The 1940 animated film Fantasia remains one of Walt Disney's finest achievements, and helped put classical music in front of a worldwide audience. Disney collaborated with conductor Leopold Stokowski for his third animated film, presenting a feature divided into eight separate segments set to well-known works, seven of which are performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra.


The film was originally conceived as a comeback vehicle for Mickey Mouse in which the beloved cartoon character stars in the Sorcerer's Apprentice, but spiralling costs instead convinced Disney to include the short as just one of segments of the feature-length production. Making use of 'Fantasound', a new system developed by Disney and RCA, Fantasia was the first commercial film shown in stereo, paving the way for cinematic surround sound.

A sequel was released in 1999, titled Fantasia 2000, which, like its predecessor, uses pieces of classical music alongside the animated segments, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with conductor James Levine.

We named Fantasia as one of the best uses of classical music in cartoons. Below are the eight pieces of music used in the original 1940 feature's eight segments.

Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor

Fantasia's graphic opening introduced viewers to the symphony orchestra, with live action scenes of members of the orchestra playing against a blue backdrop. Animated lines and graphic details then reflect the sound of Bach's Toccata and Fugue.

Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker

There is an entire animated section devoted to The Nutcracker, with music from the 'Sugar-Plum Fairy', the 'Arabian Dance', the 'Trepak' and the 'Waltz of the Flowers'. We named it as one of the most unexpected uses of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker in popular culture.

Dukas's The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Dukas's symphonic poem The Sorcerer's Apprentice is intrinsically linked with Fantasia thanks to its use in the now-iconic sequence starring Mickey Mouse as (you guessed it) a sorcerer's apprentice. Bored of mopping the floors, the apprentice noses through the sorcerer's spell book to find a spell that will give him a break from the work... with disastrous results. Although it was already a popular concert piece, Disney acquired the music rights in 1937 when he planned to release a unique Mickey Mouse film, which became part of Fantasia.

Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring

One of the animations featured in Fantasia shows a visual history of the beginning of Planet Earth, from the planet's formation to the first living creates and subsequently the rise and demise of the dinosaur population.

Read about why the Rite of Spring was so revolutionary.

Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 'Pastoral'

This animated sequence features the world of Centaurs from classical mythology, set against the music of Beethoven's 'Pastoral' Symphony. Zeus disturbs a festival for Bacchus, and creates a storm, directing Vulcan to make him lightning bolts to throw at the party's attendees.

Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours

This comic ballet features four sections: Madame Upanova and her ostriches (Morning); Hyacinth Hippo and her servants (Afternoon); Elephanchine and her elephants (Evening); and Ben Ali Gator and his alligators (Night). In the finale, all the characters dance together until their palace collapses.

Musorgsky's Night on the Bare Mountain

Inspired by Russian legend, Musorgsky's Night on the Bare Mountain is already a story in itself. Tone poems are perfectly designed for film adaptation, due to the fact that they illustrate a continual story and evolve as the piece progresses. In Fantasia, the devil awakes and summons evil spirits from their graves to the mountain.

Schubert's Ave Maria

Ave Maria appears in Fantasia just after Musorgsky's Night on the Bare Mountain. As the evil spirits are dancing on the mountain, a chorus is heard singing Schubert's Ave Maria as monks are seen walking through a forest and into the ruins of a cathedral.


We named the organ at Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles as one of the best pipe organs in the world.