Disney’s Fantasia is a monumental film for The Walt Disney Company. It was the third animated feature film that Disney made, it was released during WWII and is one of the top 25 highest-grossing films of all time in the U.S.. Even though it’s a film for all ages, it’s a fantastic platform for classical music to be brought forward and listened to by young people. Fantasia is more than just a film — it’s been turned into a video game, a live concert at Disneyland attractions, and now it’s been celebrated at The Vaults as an immersive theatrical experience.

I’ll start of by saying that I wouldn’t classify this as a theatre show. Yes there are actors, and yes some of the characters from the Disney film star in this. But similar to the film, each mini-story is separated out from each other in terms of its plot, characterisation as well as structurally in the Vaults space. Attendees are given free rein to walk around the space of The Vaults and enter various rooms and immersive themselves in each singular experience and story from the film. It can become confusing at times as to what order you should be entering each room, though it demonstrates that each person’s experience into Sounds and Sorcery will be completely unique to everyone else’s.

Sounds and Sorcery has no limit to its imagination and methods in bringing the film to life. There are gorgeous projections, interactive walkways, light shows a plenty, and even the ground surface you walk on varies in each room. At times, you can feel pretty tranced out with the abstract and surreal nature of each room whilst listening to the music.

There is such an importance in classical music for the sound and the acoustic to be of the upmost high quality when listening to it. Therefore, it’s a frustration when the sound in the headphones that you wear during the experience crackles and breaks up regularly in the majority of the rooms. You try as hard as possible to get a sense of the full orchestral sound needed in order to experience full immersion.

Highlights of Sounds And Sorcery include The Rite Of Spring sequence with a wonderfully huge volcano that you can walk around, Dance Of The Hours and its hilarious dry-humoured choreography as well as the poignant Ave Maria finale. The colour-changing (!) gin and tonics at the bar were also pretty magical.

Throughout your experience, you’re given the freedom to take your own photos and videos on your phones. It’s an odd element to provide and to see attendees walk around the rooms taking Instagram stories and Snapchats of the set. There’s the fear from this that attendees could essentially be watching the experience through their phones rather than their own eyes. There’s also an issue that some attendees, particularly young people, may treat this as their first theatre show and they may think that it’s okay to take pictures and videos at future shows they go to see.

Sounds and Sorcery is a baffling yet wondrous experience into one of Disney’s most-loved films. Whilst it may not have the same production value as an attraction at Disneyland and needs technical polishing, it’s the nearest experience we have in London to experience what it’s like to be in a Walt Disney film.

Reviewed by Barry O’Reilly
Photo: Laurence Howe


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