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35mm Fantasia Project (Help Needed)

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Hey, all.

I’m currently in the planning stages of a very personal Fantasia preservation project, but for it to move completely forward, I need some help. The film’s footage will be sourced from a (drop dead gorgeous) IB Technicolor print from 1963, which unfortunately lost reels 1 and 4 to the worst case of vinegar syndrome I’ve ever personally witnessed; completely unusable. If I can get those two reels from another 35mm IB Tech print comprised of 8 reels-- even if I can only borrow them for scanning, then we’re in business. (Not literally, this is strictly a non-profit preservation project, as it should be.)

The other problem involves the film’s master of ceremonies, Deems Taylor. As Fantasia’s original sound elements no longer exist, neither do Taylor’s complete commentary tracks, and all that has ever survived is what’s available in the general release version. Or so I thought; according to this post, studio continuity drafts for the 1942 release confirm that more of Taylor’s recordings did survive in that 81 minute cut. I guess this is a call to action of sorts to all film collectors/archivists and dedicated enthusiasts who happen to peruse these threads, that either have access to a reduction print or an original blue-track Technicolor print of this release, or at least knows where either may exist. I’m trying to include as many of the original soundtrack elements as possible in this home brew, even if it’s just a minute or two more of commentary audio that wasn’t previously available, so locating a good copy of this release would be of enormous help.

Hope I can share more about this very meaningful project in the near future. =)

“You missed! How could you miss-- he was THREE FEET in front of you!”
– Mushu

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I wanna talk a little bit more about the 1942 RKO 81-minute cut mentioned above.

The late Roy E. Disney was quoted in the DVD commentary talking about it- “Very shortly after that first round of releases in 1940, it came back again in 1942 with almost an hour cut out of it, in monaural sound so that any theater could play it. And apparently, although I never saw that version, apparently, they cut out virtually all of the interstitial Deems Taylor material, and played it simply as ‘Make Mine Music’ or ‘Melody Time’, in the format that those were in.” And his assumptions could have made sense.

Well, I saw eBay listings last year for a whole bunch of Disney animation shooting scripts/continuity drafts, and one of them was this infamous version of “Fantasia”. I bought myself one when I saw prices drop.

The only segment of the film that was not tampered with was “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. The entire “Tocotta and Fugue” was cut out. The “Arabian Dance” in the “Nutcracker” segment was cut, as well as the space sequence in “Rite of Spring”, the middle section of “Pastoral” and the 3rd movement in “Dance of the Hours” were all cut. “Night on Bald Mountain” lost some brilliant animation, and even “Ave Maria” was somehow cut in half. And as you can see from the above-linked post, they did indeed keep Taylor in the film, more than I personally expected there to be, and even “Meet the Soundtrack” was mostly left in.

Walt Disney himself had no involvement with this version, and he was right to not be involved. It’s a very interesting find, as it’s in a way a lost piece of Disney history, but overall, this version of the film has no right to exist. It’s such a travesty to this masterpiece of a film.

The only thing about worth preserving is indeed that extra Deems Taylor material if it surfaces somehow somewhere. I think an 8mm print of that cut actually sold on eBay a few years back. Us dedicated fans of “Fantasia” here on OT would really love to hear that stuff preserved!

“The rules are simple. Take your work, but never yourself, seriously. Pour in the love and whatever skill you have, and it will come out.” -Chuck Jones

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I wouldn’t have known about the Taylor footage in this release had you not brought it up on a Skype chat, so a big thanks to you for that. Luckily, SpringBoob over there uploaded some of the draft pages I could point to. =)

But yes, that release’s biggest draw for me is certainly the sound. It did go for sale on eBay some years ago and I still have not forgiven myself for refusing to bid on it knowing what I know now about the extra Deems Taylor audio. I don’t rule out the possibility of a 16mm blue-track Technicolor print existing somewhere, though, as I’ve seen IB Technicolor Pinocchio listings (more than once!) with the same blue tracks-- RKO credit cards and all.

“You missed! How could you miss-- he was THREE FEET in front of you!”
– Mushu

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Updated first post w/ sample strip.

“You missed! How could you miss-- he was THREE FEET in front of you!”
– Mushu

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Are you, by any chance, going to be using the four-track magnetic stereo surround mix for this project?

Steve Stanchfield offered that mix on a special Blu-ray featuring Fantasia a few months back, but I never got the chance to order a copy. You said that the four-track mix sounded way better than the sound mixes on the official releases, so I’d like to have a listen to it.

