Hailed as a "new kind of art form," Walt Disney's Fantasia (1940) harenessed recent developments in recording (multichannel editing and stereophonic surround playback) and photography (the multiplane camera and Technicolor process) to bring "a wider understanding of good music to the general public." Rather than threaten the nature of art, mechanical reproduction was to give the best to the rest, taking the music of one of America's finest ensembles, the Philadelphia Orchestra, under one of its best conductors, Leopold Stokowski, to every city and town. As Stokowski writes in the Opening pages of the film's souvenir ”roadshow" program:

The beauty and inspiration of music must not be restricted to a privileged few but made available to every man, woman and child. That is why great music associated with motion pictures is so important, because motion pictures reach millions all over our country and all over the world. Their influence is immensely powerful and deep. We cannot measure how greatly music and motion pictures contribute toward a higher standard and enjoyment of living, increasing the well-being of each one of us, as well as our nation, by giving us not only recreation and pleasure, but stimulation and nourishment of the mind and spirit.

Fantasia presumed no musical knowledge. In fact, the lack of musical knowledge among Disney's creative staff was touted as evidence that the "average listener should be much less humble about his ability to understand good music." Building on nineteenth-century conceptions of art music as a moral force for community uplift, Fantasia uses color, image, pattern, and narrative to articulate musical experience for its audience. In studying Fantasia, critics of music on film can learn much about the chemistry of sound and image, especially with regards to how audiovisual alignment can articulate form, how gestures of melody and motion reinforce one another, and how musical rhetoric and image fuse to create meaning.

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