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Disney's Fantasia and the Rite of Spring - Communism and Music

Updated on October 29, 2010

Cross Cultural Multimedia

Because the small portion of the film that I saw as a child had such impact on my imagination and visual appreciation, I still feel that the greatest animated film every produced is Walt Disney's Fantasia.

The film itself as well as documentaries about its production are intriguing. The steps up to Fantasia remind me very much of the efforts and discoveries that led up to the beginnings of the US Space Program and our 1969 Lunar Landing. In fact, the hallucinations experienced by potential astronauts in pre-selection sleep deprivation studies coincidentally resemble some of the cartoon characters in Fantasia as well!

Today, Collector's DVDs are available of this animation, including scenes cut from the original film. The film portions of Fantasia that I saw in childhood on TV comprised my introduction to Classic Music. I fell in love with Night on Bald Mountain and Cossack Dance . as well as images of outer space and dancing Asian mushrooms and booms.

Fantasia was to be produced as a feature-length concert film, an experiment in incorporating classical musical with attention-grabbing animated characters like dancing brooms, bobbing mushrooms, ballet hippos, and many more. A few of the classics from the film include:

  • Igor Stravinsky's controversial The Rite of Spring
  • Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite
  • Paul Dukas's The Sorcerer's Apprentice
  • Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain
  • Schubert's Ave Maria

The addition of these classical pieces make Fantasia my favorite animated film, but the work of Stravinsky was perfect for this production, because it was different from others' work and rejected in Europe and USSR.   

The Rite of Spring, 2006 Stage Production

Sir Patrick Stewart is the Chancellor of the University of Huddersfield.
Sir Patrick Stewart is the Chancellor of the University of Huddersfield. | Source

Classical Music Riot

A classical music riot is a spontaneous event in which an audience becomes loud and aggressive, because it does not like a concert performance. It is not simply grumbling or the throwing of rotten vegetables (as in vaudeville), but a full fledged riot in which police must usually be summoned for crowd control.

When Stravinsky first presented The Rite of Spring , the 1913 audience response was grumbling, rumbling, and a riot to which the French Police were called to quell. Even though the French have been known as artistically innovative, the Stravinsky ballet lay further along the innovation scale than they could tolerate. It contained primative, non-melodic tone combinations and rythyms. Native American and Sami-related peoples were portrayed in ceremonial and religious dances that were new and thus offensive to the audience (reference: the film Coco and Igor ). In the USA years later, he caused an incident in 1944 by adding a major 7th chord to the national anthem.

Despite riots, Stravinsky became the reference point for revoluton in the music and dance arts. In this way, he was like George Balanchine (who became his friend), going against the grain of government-certified and therefore allowable, "art." White Nights as a film explores this concept, as does the earlier Moscow on the Hudson . Communist countries such as USSR and China have controlled the arts strictly, prescribing for the populace what is good for them. In France, Stravinsky exercised his creativity and was met with shock and anger on the part of a traditionist audience. Thus. he finally moved to America, the land of revolutionairies in 1939.


In the later 1960s, my classmates and I in newly-instituted Russian language classes enjoyed reading Pravda, the Soviet newspaper, but it was illegal to have it in Ohio in that decade.


Igor Stravinsky qualified as a US citizen after WWII and became friends with other Russian immigrants. He live in West Hollywood and enjoyed LA as well as friendships with Geoirge Balanchine and other immigrants such as Arthur Rubinstein, Pablo Piccaso, Leopold Stokowski, and other artists and composers. Often times, they collaborated on creative, innovative and successful musical productions outside of Communist control.

Stravinsky was rejected in Russia and the USSR after he immigrated to France and Switzerland in the 1910s. France rejected both his The Rite of Spring and his benefactor Coco Chanel's fashion design style. They both became almost worshipped for their work in Paris later in the 20th Century.

Russia/USSR suppressed his music from the early 1930s for 30 years, exerting government control over musical compositions and productions. Elsewhere, the composer went to Denmark to accept Sonning Award for music in 1959. In the 1960s, Stravinsky became a mentor to Warren Devon. In 1962, he was finally invited to Leningrad USSR and presented by the government as an artist in concert, officially declared respected by the nation and its peoples.

Stravinsky: Rite of Spring, Part 1 - Genesis in FANTASIA (1940)

Part 2:Evolution

Part 3: Extinction

Comments and Opinions

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    • Support Med. profile image

      Support Med. 6 years ago from Michigan

      Beautiful music! I have watched this on an old VHS tape with my son and daughter. Disney is so imaginative and I can see where it's a strong possibility where recent movies may have gotten ideas from 'Fantasia,' such as 'Land of the Lost', 'Jurassic Park,' etc. I enjoy classical music anyways as I find it very relaxing. Voted and rated.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      That's a prescious memory I appreciate hearing, Amie. Fantasia would be hard to equal or beat, probably. I've now decided to get the DVD soon.

    • profile image

      Amie Warren 7 years ago

      Fantasia was the first Disney movie my mother ever took me to see. Looking back, I see what a huge sacrifice that was for her, because we were very poor. By the time I thought to ask her what she had done to get the money, she was old and she did not remember, but she remembered taking me to the movie. I love Fantasia. Fantasia II was not quite as thrilling.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Another great hub from you. Although I never know these movies before, but I believe that Disney's Fantasia and the Rite of Spring are beautiful. Thank you very much. Rating up.

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 7 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      Hard to believe an audience would actually riot over not liking a song!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 7 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      The memories of my early years are sketchey, but I certainly remember my mother taking me to see the movie Fantasia. The musical selections are pure genius as was Walt Disney himself. You have given us an absolutely wonderul presentation here. Thank you Patty.

    • Woody Marx profile image

      Woody Marx 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      There is so much to say about this movie--one of my favourite things is the music, in particular who they chose to conduct it,Leopold Stokowski, who, at the time, was in competition with NBC's diva conductor Arturo Toscanini. The technical innovations in the movie partly were influenced by Stokowski's genius for experimental recording techniques, and that came through in this great movie. At any rate, I loved the result and still sit in awe at Disney's decision to make such a thing--so much ahead of it's time etc. Thanks for telling us about it!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @Epsilon5 - I was able to review Coco and Igor prior to release and noticed your question and found it very intersting and related to what I learned from that film about the riot. The beauty part is finding the photo from Huddersfield, where Patrick Stewart is Chancellor! Thanks for asking the qeustion, it was fun to answer.

      @Hello, hello - It all seemed to piece together easily when I finally put my notes in writing, so I'm happy you like it. Thanks for posting!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      A very comprehensive article and I enjoyed an interesting read. Thank you for the great reseach.

    • Epsilon5 profile image

      Epsilon5 7 years ago from Eastern Pennsylvania

      Excellent hub! I'm honored that you would write a hub in response to one of my requests. Thanks very much!