An Evening at the [Little] Orchestra: Disney’s Fantasia


Over the weekend, we went up to Lincoln Center to see the Little Orchestra Society performance of selections from Disney’s Fantasia with live orchestral accompaniment. My nephew (who alerted me to the upcoming show a few weeks ago) and his friend came into town on Friday and we headed uptown to Avery Fisher Hall.

I hadn’t heard of the Little Orchestra Society before this performance, but was impressed by their mission: “to build future audiences by presenting innovative concerts that incorporate multiple art forms to foster a deeper understanding and enjoyment of music.” They do a series of kid-friendly orchestra performances every year, and this New York City premiere of Fantasia was part of their 65-year legacy.

They played 6 pieces in total, with selections from both the 1940 animated film and the 2000 attempt. The orchestra was seated onstage with a large projection screen above them with the film spots playing. The conductor, Philip Mann, introduced each selection and gave some structure to the event, drawing comparisons between the composer’s and animator’s creative acts. It was wonderful to see the familiar scenes of centaurs, sorcerers, and firebirds combined with the force of a live orchestra backing them.

There was one technical hiccup: during “Pastoral Symphony”, the video reached a certain moment about 3 minutes in and restarted from the beginning. Twice. The orchestra, of course, kept playing, so we got to see the first three minutes of the animation 3 times with different music each time. It was annoying, yes, but also accidentally cool to see how the animation could work (sometimes really well!) with a different score. (As an aside, if you’d like to read about a character Disney has purposely excluded from recent releases of Fantasia, click here: Sunflower, the Centaur Disney Wants to Forget)

From what I can tell, this weekend’s performances were the Little Orchestra Society’s only planned Fantasia performances, but check out their 2013-2014 season for other interesting upcoming events.

Happy birthday, New York World’s Fair!


Today marks the 49th anniversary of the opening of the inaugural season of New York’s most recent World’s Fair, which ran for two seasons in 1964 and 1965. The fairgrounds also hosted the 1939-40 World’s Fair, and were earlier an ash dumping ground mentioned in The Great Gatsby.

The former fairgrounds (and the remnants they contain) remain one of my favorite places in the city, and the fair continues to fascinate me and capture my imagination. Soon I hope to get out to the ‘grounds and do a Now and Then comparison post, but for now, I’d like to recommend this promotional piece from Disney about their involvement in the fair (“It’s a Small World” was originally created for the Pepsi/UNICEF pavilion at the fair… and now you’ve probably got the song in your head. Sorry about that.), and this disappointingly watermarked footage from the fair.

If you like looking at old photos from theme parks and fairs, I’d also recommend Gorillas Don’t Blog, my go-to spot for a daily fix of such things.