I'm tired of all the people whining about how Disney is too "cute and fluffy" to own Marvel Comics. Disney ain't just talking mice and cuddly critters, ya know. To prove it, I'm devoting the rest of this month to exploring the DARKNESS of DISNEY. For me, there's no better way to start things off than with that most celebrated and astonishing of dark Disney moments -- "Night on Bald Mountain," from the feature film Fantasia (1940).
Fantasia is the third movie of what's commonly referred to as Disney's "Great Four" (Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi -- and sometimes Dumbo). They were the first animated feature films Disney produced. No expense or artistry was spared, and they were produced at a time when the studio was much more willing to take artistic and technological risks. World War II and reductions in box-office takes, along with a nasty studio strike, effectively put an end to this wild animation experimentation, and the Disney studio, unfortunately, never really recovered during Walt Disney's lifetime. Recovery in the animation department didn't take effect until the release of the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, in 1988, which sparked the beginning of the "Disney Renaissance," and a Renaissance in animation in general.
Fantasia arose from a meeting between Disney and legendary composer/arranger/orchestra conductor Leopold Stokowsky, during which they discussed creating a concert feature starring Mickey Mouse. What resulted was a movie consisting entirely of animated sequences set to Stokowsky'e arrangements of famous classical music pieces. Think of the segments as being sort-of classical music videos -- of which "Night on Bald Mountain" is one of the most famous. In it, the devil/demon Chernabog and a hoard of spirits dance to Stokowsky's arrangement of Mussorgsky's dark masterpiece. Chernabog was animated by the legendary Vladimir "Bill" Tytla, who reportedly used Bela Lugosi as a model.