When Dinosaurs Ruled The Mind #38: Fantasia: The Rite Of Spring Segment

(This blog is not for profit. All copyrighted images belong to their respective owners and are used for review. New to the blog? Start on the introduction.) https://whendinosaursruledthemind.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/introduction-remember-dinosaurs-theyre-different-now/ As I mentioned in my Disney’s Dinosaur review, I am a fan of animation as well as Disney. For the most part, Disney Animation is considered children entertainment, or family entertainment at best. But Fantasia is in another league entirely. This movie was Walt Disney’s passion project, and his turn to be adult and artsy. And this movie is artsy as heck! Unfortunately, the film bombed when it was released (due in part with the high production cost, the lack of interest from the general public, and a freakin’ world war messing everything up at the time) but has since been considered a lost classic. Personally, I adore this movie, but I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. It’s really only for animation and music fans. For people used to modern day fast paced constantly moving Dreamworks style animation (not that there’s anything wrong with that, I love Dreamworks as well) this movie might be a little bit slow. Heck, I remember the first time I saw it I didn’t know what to think of it. It was in first grade in music class when I first saw this film (I finally recognized a lot of the background characters from the House of Mouse after watching it). At the time, it was way too slow for me, and I didn’t really enjoy it (except for a few bits). So yeah, this movie isn’t for those with a low attention span. However, if you’re a fan of animation (especially good animation) you’ll love this movie. From a technical standpoint, it’s GORGEOUS. This movie boasts some of the best animation I’ve ever seen, certainly the best of it’s time. Really, the entire film is just a showcase of what animation is capable of. The film boils down to a anthology of non connected stories set to classical music. Each one is tonally different from each other, and the change can be quite jarring for the first time viewer. We get cute segments with Mickey Mouse becoming a magician and hippos, ostriches, and alligators doing ballet…

…to an horrific segment with the devil raising spirits from their graves and sending them to Hell while demons, skeletons, witches and harpies dance around him.

I will remind you that this film was made for adults, so don’t say I didn’t warn yah when you pop it into the DVD player and your kids have nightmares after watching it. But forget all that. You know what we’re here for right?

DINOSAURS!!!

Yes, the segment that immediately got my attention as a kid was the Rite of Spring segment, which details the history of earth from it’s formation eons ago to the extinction of the dinosaurs. This segment opens a fascinating window into what the general public thought of dinosaurs back in the 1940’s, so I think it would be an excellent piece of animation to analyze scientifically here in this blog. Now remember, I’m only going to judge it by what scientists knew at the time, not by what we know now. I may make comparisons and observations to modern theories every now and again, but it won’t effect the movie’s overall score at the end. Now, let’s take a look, shall we?

The segment starts with the film’s composer (Leopold Stokowski) explains what the following animation is going to be about. He explains how the segment will be about the growth of life on earth, and says it will be a coldly accurate reproduction of what scientists think happened in earths early history.

 

O RLY? Excuse me, allow me to put on my skepticals.

He then goes on to describe dinosaurs, and shows us exactly what people thought of dinosaurs in the early 20th century (hold in your laughter). He says the name dinosaur means “terrible lizard”, and that they certainly live up to that name (I said don’t laugh). He says they came in all shapes an sizes including ‘little crawling horrors about the size of a chicken, to 100 ton nightmares”.

Horrors?

Nightmares?

Look, I know dinosaurs where strange, but don’t make them out like movie monsters.

He later goes on to say they weren’t very bright, with even the biggest dinosaurs only having the brain of a pigeon. I guess you can argue that’s technically right, since most scientists think dinosaurs had intelligence akin to birds, but the way he’s saying it is clearly in the ideology of the time that dinosaurs were dumber than modern animals. Back then scientists thought that dinosaurs were so stupid they could barely function, with some going as far as saying they were mistakes of nature doomed to extinction. That is a very unfair thought, as dinosaurs were probably as intelligent as animals to day. That means they were as smart as they needed to be, and certainly not clumsy in their own skin like science back then would have you believe. Dinosaurs were incredibly successful creatures, and wouldn’t have lasted so long if they were as awkward as we once thought. They were masters of their environment, and would probably still be here if that pesky asteroid didn’t kill them.