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So far, that’s the plan. All I can say for now is that I might see a digitized version of that mix soon, but nothing is set in stone and I’m doing my best to keep my expectations in check. There would still need to be some work done on the soundtrack before it’s presentable, though. One of the trademarks of the original mix is its aggressive pans, but they didn’t always occur precisely when they were supposed to, resulting in some minor signal bleed between the other channels. Probably not as much of a problem when the music is played through a stereo system, but it draws a lot of attention to itself through headphones. Thankfully, that’s a relatively easy thing to fix with very seamless results. In the event that I do any work on the audio, the original raw capture will be provided as a listening option. Again, this is all barring any unforeseen setbacks with obtaining it in the first place. Hoping for the best.

“You missed! How could you miss-- he was THREE FEET in front of you!”
– Mushu

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Hi Tony remember me from YouTube and i recently synched the 1982 re-recording to the blu-ray and what audio sources are you gonna use?🤔😊😉😊😉

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Quite a few; LaserDiscs, reel-to-reel tapes, record albums, 35mm optical/magnetic audio-- just about anything and everything I can get my hands on. Again, this is all assuming that there won’t be any hiccups during the transfer process and the resulting sound quality is optimal for every resource. Already have the LaserDisc audio, working on getting the rest digitized.

“You missed! How could you miss-- he was THREE FEET in front of you!”
– Mushu

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I am finally looking forward to the uncut Fantasia. Can you post a picture of the Pastoral?

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Not from a scan, just a picture (shoddily) taken w/ an iPhone. The final scan, Lord be willing, will look much better and properly timed.

“You missed! How could you miss-- he was THREE FEET in front of you!”
– Mushu

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Nice project. An important piece of history that deserves to be preserved

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Thanks. =)
I’ve wanted to talk about it here for so long now, but needed to make sure I at least secured enough of the right source material first before I could speak in confidence. As fortunate as it is that we’ll be getting (most of) an original Technicolor print preserved, improving the film’s soundtrack has always been this project’s primary objective, and I can’t wait to hopefully share samples of what I have in mind for that. =D

“You missed! How could you miss-- he was THREE FEET in front of you!”
– Mushu

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It will be amazing to see the uncut Pastoral scene! I am gladly supporting your project.

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Thank you very much. n__n

I’m trying to make as much progress as I can given the circumstances. Already tried one scanning facility that turns out some seriously great work, and I should be getting samples from the mag stereo reels over the next few weeks. I’ll update as soon and as frequently as possible.

“You missed! How could you miss-- he was THREE FEET in front of you!”
– Mushu

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Reel 1 contained the first 14 minutes of the film (introduction by Deems + Toccata and Fugue in D Minor), and Reel 4 had the other 2/3 of the Rite of Spring. Worst case scenario, the mag print that I have for the soundtrack is thankfully complete without a single splice, so for the time being I can substitute the missing IB Tech reels with the same ones from the mag print. In fact, the plan was to have both prints scanned anyway so that any missing footage from the Tech print could be patched using the mag print scan, whether it was the occasional missing frame or, in this case, a whole two reels of Technicolor footage.

“You missed! How could you miss-- he was THREE FEET in front of you!”
– Mushu

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That’s incredibly appreciated, but the project is currently self-funded. The aim for both prints is a 4K HDR scan, which-- factoring in hard drives, shipping, pre-scan film cleaning-- is altogether going to be so ridonkulously expensive that the goal would have taken forever to reach through crowdfunding alone, if it ever got there at all.

I bring it up here in the first place simply for fans of the film, Disney, and preservation in general to look forward to the project’s completion. And in regards to the funding goal…

“You missed! How could you miss-- he was THREE FEET in front of you!”
– Mushu

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JacobTheMoviePurist92 said:

Are you gonna have the remixed audio in 5.1 surround sound?

Are you referring to the 5.0 mix on the 2000 DVD or the half-baked 7.1 mix on the Blu-ray? I hope you’re referring to the former, because the latter is far from perfect…

(Semi off-topic here, but why does Disney insist on compressing the dynamic range on most of their early stereophonic titles? Off the top of my head, Grand Canyonscope is in mono on Disney+ (versus the much more robust Dolby Surround audio track on the Chronological Donald volume it’s on), the music stems to the first three “Winnie the Pooh” featurettes/The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh surprisingly sound rather flat on the latter’s 5.1 mix on DVD and Blu-ray versus the incredibly robust stereo mix on the second VHS and LaserDisc, and of course whatever the frig went on with this film’s soundtrack…what for?)

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I think he meant to ask if I was going to remix the captured audio in 5.1, and yes, the plan is to fashion a new multichannel mix, but as previously mentioned, it depends heavily on the quality of the source material and capture, so I can’t promise anything at this point. Once the mono and stereo audio has been digitized, I’ll know for sure what I’m working with. HDR for the video is a must. Once you’ve seen Fantasia properly projected with just the right amount of luminance, there’s no going back— some of those special effects really pop in 35mm, and you really won’t get the full effect in SDR.

