At a time when 16 bit Disney games were widely regarded as universally good, ‘Fantasia’ has a reputation as being “one of the worst platformers ever made”. But, what many do not know is that ‘Fantasia’ on the Mega Drive actually helped Sega cement a relationship with one of their most important publishing partners during the 16-bit era.
Developed by lnfogrames
Published by Sega
Released in 1991
For a fan of animation, the 1940 Disney movie ‘Fantasia’ is an avant-garde experimental masterpiece. A celebration of the animation art-form in its infancy, and an early example of how the Walt Disney Company is pioneering and adventurous. Disney himself said, “In a profession that has been an unending voyage of discovery in the realms of colour, sound and motion, ‘Fantasia’ represents our most exciting adventure.” In the studio’s early days, cartoons had always been short comedies that depended on visual gags. Prior to the feature length ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarf’ the ‘Silly Symphonies’ were the studio’s main output and these were cartoons accompanied by music rather than voiced. Following the success of the feature length films throughout the 1930’s, Walt Disney toyed with the idea of creating a Silly Symphony based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ poem. The goal was to create a short that incorporated all the techniques learnt from animating features, with a focus on the flow of water and the radiance of magic. Disney lavished his studio’s resources on the project, until the costs tripled the normal budget for a short. To turn a profit, ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ needed to be part of a full-length feature film and as the story couldn’t stretch to 70 minutes. Instead, to reach this feature length, Disney’s created eight animated shorts that would all be set to classical musical pieces. Each section was encouraged to be distinct and imaginative, resulting in a celebration of the animation art-form in all its guises. ‘Fantasia’ was born.
The highly-anticipated premiere took place on 13th November 1940, in New York City. While the film was praised by the New York Times’ movie critic as “simply terrific—as terrific as anything that has ever happened on a screen”, the film’s profits didn’t compare to the production budget of $2.3 million. Convinced the failure was a result of vanishing European markets caused by the start of World War II, the Walt Disney Company would re-release the film every decade. Each time they did the returns grew, and the critical response got more and more positive.
On October 5th 1990, ‘Fantasia’ returned to 550 American theatres in celebration of the film’s 50th anniversary. The film had enjoyed a two-year clean-up process, where each of its 535,680 frames were restored at YCM Laboratories. A year later it was this version of the classic that saw its first official release on home video, and the enthusiasm for the release caught the attention of Sega.