Remembering Fantasia. From the August 31, 1990 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, music critic Lesley Valdes talked with former members of the Philadelphia Orchestra who recorded the original music for Disney’s Fantasia (1940). Of the 90 original orchestra members, only nineteen were still alive and those who shared their memories in this articleare now gone as well.
On April 6, 1939 (Good Friday), ninety musicians assembled in the Academy of Music to record the soundtrack. Most were from the Philadelphia Orchestra but a few were Curtis Institute of Music students.
That was the first session. The orchestra had other rehearsals with conductor Stokowski the following morning. On Easter Sunday, there was a morning rehearsal, then the orchestra’s afternoon radio broadcast and then the second Fantasia recording session. The third and final session for the soundtrack was done on Thursday, April 12,1939.
There were thirty-three micorphones positioned all over the stage that were fed or mixed into nine different tracks so the orchestra could not sit in their standard fan-shaped formation. The circuitry extended all the way down the back stairs of the Academy into the basement where a row of Disney technicians operated machinery that transferred the music directly onto film.
David Madison who was a violinist and would later become associate concert master said, “We were used to anything from him (Stokowski). We recorded on Thanksgiving Day one time. Our regular recording sessions sometimes lasted ten hours, deep into the night until the musicians would complain and the union would be called in. But anything Stoki did was fine by me. He was my hero.”
Edna Phillips who was the principal harpist recalled, “There was so many wires on that stage, it was worth your life just to walk around. Technicians were always looming around. I was banished to the pit beneath the stage so that the rustle of my skirt against the harp couldn’t be heard by the microphones. It was so far from the orchestra that it felt like being on 19th and Chestnut outside.”
Sol Schoenbach who performed the bassoon solo that opened the Rite of Spring remembered, “I went to New York to see it and was taken aback. Stokowski would adjust every one of the two dozen speakers for Fantasound at the Broadway Theater whenever he came to Manhattan. Stravinsky never spoke to Stokowski after the film came out because he objected to Stokowski’s willful interpretation of his Rite of Springand the manner in which he had excerpted the piece. I met Stravinksy years later and he said that it wasn’t Stravinksy you heard. It was Stokowski.
“For the bassoon solo, I recorded it 45 times until I got it to Stoki’s satisfaction, tone-wise and for the microphone. He didn’t explain what he wanted. He just said, ‘Do it again!’
“Walt was crying all over the Acadeny that he would lose his shirt on the film. Disney gave us a contract to sign that effectively canceled all our residual rights to the soundtrack or future use. In 1958, the American Federation of Musicians stepped in on our behalf and procured a one time recording fee of $38.50 per player. I got about four hundred dollars for my work for the initial recording and went out and bought a used Buick.”
Atillio de Palma who played the horn remembered, “The minimum flat fee for Fantasia was $90, or ten dollars an hour for all nine hours of recording. Principal players got more.”
Fractured Fairy Tales. From the underground comix magazine STOP! #3 (1982) that was published in New York, here is an excerpt from an interview by Judy Wilmot of Bill Scott:
“Fractured Fairy Tales was superb. We had such great writers on the show and telling them to make up their own fairy tales was like giving whisky to the Indians. ‘Eight Princesses and An Owl’ sounds like it was written by the Brothers Grimm but it was George Atkins. They were the most imaginative part of the (Bullwinkle) show. Our stories had to be good because we couldn’t depend on the animation. We stuffed the scripts full.”
Rover Dangerfield. Comedy actor and writer-director Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters, National Lampoon’s Animal House, National Lampoon’s Vacation) sued comedian Rodney Dangerfiled and accused him of stealing the idea of a dog named “Rover Dangerfield’ who looked and acted like the comedian. In the federal court suit, Ramis sought at least one million dollars for the idea that Ramis claimed he shared with Dangerfiled in 1986.
The two men reached a contractual agreement whereby Ramis later received $350,000 from Dangerfield after writing a screenplay for the film. However, the suit was filed because Ramis claimed that Dangerfield had failed to pay the balance on money promised in the contract. Ramis received a “story by” credit in the movie shared with Dangerfield.
Rover Dangerfield was released in August 1991 and was originally intended to be an R-rated film but Warner Brothers objected so changes were made to be more family friendly.
Thumper’s Girlfriend. We all assumed that actor Kiefer Sutherland was joking when in US magazine dated October 15, 1990, he stated, “Bambi (1942) taught me about sexuality. Thumper’s girlfriend’s got all that eyeshadow on and she’s looking real good.” In the movie, the girlfriend does not have a name although over the years Disney fans have called her everything from “Miss Bunny” to “Blossom”.
Animated Batman and Burton. Warner Brothers Domestic Television Distribution president Dick Robertson told the Daily News, July 22, 1990 that “the studio is in discussion with Tim Burton to become involved in the animated Batman show”.
Exactly the Same. In the Los Angeles Times Calendar Section for September 7, 1990, producer and writer of the Disney animated series Duck Tales said, “As producer and writer of the animated feature Duck Tales, I (along with my asscoiates) went to great lengths never to differentiate between Huey, Dewey and Louie. What made them unique was that they were one personality in three bodies.”
Hungry Terrytoons. Somebody must have been hungry because almost every Terrytoons cartoon short released in 1930 has a food name in the title. The titles were Caviar, Pretzels, Spanish Onions, Indian Pudding, Hot Turkey, Hawaiian Pineapple, Swiss Cheese, Codfish Balls, Hungarian Goulash, Bully Beef, Kangaroo Steak, Monkey Meat, Chop Suey, French Fried, Dutch Treat, Irish Stew, Fried Chicken, Salt Water Taffy and Jumping Beans.