Friday, July 14, 2017

Let me give you a glimpse into my research process when starting work on a volume in They Drew As They Pleased series. I am currently focused on volume 5, which deals with artists Ken Anderson and Mel Shaw. Here is a small mystery that I am trying to crack at the moment.

By September 1938, we know that Walt and Stokowski had selected Cydalise et le Chèvre-Pied by Gabriel Pierné as one of the pieces that they would use in Fantasia and we know that later on this was replaced by the Pastoral Symphony. This is well documented and not an issue.

However, there is something that now intrigues me. Mel Shaw joined the Studio in 1937 and mentions in his several interviews and in his autobiography that the first project he was asked to tackle was a piece set to the music of The Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimski-Korsakow. That piece was considered for the "sequel" to Fantasia in 1940/41, but it is clearly a different and earlier take that Mel has in mind.

Which led me to wonder what the story behind that project is. By digging into my documentation I found a few clues:

a) Story number 1034 is listed as Cydalise Suite (no mystery there) but detailed as Dance of the Little Fauns; Afternoon of the Fauns; Flight of the Bumble Bee.

b) In the Daily Report of Bill Garity, dated July 5, 1938, we read: "Checked with Mel Schwartzman the Leica sync loop on The Afternoon of the Faun. It seemed to work very nicely."

c) In the Future Fantasias report by Bob Carr from 1940, we learn that Disney paid a certain amount on April 12, 1938  to secure a license for the use of Flight of the Bumblebee.

d) In another report from the same year from Bob Carr, we learn that the Studio has been trying to secure a license for the use of Debussy's Afternoon of a Faun since January 26, 1938. (On January 26, 1938 it is for the use of the music in a short on the model of Sorcerer's Apprentice, then on February 28, 1938 for a sequence in a feature with Sorcerer's and four other compositions).

This all suggests that for a few months, from January 1938 to about July / August 1938, the Studio was approaching that sequence from Fantasia as Pierné, Debussy, and Rimski-Korsakow, not just Pierné.

The question becomes: are any of you aware of any documentation earlier than all the story meetings from September 1938 which would give us any insight on the plans for The Concert Feature in the earlier part of 1938?

I am not certain that I will be able to crack this specific mystery, but I will definitely try since it made me aware of a historical gap when it comes to the early days of the "Concert Feature" project. I hope we will soon understand more...] 


Christian S. said...

Don't worry, Sherlock Holmes. You'll crack the mystery...* I've tried my hand on the mystery by consulting John Culhane's Fantasia book, Mel Shaw interview on Walt's People 12, and Before the Animation Begins. But I'm too relaxed to solve any mysteries tonight, even that Disney/Siegfried mystery I asked you about, with Inside the Whimsy Works as a clue.

*I was actually quoting a movie line from Moulin Rouge! with some alterations, but keeping the spirit of it. I'm so hooked up with this movie, that I'm dreaming up drawings inspired by Christian and Satine's love. Why live life from dream to dream, and dread the day when dreaming ends?

Christian S. said...

I think I found something!
According to The Disney That Never Was, a meeting were held on September 14, 1938 with a tentative program for Fantasia, which was called "The Concert Feature" at the time, that ran: (1) Overture; (2) The Sorcerer's Apprentice; (3) The Nutcracker Suite; (4) Bee, Mosquito, Butterfly or Mechanical Ballet; (5) Night on Bald Mountain; (6) Ave Maria; (7) Cydalise et le Chevre-Pied (Cydalise and the Faun); (8) Fugue; (9) Relief; (10) "Rider of the Valkyries"; (11) "Clair de Lune"; (12) Animal Ballet; (13) Relief; (14) Rite of Spring.
Hope this will help with your mystery. I definitely see the Bumblebee piece on that list

Didier Ghez said...

Thanks Christian. I have the September story meeting notes. The mystery is what exactly happened before September.