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In competition with reality
October 3, 2011 7:34 AM   Subscribe

Disney Agonistes: Night on Bald Mountain.

Bill Benzon also discusses the Dance of the Hours sequence from Fantasia.
posted by shakespeherian (27 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Metafilter: Hand Job Metamorphosis
posted by The Whelk at 7:41 AM on October 3, 2011


one part of me thinks the first link is glurgy and masturbatory but another part of me digs that he's thinking deeply about this cartoon.

this is kind of uncomfortable
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:47 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have to say, I think my Catholic upbringing is the reason why Night on Bald Mountain was absolutely fascinating to six-year-old-me, while mama dinosaurs dying reduced me to a blubbering terrified mess hiding behind the couch pillows.

That's pretty messed up.
posted by lydhre at 7:51 AM on October 3, 2011


I did not know that the demon in Fantasia had a name, but "Chernobog" would mean Black or Dark God in Slavic languages.
posted by mermayd at 7:56 AM on October 3, 2011


Cause I recognized the name Chernobog, I just assumed any weird symbology I saw was just me not being familiar with Slavic Mythology.
posted by The Whelk at 7:59 AM on October 3, 2011


Trippy.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:07 AM on October 3, 2011


Coincidentally, I just talked about this scene over here -- my parents took three-year-old me to see Fantasia, as they made that new-parent mistake of "it's a Disney Cartoon, what could be scary about it?"

*snerk*

Interesting take on the sequence, but I couldn't help thinking "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar" about this. Is he really questioning, in a sequence using figures and symbolism from the Christian mythos, why the Devil figure is frightened of the sacred symbols?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:07 AM on October 3, 2011


I'm surprised my mother let me watch Fantasia at all, since we were strict Evangelical Christians. Looking back, I'm pretty sure the Rite of Spring sequence contributed to my interest in evolution. She discouraged me from watching the Night on Bald Mountain because she thought it would give me nightmares, but I suppose it was the Rite of Spring she should have been worried about.
posted by melissam at 8:08 AM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fantasia was the very first movie I ever saw in a theater. And yes, Right of Spring kind of opened my eyes. "Wait wait wait--WHEN was this happening? Before Adam & Eve?"
posted by DU at 8:10 AM on October 3, 2011


Fantasia was the first movie I ever saw in the theater (1982), and possibly the last movie I saw with my father before he died. This sequence was fascinating and terrifying to 7-year-old me. Ave Maria was so very soothing afterwards.

(The Pastorale was and remains my favorite part of Fantasia, and also remains my favorite Beethoven.)
posted by epersonae at 8:11 AM on October 3, 2011


I wrote a 20+ page paper on Fantasia when I was an undergrad in the 1980's. I bloviated on for much too long on some "life death rebirth" cycle in the film. I'm glad this writeup wasnt' available at the time, lord knows where I would have gone with it.
posted by marxchivist at 8:11 AM on October 3, 2011


my parents took three-year-old me to see Fantasia, as they made that new-parent mistake of "it's a Disney Cartoon, what could be scary about it?"

My dad took me to see it at a young age because, "This'll scare the crap out of the kid". He was never exactly one to follow conventional parenting wisdom.
posted by octothorpe at 8:12 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll be honest I mostly like the linked article for its talk about hands.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:12 AM on October 3, 2011


my parents took three-year-old me to see Fantasia, as they made that new-parent mistake of "it's a Disney Cartoon, what could be scary about it?"

Interesting. My parents made the same mistake, but not because they thought it would be scary. They thought it would be good to expose me to some of the great classical pieces of all time; but, to me, good cartoons were supposed to 1) have a plot, and 2) only last a couple of minutes. BO-ring.
posted by Melismata at 8:41 AM on October 3, 2011


Fantasia was my introduction to classical music, and I am forever grateful to Disney for it because ever since I saw it ~40 years ago, I've been able to close my eyes any time I hear classical music and visualize an animated story to match it.

I also love Donald in Mathmagic Land.
posted by headnsouth at 8:49 AM on October 3, 2011


Fun Fact: The original name of the demon was going to be Yensid, which of course is Disney spelled backwards.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:57 AM on October 3, 2011


Doleful Creature, I've always thought that Yen Sid was the sorcerer, not the demon.
posted by lydhre at 9:01 AM on October 3, 2011


Huh, looks like you're right, lydhre, at least according to Wikipedia. I could have sworn that the liner notes in my vinyl of Fantasia said it was the demon.

