Penn Library

Leopold Stokowski:
Making Music Matter

Curated by Marjorie Hassen

Otto E. Albrecht Music Library
University of Pennsylvania

Fantasia: Animating Music

Stokowski on Meeting Walt Disney
[RealPlayer required]
From an interview with David Frost, 1971

In the fall of 1937 Walt Disney suggested to Stokowski that they collaborate on an animated short of Paul Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice. The final cost of the film, which was completed in January 1938, was so high that Disney was concerned about recouping his investment. His solution was to build additional segments around the Dukas work and expand the project into a "Concert Feature," as it was then called, a proposal that Stokowski accepted enthusiastically. Many different storylines and accompanying musical works were discussed in meetings that included Disney, Stokowski, and the composer and commentator Deems Taylor, who would serve as Fantasia's narrator. By April 1939 the decisions on repertory were made, and a Disney crew traveled to Philadelphia to make the recordings. The soundtrack was recorded on the Academy of Music stage on nine different channels using thirty-three individual microphones. Fantasia premiered in New York on 13 November 1940. The New York Herald Tribune's critic Virgil Thomson commented the next day that
Leopold Stokowski, whatever one might think of his musical taste, is unquestionably the man who has best watched over the upbringing of Hollywood's stepchild, musical reproduction and recording. Alone among successful symphonic conductors, he has given himself the trouble to find out something about musical reproduction techniques and to adapt these to the problems of orchestral execution. Alone among the famous musicians who have worked in films he has forced the spending of money and serious thought by film producers and their engineers toward achievement of a result in auditive photography comparable in excellence to the results that the expenditure of money and thought have produced in visual photography. Musicians will thank him and bless his name.

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