The "Night On Bald Mountain" segment of Disney's Fantasia
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Detail of pre-production painting for the "spookshow" segment.
My favorite segment of Walt Disney's classic Fantasia is of course, "Night on Bald Mountain." The music composed by Modeste Moussorgsky is powerful and one of my favorite scary compositions, so seeing it brought to "life," as it were, by the animators is a special treat.
The large imposing edifice made quite an impression on me, located in the beautiful historic section near downtown. Surrounded by huge oaks draped with greenish-gray spanish moss, I was reminded of what Officer Brophy in "Arsenic and Old Lace" said... "Why, this whole neighborhood just stinks with atmosphere." And he meant that in a good way. The setting sun streaming through the leaves and moss cast a dappled orange glow on the white stone of the library.
Pre-production painting of the opening scene.
A year or so later I was able to acquire the same record and book to own at a flea market, and that was the extent of my knowledge about the movie. But in 1984, to my total and complete delight, most of the sequence was shown on one of "The Wonderful World of Disney" Halloween Specials (I'll be doing some posts on these specials in an upcoming October series of blog entries). It was indeed as dark and foreboding as I had imagined, and depicted the dispair and horror among the wicked dead, even as they are called to celebrate and entertain their dark lord. Hardly the typical Disney fare!"Monster File" feature from an issue of "Famous Monsters" in the early 80's.
When it was released for the first time on VHS in the 90's, I could much more appreciate the dark beauty of the entire segment. I have only enjoyed it more with the subsequent re-releases on DVD with much improved picture. I think I'll go watch it again right now!