Bald Mountain – Fantasia’s Finest

Bald Mountain – Fantasia’s Finest

Night on Bald Mountain is the eighth segment of Walt Disney’s animated feature Fantasia. Fantasia was released by Walt Disney Productions in 1940. It was a never before seen combination of classical music and animation. The film was divided into eight segments. The most famous one probably is the Sorcerer’s Apprentice starring Mickey Mouse. Many consider the final segment, Night on Bald Mountain, to be the finest one of all.

Actually that last segment was Night on Bald Mountain dissolving into Ave Maria. I think the dazzling imagery combined with ghosts, demons, lost souls and the devil himself was probably a bit much to close the film. The serenity of Ave Maria was needed. But it is Night on Bald Mountain all viewers remember.

At Walpurgis Night (the Witches’ Sabbath), Chernabog, god of evil, emerges from the peak of Bald Mountain (in reality Mount Triglaf, near Kiev in southern Russia) to summon all of his minions. These include ghosts, demons, lost souls, hags and harpies, who dance furiously as he throws them into the mountain’s fiery pit. The spirits dance and fly through the air until driven back by the sound of an Angelus bell as night fades into dawn.


   Demons, ghosts, lost souls, and harpies driven into the fire on Bald Mountain

Chernabog is driven away by the light of the dawn. A chorus is heard singing Ave Maria as we see a line of robed monks. They are walking with lighted torches through a forest and into the ruins of a cathedral. The sequence showcases the animation of Vadimir Tytla and the style of Kay Nielsen. It also includes the longest shot ever produced in the multi-plane camera (in the procession). 

Night on Bald Mountain was an orchestral work by the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky that was completed in June 1867. The work had not been performed in public at the time of the composer’s death in 1881. It was revised by his colleagues and still later by other generations of composers and conductors most notably by Rimsky-Korsakov.

Porky Pig in Africa Squeaks from 1940

Porky Pig was one of the stars of the many cartoons produced by Warner Bros. Studios. Others included Bugs Bunny of course, Daffy Duck, Speedy Gonzalez, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. Warner Bros. Cartoons, Inc. was the in house division of Warner Bros. Pictures. It was one of the most successful animation studios in American cartoon history. Warner Bros. Cartoons was most famous for its Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. These were shorts produced for theatrical release. Porky Pig was the star of many of them.

The creative staff members at the studio included the great Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Frank Tashlin, Bob Clampett and Bob McKimson. They are considered major figures in the art and history of animation. The Warners cartoon division was founded in 1933 as Leon Schlesinger Productions. Porky Pig was one of its earliest stars. Leon Schlesinger Productions was an independent company producing cartoons for release by Warner Bros. In 1944, Schlesinger sold the studio to Warner Bros., who continued to operate it as Warner Bros. Cartoons, Inc. until 1963. 

Porky Pig was introduced in 1935 by Friz Freleng in the cartoon I Haven’t Got a Hat. Porky appeared in 153 cartoons in the Golden Age of American Animation. One of these cartoons was Africa Squeaks in 1940 done by the fantastic Bob Clampett.

In Africa Squeaks produced by Warner Brothers the narrator introduces the audience to Africa. The journey begins at the heart of Darkest Africa. Porky Pig is leading a group of African people as they sing, carrying items. Then, during their song, they sing “We don’t know where we’re going, but we’re going!”. Meanwhile, a sign says, “Welcome to Africa Lions Club”. Then, Porky and the Africans approach a sour-pussed caricature of Spencer Tracy named Stanley. 

Dr. Livingstone I presume

Porky Pig and Spencer Tracy as Stanley and Livingstone cel inscribed by Leon Schlesinger

The cartoon is the parody of the movie Stanley and Livingstone starring Spencer Tracy and Cedric Hardwicke. The inscription on the cel reads This is an original painting I used in “Looney Tunes” and “Merrie Melodies – Leon Schlesinger.