• This week we will be studying "The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Paul Dukas -The following overview is from the Disney video "Fantasia".


     

     Paul Dukas's The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a spectacular 8-minute sequence, the most famous section of the film - a concert piece by French composer Paul Dukas. It was originally an ages-old fairy tale that had been interpreted as a poem by Goethe - a story that illustrated the dangers of power over wisdom.

    The segment opens with the Sorcerer (named Yen Sid, or Disney spelled backwards) practicing his craft, calling up a smoky spirit in the shape of a bat that he changes into a misty butterfly. Mickey Mouse is the lazy, young, and mischievous apprentice-magician of the powerful Wizard, assigned the tiring task of filling the large water vat in the cavern with buckets of water from an outdoor fountain. He wipes his brow, weary from carrying water. Left alone in the sorcerer's underground cavern after the Wizard yawns and then retires, he sees that the mystical Wizard has left behind his tall, pointed magical hat. The glowing, powerful blue hat is decorated with white stars and a crescent moon.

    Mickey dons it and pretends to be the Wizard. Dabbling with spells, he extends his arms toward a broom leaning against the wall. He brings one broom to life with a bluish and white glow, and lures it to stand upright. Then, he commands it to move, hop, and sprout arms. The broom straws part to look like flippers so that the broom can walk like a seal. The arms and "feet" are taught to do his work, to carry buckets of water from the fountain to fill the huge vat. Mickey has a cute and cocky, hubristic attitude, broadly grinning at the success of his trick. He sits back in the Wizard's chair, orchestrating the movements of the broom, while watching it tirelessly fetch and tote water buckets. He soon falls asleep and dreams of power - he has reached greater heights above the earth on a high pinnacle in space - he pictures himself controlling the paths of clouds, stars, planets, and comets in the sky. Even the waves of the ocean and lightning bolts obey him.

    Suddenly, he awakens to waves of water crashing over him. His chair is floating on water that fills the cavern. The persistent broom has filled the vat with thousands of gallons of water, causing a gigantic ocean and flood. Mickey cannot get the broom to stop and obey him, unable to control the spell he has created. The unstoppable broom walks right over him on its way to the fountain for more water. Desperately, in a memorable set of images, Mickey grabs an axe and splits the broom into splinters, shown on the wall in gigantic dark shadows. All is silent for a moment, until the fragments twitch and then proliferate, generating more brooms. Each broom mechanically carries two more buckets, marching in an army from the fountain into the cavern. In a futile attempt, Mickey attempts to bail out the room with a single bucket. The robot-like batallion of brooms continue their appointed task of fetching buckets of water, even when they become completely submerged. Frantically, Mickey jumps on the master's huge book of magic and spells, looking for an antidote, riding (actually surfing) in a swirling, out-of-control whirlpool of water that threatens to drown everything.

    The Sorcerer makes a dramatic appearance at the top of the stairway just in time. With five sweeps of his hands, he parts and calms the waters - beautifully coordinated with the music, commanding the army of brooms to become one broom again. With piercing eyes, the Sorcerer summons his mischievous apprentice to chastise him. He retrieves his soggy, drooping hat. A sheepish Mickey has a variety of expressions on his face - guilt, embarrassment, and coyness. He hands the broom to the unsmiling magician. The wizard also conceals a slight look of concealed amusement on his face. As Mickey tiptoes away to cart buckets of water the hard way, he is given a whack on the backside with the broom, beautifully timed to notes and chords of the musical piece.