September 11, 2009

Fantasia (1940): Night on Bald Mountain

As a child, I was obsessed with this sequence from Fantasia...

Music score:
Modest Mussorgsky – Night on Bald Mountain

The Night on Bald Mountain segment is a showcase for animator Bill Tytla, who gave the demon Chernabog a power and intensity rarely seen in Disney films. The nocturnal Chernabog summons from their graves empowered restless souls, until driven away by the sound of a church bell. Noted actor Béla Lugosi served as a live action model for Chernabog, and spent several days at the Disney studio, where he was filmed doing evil, demon-like poses for Tytla and his unit to use as a reference. Tytla later deemed this reference material unsuitable and had studio colleague Wilfred Jackson perform in front of the cameras for the reference footage.
Chernabog is first seen when he awakes on top of Bald Mountain. It is Walpurgis Night and, using the powers of darkness, he raises ghosts, skeletons, demons, witches, harpies, goblins, and zombies from a nearby town and cemetery. He then summons fire and lava and makes the damned and the other creatures in his control dance and fly around, much to his delight, before he destroys them. In one part he picks up a patch of fire and transforms it into naked women, then into demonic animals, a fleet of imps and finally into fiery, blue satyrs. Ultimately, he drops them into the lava which seals their fiery doom.

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