It’s Thanksgiving weekend, and we’re excited to perform highlights from Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 at our Disney’s Fantasia: Live in Concert performances! Here’s a neat story, courtesy of CPO Bass Player Matt Heller, about meeting the conductor of Fantasia 2000!

“Disney’s Fantasia truly was an eye-opener: not only to the colourful world of symphonic music, but to the specific sights and sounds of a symphony orchestra. In the original 1940 film, that was the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski, who comes off as rather stern and demanding yet still somehow loveable in his scenes with Mickey Mouse. I can’t have been the only kid who fell in love with this world of imagination and make-believe, combined with precision and rigor.

The summer of 2000, I was at a music festival in Verbier, Switzerland, and the new film, Fantasia 2000, was playing at the small cinema in town. One day, I went to an afternoon screening along with a few other orchestra musicians. James Levine was the main conductor of the music festival’s orchestra, and just before the movie started, I was surprised to realize he was also in the theatre – to me conductors are still a bit of an exotic species, I guess, not expected to sit down one row back with popcorn. I was still more surprised when I realized that Levine had a starring role in Fantasia 2000, conducting the Chicago Symphony to new Disney animations, just as Stokowski had in 1940. There’s even a brilliant scene in which Mickey Mouse first talks to Stokowski, then moves on to say hello to Levine.

With his busy schedule, Levine hadn’t actually seen the film before that day. We all had a great conversation afterwards – there were only about twelve of us in the theatre – all about recording and orchestral history and traditions. When I first saw the original Fantasia, at age eight, I could have never imagined I would watch its sequel with the man who conducted it! Not to mention getting know and make music with him. It was probably the best movie ticket I ever bought.”