How Anti-Science Religious Fanatics Ruined Disney’s Fantasia

Don’t get me wrong, Fantasia’s a great cartoon for what it is.

But the “Rite of Spring” section is marred, in one way I knew about already, but also in another way that I didn’t know about until just now.

The way I knew about is the music: Stravinsky objected — and quite rightly — to the performance, which isn’t quite right — but especially to the changes they made to the music: cuts, rearrangement of material, and so on. But that’s the price you pay for mass media entertainment, and the big bucks, I guess.

The other marring is more subtle, and deserves to be better known. If you click on the clip above and go to its page on Youtube, you will notice that, in exasperation, the person who posted the videos finally had to ban any debate of creationism versus evolution. Like blood-maddened sharks, creationists cannot sit back and be happy even when they have already been appeased…

Yes, you read that right. The Disney corporation actually appeased creationists back in 1940, when it screened the version of Fantasia we know and love today; the objections of religious fanatics had a tangible effect on the film, after all. As is explained on Wikipedia:

An early concept for The Rite of Spring was to extend the story to the age of mammals and the first humans and the discovery of fire and man’s triumph. John Hubley, the segment’s art director, explained that it was later curtailed by Disney to avoid controversy from creationists, who promised to make trouble should he connect evolution with humans.

While I like the film as it is, I can’t help but wonder what that section would have looked like if people who weren’t scared of reality and hateful of science had been allowed to decide the content of the narrative for that section. A cartoon, for kids, about evolution… the creationists knew what Disney should have realized: that the stories we tell in our entertainment matter.

Not that I don’t think we wouldn’t have a religious moron problem today even if Disney had defied the creationists who had “promised to make trouble.” Or, if he had realized that “trouble” would have meant more publicity, and more ticket sales, in the long run. But we would have had a cartoon, from 1940, demonstrating evolution for kids. That would have been something, wouldn’t it have been?

Sigh. Too bad: the creationists are never happy with whatever we give them: they always want more. I say we stop throwing them bones, and start playing hardball.

2 thoughts on “How Anti-Science Religious Fanatics Ruined Disney’s Fantasia

  1. I have long found creationism a strange problem. After all, Genesis says the world was created with starlight already reaching Earth, with trees (not acorns), with chickens (not eggs). It is a world created with age. So, sure, the world was created 6,000 years ago, but it was a lived-in world with a backstory (to mix metaphors). Circle squared, problem solved, what’s next?

    Unless, of course, someone can show how a 6,000-year-old, created world solves any real-world scientific problems better than the 15-billion-year-old big-bang world. Build a better MRI or alternative fuel source with the other theory, and I’m all ears.

  2. Ha, Noah, but you know they can’t build a better MRI or alternative fuel source, because the mythology isn’t really about that kind of connection with reality anyway.

    I don’t find those problems problematic because, ding, that’s how fantasy works. If Kelly Link imagined a world springing into being anew, but also already old, nobody would bat an eye. Why not the speculative fiction authors of old?

    It’s just sad when people start believing that speculative fiction is something else: “Like, dude, seriously, I got a copy of the Necronomicon at Waterstones, and man, it’s real. I’m scared to read it all the way through…”

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