I’m sorry, the stereotype that dinosaurs were dumb really irks me.

Anyway, he then goes on to say that dinosaurs lived in the air, water, as well as on land. Now, modern science would actually agree with that statement, since birds are considered dinosaurs and inhabit the air, and Spinosaurus seems especially adapted for water (not to mention many dinosaur which probably spent at least some of their time in water). But I’m am nearly certain that this guy is referring to pterosaurs and marine reptiles, which certainly weren’t dinosaurs. Of course, he could be referring to sauropods which were thought at the time to live their entire lives in the water, but that still doesn’t excuse the ‘air’ dinosaurs.

He says as a rule they were vegetarians, which I believe was supposed to refer to the fact that there are more herbivorous dinosaurs than carnivorous ones, which is true. But the way he says it is misleading, as it makes it sound like carnivorous dinosaurs where rare, which they most certainly weren’t. He does say there where meat eaters though, and refers to them as ‘bullies and gangsters’. Why the colorful description? They were just animals, T. rex has gotta eat something.

Another thing that bugs me is that he says that the plant eaters were ‘rather amiable and easy to get along with’. First of all, just because you eat plants doesn’t make you docile (hippos anyone?). Second of all, didn’t you just a moment ago refer to them as ‘100 ton nightmares’?

He then mentions the extinction, which he says may have been caused by great droughts and earthquakes creating a great Dust Bowl like storm across the world. While this was a common theory at the time, nowadays we are confident an asteroid caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Other factors where at play during that time that made it difficult for the dinosaurs, however. Increased volcanism and climate changed greatly reduced the dinosaurs numbers beforehand, with the meteor simply being the final blow. Still, I’m skeptical that those other factors without the asteroid would have wiped out the dinosaurs completely on their own. Heck, the end of the Triassic and Jurassic periods went through similar changes and no one seems to talk about those.

Sigh, it’s just the introductory monologue and already over 1200 words. This is going to be fun.

Now, let’s start at the REAL beginning.

The segment starts with the early formation of Earth, before there was any life. We see earth when it was still a volcano laden wasteland. This sequence has some INCREDIBLE animation, with the volcanoes erupting and the flowing lava moving incredibly. I have to remind myself this was before any computer animation techniques and shortcuts, and this was all animated by hand. No wonder this movie cost a fortune.

 

After that, we begin to see a plethora of primitive life, from single celled organisms to more complex ocean life to the first amphibian to crawl onto land. But before we see the creature make it’s historical destination, the film seems to cut to the late Cretaceous.

So, I guess nothing interesting happened between the last 400 million years.

Oh well, I guess this means I get to see some dinosaurs now. So, what do we’ve got first.

Well, it would seem we have entered a Mesozoic coastal scene. A turtle like creature swims to the shore. My first thought was that this was a Henodus, a Triassic marine reptile that looked superficially like a turtle but wasn’t closely related. But that was a Triassic reptile, not a Cretaceous. But it looks too much like a Henodus, it even has the head spikes.

Oh no, it’s going to be one of those movies, is it?

Anyway, we see some mosasaurs, which are incredibly spiny for some reason

It was once though mosasaurs had these spines along their back, but the depiction has since been debunked. Still, it was accepted back then, so I can’t blame them.

We also get some classic looking snake headed elasmosaurs, whose necks as per usual are depicted as way too flexible. Plesiosaurs actually had very stiff necks, and would never be able to crane upwards as they are depicted here. The most they could probably move it is from side to side  and straight ahead, nothing like they’re usually portrayed. They are also shown congregating on land, which would have been very much impossible, and probably would have been a death sentence to the animal in real life.

Scientists used to think that because plesiosaurs were reptiles they would have to crawl up to shore and lay their eggs on the land, like a sea turtle. We now know this would certainly beach them, and they more than likely gave birth to live young in the sea.

We then meet a colony of Pteranodon, which are actually refreshingly accurate.

Sure, some of them hang upside down like a bat, but other then that they’ve held up exceptionally well. They move and act like actual animals, and the animation when they fly together when fishing is beautiful, almost poetic. It really brings to mind pelicans in flight.

