From Fantasia’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence (1940, dir. James Algar) (online here)
“Walt Disney sure had me fooled. I always thought he was an Establishment square, the pious merchant of every virtue that middle America cherishes and young America hates. Who else could make cuteness so commercial? Or extract so many millions from a mouse?
But suddenly the young have embraced this king of squares. His Fantasia was revived recently at a New York theater and, overnight, there they were, lined up outside, making such a box-office hit of the 30-year-old film that it’s now being booked into cities and college towns all across the country. Obviously Fantasia is saying something to the young in 1970 that it wasn’t saying to me — or anyone — in 1940. I remember it then for its heavy cultural pretensions: Uncle Walt bringing good music to the masses by wrapping it in easy-to-take animated cartoons.
The other day I went to the movie again and saw just what the young have discovered - that Disney was zonked out of his mind while making the movie and so was his entire studio. Safely hidden behind the chaste pillars of classical music, he was a hippie 30 years ahead of his time, producing a psychadelic light-and-sound show that was his only flop because nobody was freaked out enough to dig it.
Knowing this, I now feel sorry for Disney. It’s no fun to be a secret pioneer. In Fantasia he anticipated by a whole generation the ideas that were to bestow instant priesthood on Marshall McLuhan, Timothy Leary, & Allen Ginsberg, and he died without getting any of the credit. Long before TV made us a visual society feeding on picture images, long before McLuhan announced that ‘the medium is the message’, Disney was giving us a sensory experience, America’s first acid trip.”
-William Zinsser, “Walt Disney’s Secret Freakout”, LIFE magazine (April 1970)