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Musicana

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1460.Musicana-15.jpg-500x0

Musicana is a never-made Disney animated film conceived and developed by Mel Shaw with the assistance of Wolfgang Reitherman.

Conception

Shaw returned to the Disney studios in the 1970s to do artwork for films such as The Rescuers. During that time he also started developing new ideas for features, one of which was a new version of Fantasia - a series of shorts set to music. The shorts would be set in different countries around the world using music from each of these countries. Reitherman and Shaw spent some time developing Shaw's concept into a film.

Mel Shaw Musicana Artwork

Mel Shaw posing with concept art for the "Ali Baba" and "Finlandia" segments respectively.

Program

Though the film was never made, all of the segments to be used in the film had been written and storyboarded.

  • Untitled Jazz Sequence. Set in the Deep South, a colony of frogs in a bayou would take on the form a jazz band, playing instruments such as the piano, drums and trumpet. Two pieces of music were to be used in this segment, one by Ella Fitzgerald and another by Louis Armstrong. At the end of the sequence a riverboat would go by and wash all the frogs around.
  • South American/Yma Sumac Sequence. A sequence set in South America, using a lot of Aztec and Incan mythology. The music would have been a song by Peruvian soprano Yma Sumac.
  • The Rain God. Set in Africa, this sequence would have told the story of a monkey who steels a diamond from the rain god. Angered, the god refuses to make it rain again until his diamond is returned. As a result the rivers dry up and the animals have nothing to drink. They then set about catching the monkey and making him return the diamond. The art for this sequence was designed by Ken Anderson
  • The Emperor and the Nightingale. Based on the story The Nightingale by Hans Christian Andersen, this sequence was to feature Mickey Mouse as a servant of the Emperor of China. As in the source story, the Emperor hears of a Nightingale with a beautiful voice and  asks to hear its song. Mickey would then befriend the Nightingale and convince him to sing for the Emperor. The Emperor would then keep the Nightingale in his palace and make him sing upon request, only for him to be forgotten when the Emperor is presented with a bejewelled, mechanical Nightingale which also sings. The Nightingale goes into self-imposed exile after this, and Mickey continues to befriend him. One of the artists who worked on this sequence was John Lasseter.
  • Finlandia. Set in Scandinavia, an ice god and a sun goddess do battle, using the forces of nature at their disposal to do so. The conflict would lead to the creation of the great lakes of the sub-continent. This segement would be set to Finlandia by John Sibelius
  • Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. An animated version of the story from the One Thousand and One Nights. The music intended to be used was Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov. The characters in this sequence would be anthropomorphic birds instead of humans; Ali Baba was drawn as a grey dove, while the leader of the thieves was drawn as a hawk.

Fate and Legacy

Following completion of the body of artwork, Shawn and Reitherman presented the project to the heads of the studio. Despite enthusiasm from fellow animators and directors, the executives were very apprehensive about the project, concerned with commercial viability of the film (Its predecessor, Fantasia, had been a box-office flop). They eventually passed on the project. Following this, Reitherman left the studio, but Shaw remained and continued to do artwork for other features. All of the artwork for Musicana was archived.

Some see Musicana as eventually having led to Fantasia 2000, which began production almost a decade after the conception of Musicana.

A short feature about the project, which uses artwork made during the development process, appears on the DVD and Blu-Ray of Fantasia 2000.

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