Still images don’t cut it, you have to see it in motion. That’s really the point of animation, I guess.

Sadly, one of the Pteranodons get’s snapped up by a mosasaur while fishing.

Ah dang it!

We then go through a jungle and…wait, is that what I think it is?

Are…are those Dimetrodon?

But, the scene beforehand was obviously Cretaceous. Is this movie trying to insinuate that Dimetrodon lived at the same time as Pteranodon and Mosasaurus?

No, it can’t be.

Maybe the movie took a step backwards in time for whatever reason. It wouldn’t make a lot of narrative sense, but this is an artsy movie, so why the heck not?

Look, Nothosaurs! Triassic creatures. Sure, not as ancient as Dimetrodon, but not as bad as Cretaceous animals. Perhaps the movie really did go backwards in time again.

Wait, is that an ankylosaur?

OK, so if you haven’t guessed it by now, this movie just slumps together creatures from different time periods into the same habitat. Now, for fiction, this doesn’t bother me. I didn’t bring it up in my Disney’s Dinosaur of my Land Before Time reviews because honestly it doesn’t bother me.

In fiction.

But when people make this mistake in something that’s supposed to be educational, I really get pissed. But you may say ‘this isn’t a documentary, it’s a Disney cartoon; it’s not meant to be strictly accurate’. And normally I would agree with you there. But this wouldn’t bother me if the conductor at the beginning of the short clearly stated this was a ‘coldly accurate reproduction’.

So yeah, looks like I was right to be skeptical.

Oh well, that’s actually the least of our worries. You prepared for what’s coming next? You should be. Prepare for a full frontal assault of….

1940’s DINOSAUR CLICHES!!!!!!

 

First we watch a Triceratops walk by, whom looks pretty standard for the time this movie came out.

The look of Triceratops in this film is pretty much how we though the dinosaur looked until the 80’s.

Like I’ve said before, I have a soft spot for old school depictions of Triceratops. They just give me a warm sensation of nostalgia. I really like how they animate the creature here, as it has a real sense of weight and presence. It feels like you’ve just walked into him in the jungle, like if you were to stumble upon an elephant or a rhino in the wild. Still, by today’s standards, it is woefully inaccurate, and that’s not even taking into account the lack of quills.

We even get to see a couple of babies! How adorable!

OMG IT’S DINAH AND DANA!!!!

We then see something that I’m guessing is supposed to be an Ornitholestes, but looks nothing like it. And in normal fashion, he is chasing after an Archaeopteryx.

I told you we were in for a lot of dinosaur cliches.

Actually, the Archaeopteryx doesn’t even look like an Archaeopteryx, but instead it looks like those weird feathered lizards we used to see in paleo art before dinosaurs were discovered to have feathers.

That looks so weird today.

Next we get probably the greatest dinosaur stereotype of them all, Brontosaurus’ in the water.

That's it! I've had it!

That’s it! I’ve had it!

What? Who are you?

Remember me? Dinosaur Martin Luther King? From the Dinosaur sitcom review?

Remember me? Dinosaur Martin Luther King? From the Dinosaur sitcom review?

Oh yeah, I remember you, you’re that dinosaur rights activist.

More specifically, my goal is to rid the public's opinions of hurtful dinosaur stereotypes. I've been reading this review so far, and the depictions in this movie are atrocious. Some of the worsts things I've ever seen.

More specifically, my goal is to rid the public’s opinions of hurtful dinosaur stereotypes. I’ve been reading this review so far, and the depictions in this movie are atrocious. Some of the worsts things I’ve ever seen. Dimetrodon in the Mesozoic, snake headed Elasmosaurs, Brontosaurs in water, Ornitholestes chasing lizard/bird hybrids, dinosaurs being depicted as slow and dumb reptiles, it’s horrible!

You think this is bad, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Oh, I dread the moment I see.

Oh, I dread the moment I see.

Next up, we see a flock of Ornithomimids exiting the forest and getting a drink of water.

My glorious feathered brothers. They have reduced you to naked snaking freak shows!

My glorious feathered brothers. They have reduced you to naked snaking freak shows! And are their tails dragging?

Well, yeah, but remember, science didn’t know any better back then. You can’t really fault them for…

No excuse!

