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!