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

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Mechanical Reproduction Mickey Mouse Animated Sequence Empire State Building Animated Figure 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1963), 39.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Arthur C. Clark “Profiles of The Future,” qtd. in Charles Solomon, Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation (New York: Random House, 1994), 3.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Michel de Certeau, The Mystic Fable, trans. Michael B. Smith (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 57.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo (New York: Norton, 1950), 98.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Bob Thomas, Disney’s Art of Animation: From Mickey Mouse to Beauty and the Beast (New York: Hyperion, 1991), 17.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    See also Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, “The Story of Animated Drawing,” The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation (New York: Hyperion, 1981), esp. 15–29.Google Scholar
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    Bob Thomas, Disney’s Art of Animation, 23. The image of the boar is available at “Introduction to Animation: History,” animation.blogspot.com (March 19, 2006); Web, accessed May 7, 2012.
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    Donald Crafton, Before Mickey: The Animated Film, 1898–1928 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 4.Google Scholar
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    Although the spirit of this statement is captured in the print publication, Joseph Gilland, Elemental Magic: The Art of Special Effects Animation (Massachusetts: Focal Press, 2009), 74–83, it is directly stated in his blog http://elementalmagic.blogspot.com Google Scholar
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    Peggy Knapp, “The Work of Alchemy,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 30.3 (2000): 575–99, at 582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Geoffrey Chaucer, The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry Benson, 3rd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987), 271, lines 648–49.Google Scholar
  14. 24.
    See Roger Dragonetti, Le Mirage des Sources (Paris: Seuil, 1987).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Tison Pugh and Susan Aronstein 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erin Felicia Labbie

There are no affiliations available

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