On this day in 1940, the landmark animated picture Fantasia was released. The most well-known and popular segment from this movie is The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was originally conceived as an ambitious short cartoon, intended to boost Mickey Mouse’s popularity. When the short went wildly over budget, Walt Disney decided that the only possible way to recoup the cost was to make the short part of a larger feature film. This idea became Fantasia, a film that consists of eight animated segments, each one set to a classical piece, and connected by live action material that frames the film as a concert.
In The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Mickey Mouse plays the titular role, fetching water for his master, who is practicing magic. When the sorcerer leaves the room, Mickey, tired of carrying water, puts on his master’s hat and enchants a broom to do the job for him. Satisfied by his work, he takes a nap and dreams of being a mighty sorcerer himself, controlling shooting stars and the waves of the ocean.
Mickey is woken up by a wave splashing him in the face, and he realizes that the broom has flooded the room with water. Unable to stop it, he chops it into bits with an axe. Each bit then forms into a new living broom that continues the work of fetching water. Mickey nearly drowns in the deluge created by the brooms, but is saved when his master returns and dispels the magic. Mickey sheepishly hands the hat back to the quietly furious sorcerer, who swats him with a broom as he returns to his work.
The short is gorgeously animated with stunning water effects, and its simple but appealing story told without words has made it a classic. Sorcerer Mickey has become effectively the mascot of the Disney theme parks, appearing on mountains of merchandise. The segment also appeared as the only “classic” segment in the Fantasia sequel, Fantasia 2000.