The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Animation and Alchemy in Disney’s Medievalism

  • Erin Felicia Labbie
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Arthur C. Clarke’s statement that “[a]ny sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” is a primary foundation of this chapter, which examines the medievalism of Disney’s multiple incarnations of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” The famous sequence “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is first seen in Fantasia (1940), and it is then duplicated in Fantasia 2000. In both of these manifestations, the sequence stars Mickey Mouse as a usurper of power. Impatient tofinish his manual labor, Mickey misuses the sorcerer’s secrets to animate his tools so that they will finish his work for him. His desire for knowledge is inextricably bound to his desire to remove himself from the position of an apprentice. Fantasia (1940) and Fantasia 2000 present the same animated sequence, but the significance of this sequence is altered by its context. In Fantasia (1940), the sequence is part of a larger story in which other companion pieces are narratively centered on genesis and creation; Fantasia 2000 returns to that story of creation to place the sequence in a context of narratives focusing on environmental conservation and ecological awareness. This repetition with difference is due to the presence of what Tison Pugh, in his Introduction to this volume, calls retroprogression. The multiple iterations of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” exhibit the ways that Disney’s medievalism is manifested even in its most apparently modern or contemporary technological innovations and applications.


Mechanical Reproduction Mickey Mouse Animated Sequence Empire State Building Animated Figure 
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Copyright information

© Tison Pugh and Susan Aronstein 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erin Felicia Labbie

There are no affiliations available

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