No excuse!

Okay…. Next we meet up with a Stegosaurus, who seems to be struggling with a weight problem.

This Stegosaurus also exhibits many of the thoughts we had on dinosaurs back then. It is very slow and sluggish, and it’s legs are sprawled out to it’s sides, like a lizard. We now know that the legs of dinosaurs went directly underneath the creature, giving it a much less clumsy and reptilian look.

Now there’s a creature that looks like it can actually move!

The Stegosaur knocks down some little dinosaurs in the trees, which I think might be hypsilophodon. These dinosaurs were once thought to have inhabit trees.

Although many have disregarded this theory, I think personally it still may hold some ground. I mean, I’m not saying it’s probable, but would future paleontologists think this is probable?

Yes, those are goats. Yes, this is real. No, you can’t infer that with a skeleton.

The next dinosaur we see is a Parasaurolophus, and it’s one of the strangest depictions of the dinosaur I’ve ever seen.

I don’t know what it is, but something about that crest of skin throws me off. I’ve never seen the hypothetical skin flap of a Parasaurolophus depicted so big before.

Usually it’s depicted about as long as the image above, but in this movie the flap goes a long ways down the back. Heck, many scientists don’t think this dinosaur even had this crest, as it would have restricted the head movement. But these dinos in the film don’t seem to have any problem turning their heads. But it’s animation so anything is possible.

We get some more hadrosaurs (which I’m going to assume are meant to be Trachodon, I just gotta feeling), doing what first-quarter-of-the-20th-century-Edmontosaurus/Trachodon/Anatosaurus/hadrosaurs did best: act like literal giant ducks.

Look at those webbed feet! And why are you eating water plants? Did scietists forget you had the most complex tooth system of almost any dinosaur, meaning it could eat almost anything. You don't have to resort to eating pond scum YOU HAVE HUNDREDS OF TEETH GOD DANG IT!!!

Look at those webbed feet! And why are you eating water plants? Did scietists forget you had the most complex tooth system of almost any dinosaur, meaning it could eat almost anything. You don’t have to resort to eating pond scum YOU HAVE HUNDREDS OF TEETH GOD DANG IT!!!


I don’t even know what these dinosaurs are supposed to be. I think the big dinosaurs are supposed to be Plateosaurus or some other prosauropod (which are for some reason digging for truffles) but what about that little guy? Is that supposed to be a dicynodont? Dicynodon Wait, is it supposed to be one of those lizardy looking early depictions of Protoceratops?

What made these people think we were nothing but sprawled legged big lizards?

What made these people think we were nothing but sprawled legged big lizards?

Well, they had nothing else to compare dinosaurs to, so what would you expect. Things used to be simple back then, reptiles had scales and birds had feathers, no exceptions. They had no idea how complicated things would get. So for the time being, dinosaurs were big lizards.


This lovely looking creature is a Gryposaurus, a hadrosaur that was actually pretty popular in the early 20th century, but has since lost it’s popularity. Nowadays everyone loves the lambeosaurs.

I know, we are awesome.

I know, we are awesome.

The dinosaurs so far have been pretty chill, just doing their thing and trying not to bother anyone. That all changes, however, when this guy rears his ugly (and I do mean UGLY) head.

SHARPTOOTH!

Is that supposed to be an Allosaurus?

Is that supposed to be an Allosaurus?

Um, no. It’s actually confirmed to be a T. rex.

Then why does it have three fingers?

Then why does it have three fingers?

Because Walt Disney thought it looked better this way.

Oh yeah? And I bet Walt Disney looks better with gashes across his torso. WHO DOES HE THINK HE IS THAT SONOVA...

Oh yeah? And I bet Walt Disney looks better with gashes across his torso. WHO DOES HE THINK HE IS THAT SONOVA…

Woah woah, calm down.

Don't tell me to be calm, pony boy!

Don’t tell me to be calm, pony boy!

Pony boy?

Anyway, the Tyrannosaurus is certainly weird looking, and in more ways then the fingers. The skull is very short and frog faced, but is consistent with how it was reconstructed in those days (see my post Dinosaurs Over The Years: Tyrannosaurus for more on that). But one thing I can’t get over are the fangs.

