The Pomp and Circumstance segment in Fantasia 2000 with Donald Duck was a lot of things before it stuck with the Noah’s Ark concept. The first idea they had in mind for it though is a hoot. Nik Ranieri, a former Disney animator, told this story in a Capilano Q&A while he was in town finishing work on The Prophet. He shared it publicly on his Facebook later. So what you’re about to read is a real story.
This was one of the strangest events in the history of my time at the Walt Disney Studios. One I’m sure they wished would be buried for good…which is why I’m going to tell you about it. Roy E. Disney’s dream was to see Walt’s vision of Fantasia realized. This vision required new pieces of animation to replace old selections from the film, therefore creating a new experience with each theatrical release. This dream would be achieved to some extent, with the release of Fantasia 2000 but it was not an easy road. Many concepts were developed and subsequently thrown out in favor of others that were in turn thrown out as well.
One such idea came as a response to Michael Eisner’s choice of music. Pomp & Circumstance was the music that he chose. He said it was a very emotional piece that affected him greatly. Could it have been that he had just come from his son’s graduation when he decided upon this piece? Mmmmm, could be. Regardless, that’s what the filmmakers had to use whether they liked it or not.
So the then “Fantasia Continued” story team, set to work coming up with a theme to this music. The obvious choice was made, but how to fit the Disney magic into it proved a problem. Their solution was to make it a graduation/reunion with every known Disney character from the last 60 years witnessing the graduation of the princes and princesses from Disney animated history! The kicker was that at the end of the ceremony the princes all got diplomas where as the princesses all got babies.
A detail Nik detailed with pictures in his Facebook post was that the guys who were behind it asked Roy to invite a majority of the big animators in the studio, even animators who weren’t even working on Fantasia Continued to come see their early storyboard reel. They even invited some of the remaining Nine Old Men to come see.
The looks on our faces were reminiscent of that scene in The Producers (the good movie with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder) where the audience first saw “Springtime for Hitler”. The fact that they invited the remaining nine old men, just added insult to injury (they of course, were brutally honest and left soon after the presentation). The reason for inviting us all was for every one to animate their own character – and they were ALL there …except for Pocahontas. This part makes me laugh because at that point, Glen Keane asked, “Where’s Pocahontas?”, to which they assured him that she would be added. As we left the building, I turned to Glen and wryly repeated, “Where’s Pocahontas”? To which he cringed and said, “I know, I know, I don’t know what I was thinking!”
So when you think that Disney makes it look so easy, just remember, for every good film that is released, there were many versions and concepts that were thrown out before the final was given approval. That’s why these movies cost so stinking much.