climactic moment of lightning.

The sun now seems relentless and global warmingforces all the dinosaurs to seek desperately for water and tobegin a death trudge. Some get caught in mud. All leave tracksor bones. Then an eclipse of the sun seems to bring about a geo-oceaniccataclysm which redistributes the dino remains and refigures thelandscape. In the end, the sun disappears beneath the horizonof the planet.


Commentary: One is suspicious about the extinction theories surrounding dinosaurs. The cataclysmic insistences–whomping meteors, et al.–tend tosound simply like more “boss stuff blowing up boss stuff.” This film is fairly ambiguous about the issue though, and thescenes of arid gasping misery are not only disturbing, but prophetic. Apocalypse now, cookie.