Guess I'll head out to the storage unit and dig that up.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:08 AM on October 3, 2011


I think my Catholic upbringing is the reason why Night on Bald Mountain was absolutely fascinating to six-year-old-me

As a Protestant child, I found it just as fascinating. From discussions with friends, I've come to the conclusion that there's an odd sort of frisson one gets from seeing fictional and non-canonical adaptations of your own belief system. A sort of guilty flirting with blasphemy or something, I'm not sure.

I always assumed the demon was, explicitly, Satan - he's referred to by that name by the composer right before Night On Bald Mountain kicks off, after all. I wonder if Disney thought he needed a different name to make the film more kid-friendly or not tick off religious viewers or something.

Oh, and hilariously:

In Disney theme parks, he appears as one of the Disney Villains in both versions of the Fantasmic! nighttime spectacular at Disneyland in Anaheim, California and the Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida. Here he is summoned by the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to fight Mickey Mouse.

Kind of a step down in the world, I'd say.
posted by AdamCSnider at 9:10 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I couldn't help thinking "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar" about this. Is he really questioning, in a sequence using figures and symbolism from the Christian mythos, why the Devil figure is frightened of the sacred symbols?

That was kind of my thinking. I really enjoyed the author's stuff on hands, as shakespeherian did, but I found his psychologizing a bit... much. The music is from Mussorgsky, whose original tone poem was about a witches' Sabbath. I always thought the animation was a fairly straightforward meditation--albeit an excellently animated meditation--on the subject matter.

Chernobog's* seeming ennui at his creations is indeed interesting, and one can perhaps see shadows of the work's creators here, but I don't see any particularly need to go elsewhere.

*The name is also from the source material, so there's no real need to seek any motivation for the name.
posted by valkyryn at 9:14 AM on October 3, 2011


Fun Fact: The original name of the demon was going to be Yensid, which of course is Disney spelled backwards.

Yensid is the name of the Sorcerer in the "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 9:39 AM on October 3, 2011


Kind of a step down in the world, I'd say.

Oh, I don't know. Ever played the Kingdom Hearts games? Mickey is kind of a badass.
posted by xedrik at 9:43 AM on October 3, 2011


I also love Donald in Mathmagic Land - OMG yes, I think this may be why I love pool. (I'm terrible at it, though. I may (!) understand the geometry concepts, but my eye-hand coordination is teh suck.)
posted by epersonae at 10:30 AM on October 3, 2011


Chernobog's seeming ennui at his creations is indeed interesting, and one can perhaps see shadows of the work's creators here, but I don't see any particularly need to go elsewhere.

Chernobog is as a god but he is not God. He can transform and animate matter, but he cannot give his creations souls. They have no inner life, can never become more than they are. They can neither be saved nor damned.

As a fallen angel, he's not an artist, to be satisfied with a simulacrum; he's in the soul business. On that basis, his creations are mere shadows, toys.

Hence the ennui.

See also: Milton, Paradise Lost.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:47 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember seeing Fantasia at a matinee at the huge University Theatre when I was in college and everyone seemed to be under age 6 (wiki says about 1300 seats) . None of the kids would sit still for itand got wilder and wilder until Bald Mountain. When Ave Maria started and the screen lightened up the theatre, I saw a thousand of these little heads started poking up from behind all the chair backs.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:29 AM on October 3, 2011


"Fun Fact: The original name of the demon was going to be Yensid, which of course is Disney spelled backwards."

Of course, speed-reading certificate in hand, when I read "Yensid" I also thought "Aha, backwards!" but then immediately wondered, "Who the heck's Sidney?"
posted by Mike D at 12:45 PM on October 3, 2011


(It's night on Bald Mountain. The bell signals daybreak, which banishes the creatures of darkness. At least, that's how I understood it as a kid.)

Anyone who's played Kingdom Hearts 1&2 knows Yen Sid is the expositional sorcerer while Chernabog is the demon completely out of nowhere. It's what makes that series so unexpectedly fun.

Oddly enough, I never found Chernabog that scary. Pink Elephants, on the other hand... *shudder*
posted by Kaleidolia at 11:32 PM on October 3, 2011


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