As it is October, a focus on horror arises as Halloween is almost here.
While slasher and horror films are entertaining to watch, what really proves most endearing is pieces of horror that also employ morals.
Just as the gothic tragedy Frankenstein expresses the dangers of ambition, employing what could be simplistically viewed as archetypal horror conventions, one can easily see one of Disney’s greatest shorts to indeed offer both a presentation of evil and a powerful message.
Fantasia, released in 1940, is a Disney film that focuses on musical pieces and stunning animation as opposed to a typical narrative. Perhaps a true testament to Disney’s storytelling ability, however, is that in the dark sequence Night on Bald Mountain, the beloved animation studio offers a stunning tale without a single line of dialogue.
Narratively, devil-like creature Chernabog arises from a mountain and descends upon a town in the chill of night, raising the spirits of the dead and evoking a hellscape of fire and demonic celebrations.
The creatures of the nightfall evoke hell and thrive. However, light arises and the powers of the winged monster and his minions subside as a crowd of lights are seen marching forward in the light of day. Chernabog returns back to his mountain to seemingly rise again come night.
While it’s highly suggested to watch this great-looking, highly emotive sequence, perhaps due to the time period of the film, one can defer great meaning from a simple 11 minutes of art.
Between 1942 to 1945, Disney released propaganda films to vilify the enemy of Nazi Germany. Night on Bald Mountain is released two years prior, but still during World War II.
While the character Chernabog is based on Slavic mythologies’ God of the Night, he is drenched in darkness and therefore a cultural code of evil. He arises and wreaks havoc, though the light appears and he returns to where he came.
Clearly the short is a depiction of the struggle between good and evil.
While the source of the world’s atrocities may never truly stop, the sequence raises the notion hope and innocence can and shall prevail.
Not only is the ideal that a virtuous world can survive in a society shrouded by darkness inspiring to a collective fighting the Axis powers, it can indeed be a timeless thought one can carry throughout their lives.
Optimism in the face of despair.
Moreover, the musical piece has various shifts, such as moving from ominous and hellish to almost celebratory, the climax in which light returns shifts softly to the piece Ava Maria as peace is restored.
This shift adds comfort to the piece and employs religious imagery: the forces of God defeat the malevolent forces of malice and hate.
In a more profound sense, those who bring the light to fend off the darkness in the sequence are shrouded in mystery, which, similar to the heroic soldiers of World War II, could be anyone – for ultimately, everyone can be a hero.