For some reason, two of the front teeth are shown to be much longer then the others, kind of like a Smilodon or a vampire. The canine teeth are way to mammalian (although vipers also have similar fangs). I don’t know if they did this for style or out of ignorance, but reptilian teeth normally don’t work that way, and that goes double for dinosaurs.

Wait a minute, did the Sharptooth from The Land Before Time also have fanged canine teeth?
He does! He actually freaking does. I can’t believe this crap!

Anyway, the T. rex decides to ruin everyone’s day and all the other dinosaurs run in a blind panic. Included in this fury is a pod of brachiosaurs, who submerge themselves in the water to escape the carnivore’s fury.

Those are some ugly brachiosaurs.

So, I wonder why the brontosaurs are only seen partially wading through water, while the brachiosaurs are seen living completely in it?

I…can’t…breath…

Oh yeah.

Eventually, the Rex finally sets his sight on a Stegosaurus, and engages in a fight so anachronistic that this would make more sense.

 

Time between T. rex and woolly mammoth? 64 million years. Time between T. rex and Stegosaurus? 85 million years. Makes you think , doesn’t it?

But it doesn’t matter, because they’re both dinosaurs.

The two continue to fight, while the other dinosaurs just look on.

Dude, pass the popcorn.

Although the Stegosaurus get’s a few good hits in, eventually the T. rex proves himself the victor.

RIP Stegosaurus. You will be missed.

The segment ends with the carnivore proclaiming his victory, right before he enjoys his well earned Stegosaurus steak. The next scene, however, begins with the extinction of the dinosaurs.

KABOOM!

Actually, no. This movie came out before it was generally accepted that a meteor impact wiped out the dinosaurs. This movie depicts the end of the Mesozoic going through what looks like a massive drought.

Although modern dinosaur fans may look at this and snicker at the thought of a heatwave killing all the dinosaurs, you have to remember that this was one of the better theories at the time. Others thought that the earth’s temperature got to cold for the dinosaurs, mammals ate all their babies, volcanic and tectonic disturbances, aliens, the great flood, or the idea that dinosaurs were too dumb to survive.

I’ll believe this before I believe dinosaurs were too dumb to survive.

Anyway, all the dinosaurs (a good 90% of the ones shown never witnessed the K/T extinction) are shown wandering around the desert, looking for food, drinking from rapidly depleting sources of water, and altogether roaming aimlessly until they fall on the ground dead. It’s actually kind if sad, even though I know most of these  dinosaurs didn’t live at the end of the Cretaceous.

Triceratops: yes.

Plateosaurus: heck no!

Hadrosaurs: yes.

Stegosaurus: definitely not!

What?! Is that a Ceratosaurus attacking a Diplodocus? When did this suddenly become the Jurassic?

This heinous disregard for science is unacceptable. Movies like this is why so many people think all dinosaurs lived at the same place and time.

This heinous disregard for science is unacceptable. Movies like this is why so many people think all dinosaurs lived at the same place and time.

The segment ends with all the dinosaurs dead…

Sorry, spoilers.

….when suddenly a massive earthquake and flood comes out of nowhere and wipes everything clean.

Floods and Earthquakes: God’s eraser.

So, that was the Rite of Spring. What did you think?

What did I think? It was terrible! A lazy attempt to show the earth's history that ended up an anachronistic sludge fest. What did you think.

What did I think? It was terrible! A lazy attempt to show the earth’s history that ended up an anachronistic sludge fest. What did you think.

I loved it.

WHAT?!

WHAT?!

Yes, I absolutely loved it. Yeah, I know I got a little upset when they said this segment would be ‘coldly accurate’ when it is chock full of mistakes, and I know that the dinosaurs don’t hold up by today’s standards, but that doesn’t stop my enjoyment of the film. The animation is breathtaking, some of the best I’ve ever seen. The mood and atmosphere of the segment is great, and really gives off this otherworldly feel. I also like it’s slow pace, which really allows the audience to just take in the visuals and music. And you know what, there is something really charming about old school dinosaurs. They kind of bring back a feeling of a simpler time in paleontology. And sure, I wouldn’t stand for depictions like this in any modern media, but they are quite in place in a movie made in the 40’s. I only wish it was longer, and perhaps depicted the Cenozoic and the Ice Age. I would love to see classic Disney animation of those animals, not to mention they would hold up much better than the dinosaurs.

