"The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of" ... Bogart, Shakespeare, The Maltese Falcon, Those Great Movies

Monday, August 15, 2011

Could You Use A Good Movie Laugh? I Could!

The great Leopold Stokowski and Mickey Mouse.
How did this odd combination come about?
Well, of course, Stokowski and Mickey met during Fantasia, the 1940 Disney masterpiece of animation and classical music.  If you know Fantasia well, I bet you thought I was going to link to Mickey's piece, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."  Nope.  I just love this picture of the grand old man of classical music and the mouse.

No, this all really came about because I was thinking about going on a diet.  As a rather odd classical music and movie lover with brain synapse problems, this naturally led my thoughts to Fantasia, "The Dance of the Hours," and the hippos in tutus that we all love.  (Now, let me hasten to add that I don't think I need a diet that badly.)  OK, now that we've cleared that up, let us continue.

I am working on an article for my blog that is rather heavy (I swear that was accidental).  I needed a break from it, and I also needed to lighten up personally.  Strange things are happening here at CasaClassicBecky, and I want something that will make me laugh so hard I choke.  Doesn't sound like fun when you put it that way, but it is!  I found out some interesting things about how "The Dance of the Hours" was made as well.  For instance, I never knew that Walt Disney hired dancers from the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo to perform the ballet so that the animators would have reference to recreate the dance movements for the ostriches, hippos and alligators.  These dancers were not just the chorus, either -- the most surprising participant was Leonide Massine, premiere Russian dancer and choreographer whom many classic film mavens know as the demonic shoemaker from The Red Shoes.  The wonderful Cyd Charisse, a classically trained dancer, also took part.

The great Massine
Dad always called Cyd "The Legs"...



Sure, I can see the resemblance...
As long as we are talking about the interest that true artists had in being involved with Fantasia, this little anecdote is the one that fascinated me most. Stokowski was a giant in the world of classical music.  He inspired such awe in audiences and other artists that everybody was practically afraid of him, including, apparently, Walt Disney.  Following is a quote from the Internet Movie Database: 

"Walt Disney himself related the story of a chance meeting with Leopold Stokowski at Chasen's. They agreed to have dinner together. As they talked, Disney told of his plans to do "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and other possible projects using classical music with animation. Disney said that he was stunned when Stokowski, then one of the two most famous conductors in the country (the other being Arturo Toscanini), responded by saying, "I would like to conduct that for you." It was an offer he couldn't pass up."

Apparently, many artists at the height of their talents and careers could see the great potential in Disney's ambitious project.  And they were so right. 

Now it's time to laugh.  Here is "The Dance of the Hours" as presented in Fantasia in all its hilarious glory.  I can feel the corners of my lips starting to curl upward already...



  1. What can I say? I'm smiling!(and putting down the cake).

  2. Wow, you caught me before I was even done fixing my pictures! Grrr! That can be a pain, can't it? Yes, we love the tutu'd hippo, but she does make sweets less palatable, doesn't she?

  3. I suppose it isn't kosher to comment on your own material, and I wouldn't do that about my wriring, BUT -- I was still in need of that smile when I went to find the link for this -- I very professionally and solemnly found what I wanted, made sure the picture and sound were good by checking to be sure it was all there from beginning to end, but I didn't watch it then. I just did. I always forget how really FUNNY that thing is until I see it again! So, my own piece gave me teh laugh I needed! I feel better, lots better! Thanks, me!

  4. I would fix the many typos in my comment, but it's too much work to re-type it all. I count on my intelligent readers to get the gist.

  5. Well, believe it or not, I have never seen FANTASIA! I loved the you tube clip though I have to admit during the Hippo dance I could not get Allan Sherman out of my head!

  6. What a great post, thanks! I love Fantasia.

  7. 24, you gave me another good laugh..I know just what you mean! I ALWAYS think of "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah!" You should see Fantasia. This is just a taste of how good it is!

    Craig, thanks so much! This in one of the movies I would have to have with me on that desert island!

  8. I adore FANTASIA. It's one of my all time favorite films. My favorite sections: NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN, the little mushrooms dancing to Tchaikovsky and the SORCERER'S APPRENTICE primarily because it was my late mother's favorite piece of music. But I like the dancing hippos too. :)

    Great post, Becky!

  9. I have to wonder how the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo dancers reacted when they saw their dancing interpreted by alligators, ostriches and, especially, hippos - with hearty (possibly surprised) laughter, I'd imagine.

  10. Yvette, I've also been in love with this movie since I first saw it at about 10 in a re-release at big old theatre. I too love the Sorcerer's Apprentice, funny, yet scary too - the lines of brooms marching down into the water to pour their buckets scared me!

    Eve, I would think the dancers got a real kick out of it, considering how happy they were to work on the project. If you love ballet and have seen a lot of it, it's particularly funny and you can see where the inspiration of the real dancers probably is! I could not believe Massine did it! He was a great man in ballet! Love to hear things like that!

  11. Becky, I hope your clip from the "Dance of the Hours" segment of FANTASIA put as big a smile on your face as it did mine! Our daughter Siobhan loves both the original version and the new pieces in the 2000 update (especially the one drawn by Al Hirschfeld, accompanied by George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue"). Thanks for sharing this!

    And John, I instantly thought of Allen Sherman's "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" when I first heard "The Dance of the Hours," too! :-)

  12. Oh yes, Dorian, it made me howl and forget my feet! LOL! Re the modern sequel, Siobhan really has good taste. I thought the Gershwin number was the best thing in that movie, other than the reshowing of the original Sorcerer's Apprentice." I was not at all a fan of the rest of it!

  13. When my son Gavin goes on a "Fantasia" kick, those hippos get quite a workout.

    Stokowski at the movies leads my mind to Bugs Bunny's impersonation in "Long-Haired Hare" and the hushed, frightened voices of the orchestra "Leopold. Leopold. Leopold."

  14. Oh!Oh!Oh! Caftan Woman, you have put me to shame! That should be in this article - how could I have not thought of that! One of the cartoon greats! I LOVE Bugs conducting! Behind his back, lifting his little finger at hip level -- and that singer! Too great!

    The REAL shame for me in this is because I am doing a 5 Best Cartoons post for the Cafe on Friday, and this is one of my picks. My only defense is that I have not actually written it yet, or found the pictures -- PLUS I really WAS in a rotten mood the day I posted, not so rotten I couldn't function, and not so rotten that I couldn't laugh at myself some and write this post. But you know, my whole brain wasn't open to everything yet!

  15. Another great blog. Only you could tie together Cyd Charisse, Disney, classical music, and dieting all together in such an interesting way. Your blog is one of my favorite things I have discovered on the internet!

  16. Great post Becky. It was funny, but of course Fantasia was brilliant. It was a very important project for Walt Disney and the artistry and humor both came through. I remember seeing it as a kid, and then later in a re-release. It's a unique combination of American creative invention and European sophistication. And I didn't know about Cyd Charisse's role. Thanks for bringing this jewel back to light.

  17. Doc, I appreciate your compliment!

    John, I hardly realized the combination I had come up with until you put it together! You are very kind to say that about my site.

    Christian, learning those things about the great classical and movie artists involved with Fantasia was so interesting to me too! I thought with your great fashion taste, you might appreciate the beauty and simplicity of the hippo ballerina's little tutu! I just lvoe the way she always trys to be modest and pull it down over her ...ummm ... impressive behind! LOL!