The biggest part of How Movies Find Audiences is still the poster, which sums it all up in one image. When that film is brought back later to theaters, times and tastes can change – and no studio adapted to this over a longer period than the Walt Disney Company with more fascinating and radical results than their third feature film, "Fantasia."
Disney's ambitious musical epic first had a poster design emphasizing its famous conductor, Leopold Stokowski, and the Mickey Mouse segment, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." As you'll see, few other films' posters changed so radically over the years, including a "far out" one for the late '60s and a streamlined, "kid-friendly" one for the '80s. But first, here's how it all began in 1940:
Since many theaters weren't equipped for the film's innovative multi-channel Fantasound process, that wasn't a key element in the original poster design. When it was reissued in 1946 after the end of World War II, the poster art became more bright and playful while still emphasizing the basic elements of the original one.
By the time the film came out again in 1956, Disney was hot off the success of its first CinemaScope animated film, "Lady and the Tramp," and was preparing its most elaborate feature to date, "Sleeping Beauty." Here's where the poster focus really starts to change, emphasizing that the film has now been adapted to widescreen ("Superscope") with a more easily implemented stereo soundtrack.
The wildest shift in the history of "Fantasia" posters came in 1969, as the film gained a whole new audience hungry for psychedelic visuals, bright colors, and powerful soundtracks. This version features the names of the film's classical composers in a stylized flower power font along with a vivid design to catch the attention of the youth audience. Interestingly, Mickey is nowhere to be found here.
By 1982, Dolby Stereo had become commonplace in movie theaters and kid-friendly poster art had risen in popularity. Mickey became the centerpiece once again for the simplest design to date, which also stresses that this version had its classical score rerecorded for modern audiences. This design is the closest to the cover art for the film's various home video versions over the years.
Finally for the film's 50th anniversary in 1990 and its last major theatrical release to date, the designers struck a balance between Mickey, classical sheet music, and the Chernabog figure from the "Night on Bald Mountain" segment.
“Fantasia” and Mickey Mouse © The Walt Disney Company.
Images from the collection of the Margaret Herrick Library.
What's your all-time favorite Disney poster?