Fantasia New Digital Motion Picture Soundtrack

Fantasia was a revolutionary experiment that combined classical music and free-flowing animation that was released by the Walt Disney Studios back in 1940. The first soundtrack to be released had to wait until 1957 (more on that later). But this post features a later release, Walt Disney’s Fantasia new digital motion picture soundtrack, from 1982.

And why would someone need a two-disc album when they already own a three-disc album of the same music? Because it’s digital! And that means better, right?

Former head of the Disney Archives, Dave Smith, writes the liner notes for this release. He concludes his thoughts by extolling the virtues of this new recording: “The new digital soundtrack thrusts the film once more into contemporary acclaim by combining the timeless animation with sparkling, stat-of-the-art sound reproduction.”

Ron Miller, then-president of Walt Disney Productions, went further with the reasoning behind the project: “Technology has progressed so far since Fantasia’s initial release as the first stereophonic motion picture that the sound no longer matched the extraordinary visuals.”

And so started the effort to rerecord the soundtrack in digital sound for a new release to theaters in Dolby Stereo. To do this, the entire musical program had to be recorded again by a live orchestra, this time conducted by Irwin Kostal. A 121-piece symphony orchestra along with a 50-voice choir was used.

The labels for this LP are clearly Buena Vista Records but Disneyland Records is also credited. All four sides are in good shape.

Being as this album was released in the 1980s, some changes were made to the artwork. Most notably, the female centaur (above, right) is now wearing a bra made of flowers, whereas in the original film, these free-spirited fillies were topless!

As stated earlier, I own the original 1957 three-disc version of this soundtrack. As well as an excerpt LP released in 1963 called The Nutcracker Suite (both shown above).

The Big Question: Is there a noticeable difference between the 1957 original and the 1982 digital version? Unfortunately, we may never know! Remember, these are vintage vinyl recordings, subject to degradation over time. Number of plays, dirt, scratches and neglect make a true comparison difficult, if not impossible. And then there is this disclaimer from the 1957 liner notes: “It will be immediately apparent to critical stereophonic enthusiasts that this by no means represents modern stereophonic recording, and no such claim is made.” Well, alright then! I will lower my expectations.

I have listened to all of these recordings and they are beautiful! But then, I’m no classical music aficionado. Your enjoyment may vary.

If you love Fantasia as I do, I know you will enjoy checking out my Fantasia VHS Box Set, complete with a CD version of the soundtrack. I wonder if it’s better than the vinyl versions? That might be sacrilege. Into sequels? Then you’ll appreciate my Fantasia 2000 Press Kit. Have at it, clickers!

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