Disney is wildly inconsistent with the A/V quality of some of their titles. The Jungle Book is another one that comes to mind. If ever you can, listen to the 1990 Dolby Stereo soundtrack; it’s noticeably more enveloping and consistently separated than the 2007 Platinum Edition mix, despite the latter being presented in discrete surround. Sound effects pan more frequently in the Dolby Stereo mix, and while the underscore for almost every song is mixed in broad mono that sounds flat as a pancake in the Platinum Edition (”Trust in Me,” “My Own Home,” and the closing “Bare Necessities” reprise being the only exceptions), you can hear separate music stems at play in the Dolby Stereo mix. The differences between 1990 and 2007 “I Wanna Be Like You” in particular are like night and day. (I’ll probably post the A/B comparison videos here soon.) So, yeah, there’s trade offs between both options— few scenes have broad mono score while most are in true stereo, and it isn’t always the same scene in both mixes.

For those interested in Fantasia’s audio history, I’ve explained it here.

“You missed! How could you miss-- he was THREE FEET in front of you!”
– Mushu

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TonyWDA said:

Disney is wildly inconsistent with the A/V quality of some of their titles. The Jungle Book is another one that comes to mind. If ever you can, listen to the 1990 Dolby Stereo soundtrack; it’s noticeably more enveloping and consistently separated than the 2007 Platinum Edition mix, despite the latter being presented in discrete surround. Sound effects pan more frequently in the Dolby Stereo mix, and while the underscore for almost every song is mixed in broad mono that sounds flat as a pancake in the Platinum Edition (”Trust in Me,” “My Own Home,” and the closing “Bare Necessities” reprise being the only exceptions), you can hear separate music stems at play in the Dolby Stereo mix. The differences between 1990 and 2007 “I Wanna Be Like You” in particular are like night and day. (I’ll probably post the A/B comparison videos here soon.) So, yeah, there’s trade offs between both options— few scenes have broad mono score while most are in true stereo, and it isn’t always the same scene in both mixes.

I’ll take your word for it regarding The Jungle Book, but I personally thought that film’s discrete surround remix fared much better than that for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Compare how the music playing over the opening credits (and a few other scenes) sound(s) on the 1996 releases with how they sound on the 2002-onward releases…it’s even more night and day than the differences between the matrix surround and discrete surround versions of “I Wanna Be Like You”.

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WaltWiz1901 said:
I’ll take your word for it regarding The Jungle Book, but I personally thought that film’s discrete surround remix fared much better than that for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Compare how the music playing over the opening credits (and a few other scenes) sound(s) on the 1996 releases with how they sound on the 2002-onward releases…it’s even more night and day than the differences between the matrix surround and discrete surround versions of “I Wanna Be Like You”.

That mix is the best way to appreciate the film’s score, but even that is not without its own problems. The soundtrack has no matrix-encoded surround information to decode despite being advertised as a Dolby Stereo track, so it’s only a standard stereo mix— in fact, in some scenes you can hear a doubled layer of score delayed by milliseconds in the phantom centre that was clearly supposed to be coming from the back of the room when fed through the right receiver. Not sure what happened when Disney mastered the disc audio but it makes fixing other dialogue/music sync issues, that do occasionally crop up, a flipping headache to correct.

These kinds of problems are most evident, for example, in the sequence where Rabbit gets lost in the woods; it’s almost impossible to ignore the music echoing in the centre field a split second after you hear it from the left and right, and Rabbit’s call for help near the end of the sequence clips pretty badly. Another mixing faux pas that drives me crazy is when Tigger talks to the narrator near the end of the film. For some reason, the mixer layered the score that’s supposed to be playing underneath the dialogue with the instrumental to what sounds like the “Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” reprise, resulting in a frustrating cacophony of music that was clearly not originally intended.

Those are just the examples that come to mind as of this writing. Despite its minor problems, the mix is still the best the film has ever sounded, and a Godsend for anybody still waiting for Disney to drop the complete stereo score via their “Legacy Collection” line. But I’m kind of digressing; the whole point of this wall of text is to further what was earlier said about Disney’s inconsistent attention to the quality of presentation of their A/V. Back to Fantasia, its last release obviously focused more on the video presentation than that of the audio, and it’s been that way since the 1990 Fantasound reconstruction. Again, the write up I linked to earlier highlights the issues w/ the 2000 and 2010 DTS mix.

“You missed! How could you miss-- he was THREE FEET in front of you!”
– Mushu