Fantasia is Walt Disney’s second big screen full length animated feature.
Disney settled on the concept of Fantasia as work neared completion on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, an elaborate Silly Symphonies short designed as a comeback role for Mickey Mouse, who had declined in popularity. As production costs grew higher than what it could earn, Disney decided to include the short in a feature-length film with other segments set to classical pieces. The soundtrack was recorded using multiple audio channels and reproduced with Fantasound, a pioneering sound reproduction system that made Fantasia the first commercial film shown in stereophonic sound.
Fantasia was first released as a theatrical roadshow held in thirteen U.S. cities beginning on November 13, 1940. While acclaimed by critics, it was unable to make a profit due to World War II cutting off distribution to the European market, the film’s high production costs, and the expense of leasing theatres and installing the Fantasound equipment for the roadshow presentations. The film was subsequently reissued multiple times with its original footage and audio being deleted, modified, or restored in each version. Fantasia is the 23rd highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S. when adjusted for inflation. A sequel, Fantasia 2000, co-produced by Roy E. Disney, was released in 1999. Fantasia has grown in reputation over the years and is now widely acclaimed; in 1998 the American Film Institute ranked it as the 58th greatest American film in their 100 Years…100 Movies and the fifth greatest animated film in their 10 Top 10 list.