And this is why I still own a record player. Every once in a while I stumble across something truly special. Although Fantasia (released in 1940) was a critical success it was a box office disappointment for Walt Disney. His dream of re-releasing the film with new segments wouldn’t be realized until the far-off year of 2000, and again with critical acclaim but limited box office returns.
These facts in no way diminish this film’s historical and artistic significance! So when I found a mint condition copy of the soundtrack for Fantasia from 1957 I was ecstatic!
Being as this LP was released 17 years after the movie I wondered if it was the original soundtrack or if there was one released earlier. Although Walt did want to release an earlier version, it never happened. So what I have found is the first soundtrack release for the film. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the release history for Fantasia:
Disney considered releasing the film’s soundtrack around the time of the film’s roadshow release, but this idea was not realized. The soundtrack was first released as a mono three LP set and a stereo 8-track tape in sixteen countries by Disneyland and Buena Vista Records in 1957, containing the musical pieces without the narration. A stereo edition LP was issued by Buena Vista Records in 1961. Disney was required to obtain permission from Stokowski, who initially rejected its sale unless the Philadelphia Orchestra Association received a share of the royalties.
The Kostal recording was released on two CDs, two LPs and two audio cassettes by Buena Vista Records, in 1982.
In September 1990, the remastered Stokowski soundtrack was released on CD and audio cassette by Buena Vista Records. In the United States, it debuted the Billboard 200 chart at number 190, its peak position, for the week of November 17, 1990. Two months after its release, the album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for 500,000 copies sold in the United States. In January 1993, it was certified platinum for sales in excess of one million copies.
For the film’s 75th anniversary, the Stokowski and Kostal recordings were released on two LPs and four CDs as the fifth volume of the Walt Disney Records: The Legacy Collection. The set includes Stokowski’s recording of the deleted Clair de Lune segment, and a recording of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Peter and the Wolf with added narration by Sterling Holloway.
What really stands out about this LP are the notes and artwork. The packaging is basically a 26-page booklet with three vinyl records. Here are the inner pages:
The above pages outline the goal intended for the recording quality. It is worth a read if you care to enlarge the picture!
Both Walt and Leopold Stokowski make good arguments for why Fantasia was a worthwhile project. Again, it is worth a read!
As you can see, each section of the film has a two-page spread dedicated to it. On the left there is an introduction to the original musical piece followed by a description of how it was handled in the film. On the right is a beautiful piece of concept art from the section in question. I’ll say it again, it is worth enlarging the pictures to give these pages a read!
The final pages contain more of the concept drawings from the film:
As noted earlier, this was a Buena Vista Records release. It may never have been released as Stokowski and later his estate tried to block the sale of any Fantasia soundtrack unless monies were shared with Stokowski and the orchestra that played the music. Obviously, things were worked out:
I was amazed to find that the vinyl records themselves appear unplayed! There is no dust, wear, or scratches. Considering this release is over 60 years old, I consider finding such a pristine copy unprecedented!
This will now be the cornerstone of my Disney record collection.