Old Cenozoic artwork holds up much better than dinosaur art from the same time.

One other point worth mentioning is that this short was a great inspiration to another famous dinosaur animation…

It is kind of obvious.

Even Don Bluth said he owed a lot to The Rite of Spring with The Land Before Time. The colors and atmosphere are very similar, and the only real difference is that the dinosaurs in TLBT talk. So, without this segment, I may not have had one of my favorite childhood films.

But that doesn't excuse anything.

But that doesn’t excuse anything.

Sadly, you’re kind of right. Because of the inaccuracies in this film, not the ones that they couldn’t have known about but the ones they had full knowledge of at the time (misplaced species, three fingered Rex), I’m still going to have to gives this movie a low score. 5.5 out of 10. But that doesn’t detract from the artistic accomplishment this segment and the entire film is. If you’re into animation, check it out. If you’re into dinosaurs, at least check The Rite of Spring out.

Stop giving this movie credit! You really approve of this racist imagery?

Stop giving this movie credit! You really approve of this racist imagery?

Racist? What are you talking about? Sure, I know the mushroom and centaur segment are pretty off but…

Don't listen to this prick. He's no activist, he's an extremist. He wants to rid all inaccurate depictions of dinosaurs no matter when they came out or what merit they hold. That's not real science, that's extremism.

Don’t listen to this prick. He’s no activist, he’s an extremist. He wants to rid all inaccurate depictions of dinosaurs no matter when they came out or what merit they hold. That’s not real science, that’s extremism.

I figured you, Science of all things, would appreciate what I am doing.

I figured you, Science of all things, would appreciate what I am doing.

You can't go around berating things when they didn't know better.

You can’t go around berating things when they didn’t know better.

Enough!

Enough!

What? Who are you?

I am the Holy Lambeosaur, and I bid you to stop fighting. This constant bickering will go nowhere.

I am the Holy Lambeosaur, and I bid you to stop fighting. This constant bickering will go nowhere.

Question, are you the same as Raptor Jesus?

‘Sup.

Who, that poser? No, I'm totally different. Please, I implore that you three stop fighting. I'm afraid the path this will take will not end well for either of you.

Who, that poser? No, I’m totally different. Please, I implore that you three stop fighting. I’m afraid the path this will take will not end well for either of you.

No, I can't stop! I won't stop! I'll never stop! HAHAHAHAHA!!!!

No, I can’t stop! I won’t stop! I’ll never stop! HAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Well that was weird.

You said it.

You said it.

Time Traveling Cynodont? Wait, were all those misplaced dinosaurs you’re fault?

Haha, maybe.

Haha, maybe.

To be continued…eventually…don’t hold you’re breath. Now, as I contemplate the fact that making a character called Dinosaur Martin Luther King an extremist has HORRIBLY unfortunate implications, join me next time as I do a mini review of of the Gravity Falls episode The Land Before Swine, and discuss tired old pterosaur tropes.

Oooh, this is going to be fun.

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11 thoughts on “When Dinosaurs Ruled The Mind #38: Fantasia: The Rite Of Spring Segment

      1. you’re a genius and i personally see you going far and these characters are a thing that can put a smile on my face your doing a good job and the characters also show creativity.

        Like

  1. stegosaurus went extinct 150 million years ago t rex came to be 68 million years ago.
    so thats 150 – 68 = 82
    the mammoth came too be 5 million years ago t rex went extinct 66 million years ago
    so that is 66 – 5 = 61
    so in conclusion you are right.
    also the difference in years is around 21 million years
    so you’re still right about it.

    Like

      1. I kind of did the math with the Woolly Mammoth living 10,000 years ago, the time it was most recently here before it went extinct. But measuring that when it first appeared probably would have been the better approach.

        Like

  2. Actually according to the scripts, the “Ornitholestes” is a Troodon and the “Hypsilophodon” are Hallopus. But the little guy with the Plateosaurus is indeed a dicynodont (Kannemeyeria to be precise).

    Like

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