Virginia Arts Festival's Disney Fantasia

Mickey Mouse isn’t the only star of Disney Fantasia. From ballet-dancing hippos to synchronized-swimming flower petals, Fantasia’s monumental animation is brought to life on the big stage. The Virginia Symphony Orchestra astounded in their riveting Sunday performance of the Disney Fantasia masterpiece.

Bouncing splashes of vivid magentas and blues set an abstract backdrop for the opening scene of the afternoon performance. A giant screen was set in the middle of the orchestra as nine Disney Fantasia scenes, from the 1940 and 2000 versions were projected for guests to be entranced. The younger crowd was wowed, and adults were taken back to their yesteryears through this Disney classic.

Playful strings of The Pastoral Symphony number narrate the galloping centaurs and centaurettes. Horns belt while a grape-adorned Bacchus, the god of wine, dances in celebration. As a rain cloud approaches, the symphony’s strings tremble. Drums signal the thunder as Zeus arrives to dart his thunderbolts before he eventually tucks himself away to exit into the clouds. A rainbow goddess leaves puddles while Bacchus changes his choice of beverage to rainbows as the rest of his followers ascend into the brilliant arc. They marvel at the sunset while Apollo is mounted on his chariot until the number closes with winged Cupid babes being serenaded to sleep in the clouds as an archer shoots stars into the sky.

In another scene The Nutcracker Suite plays as iridescent fairies come in the night to illuminate pansies and dandelions. The harp beautifully transitions to a scene with dancing mushrooms.

Pomp and Circumstance narrates the scene where Donald Duck, Noah’s assistant, corrals the animals in two’s to march onto the ark before the flood. He thinks he leaves his girlfriend, Daisy Duck, behind only to discover she was on the ark all along.

Before Mickey’s mishap with magic and the broomsticks, conductor Benjamin Rous explained Fantasound, an 8-channel method of surround sound as Fantasia was originally envisioned. In 1939 Leopold Stokowski used Fantasound to create the music arrangements to back Fantasia’s animations. Now being on the other side, Rous expressed the difficulty of directing the symphony to keep up with the tempo of the scenes, which was in Stokowski’s style of “sheer speed.” Rous accepted the challenge and conducted the symphony with grace.

“His way is fast; we have to do it his way,” he said, to coordinate with the classic style of Stokowski. A small screen was placed in front of Rous as he looked down to coordinate the symphony with each scene.

The show closed out with Pines of Rome to the animation of a humpback whale calf finding his way out of an iceberg and later learns to fly.

Though Disney Fantasia has come to a close, the Virginia Arts Festival's spring events continue. For more information and to buy tickets, visit their event page.