My 'Fantasia'

By

Choreographer George Balanchine, conductor Leopold Stokowski, composer Igor Stravinsky, comedian Mickey Mouse. Some combination. Adding lights, cameras, and the action of animation, Walt Disney made ''Fantasia.''

It was a liberal education for a junior high school student to be taken to the Disney studios in Hollywood when ''Fantasia'' was on the drawing boards.

My visit came back to me with the current presentation of ''Fantasia'' in a book by John Culhane describing the making of the film. Here are not only finished scenes from Disney's enduring visual accompaniment to dramatic music but also preparatory sketches and sequences.

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For an artist the drawings are the most interesting. The Disney artists could just plain draw well. The dinosaur-fight drawings from the ''Rite of Spring'' segment, for example, are a lesson not only in how to draw anatomy but in how to use anatomical forms to help tell the story of the fierce battle.

The drawings are studies in compression. Those wonderful dancing mushrooms in the ''Nutcracker Suite'' segment came from a special sensitivity to form and an enviable courage to be simple.

The study of motion is at the core of the art of animation, and the drawings and paintings look the way they do because of this. The emphasis on structure, on form expressed through line, makes the figures seem to be in motion before they ever get to the camera.

All this was a long way from the ''repetition in a row'' of my own first design class. And that color wheel I worked on so hard was really put into motion by these artists.

I had been ''sent'' to the Disney studios by my junior high school art teacher, who had some connection, as a treat and a prize for getting that color wheel to come out right.

A very kind secretary (not Walt's) was given the duty of showing me around. I was one more star-struck would-be artist, having just given up wanting to become a ventriloquist like Edgar Bergen (Charlie McCarthy), and bent now (at once) on becoming another Walt Disney.

The atmosphere was genial, busy, and kindly toward would-be artists.

She told me that the artists studied life drawing, sketched animals, and made their own movies to study action. I was impressed. I still am. Now many of their drawings are in this book. In a way, I liked the book better than the movie! (Not that I won't see ''Fantasia'' the next time around.)

My junior high school art teacher used to quote Ingres. ''Drawing is the probity of art.'' I took that very seriously. So did Walt.

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