5 Times Walt Disney was a Psychedelic Master

Walt Disney films are, for many, a cornerstone of childhood. In fact, so much have they seeped into popular culture, that these animations that once thrilled and amazed viewers, have become almost like pastel-coloured wallpaper. However, if we brush the princesses aside for a moment, we are left with a boundary breaking legacy. Part of this legacy, is the sheer inventiveness and beauty of the animations themselves. Almost every Disney film contains at least one moment where the animators got, lets say, a little extra creative. Magic is, of course, always integral to any Disney adventure— but we are not thinking Fairy Godmothers or mermaids here.

There are many instances where Disney becomes positively psychedelic. As you’re most likely still tucked away at home, there’s no better moment to settle in for our Top 5 Times that Disney was a Psychedelic Master! You might see the old guy in a whole new light…

Mushroom Dance: Fantasia (1940)

Ok, so there are many parts of Fantasia that could have been included here, (ballet dancing hippos, Mickey Mouse vs. a broomstick, flirty centaurs, etc.) but it seems simply rude not to choose these cute little ‘shrooms! These fun-guys (get it? get it?) grooving to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite is now part of Disney history, but when Fantasia was first released in 1940, it was seen as a big risk after the success of 1937’s Snow White. Disney’s choice to merge classical orchestral music with animation was considered pretty wacky at the time, and the free rein he gave animators with their colour choices also added to the scepticism. The film may have made loss at the box office on release, but is now regarded as a visionary classic.

Pink Elephants on Parade: Dumbo (1941)

Arguably one of the trippiest Disney moments ever, the Pink Elephants on Parade sequence from Dumbo probably still haunts your dreams if you saw it in childhood. Young Dumbo gets a bit boozy to cope with the stresses of circus life, and ends up hallucinating….this. Luminous elephants divide and multiply, playing their trunks like trumpets, morphing into pyramids and eyes. The visual extravaganza is twinned with a freaky-deeky tune that swings from chanting to jazz. At the end of the clip Dumbo wakes to find himself in a tree, with no memory of what happened. We’ve all been there…

Alice meets the caterpillar: Alice in Wonderland (1951)

No doubt you could include this entire movie on a list about psychedelia. But, in the interest in keeping it bitesize, we’ve chosen Alice’s trippy chat with a hookah smoking caterpillar. Like a grumpy spirit guide he interrogates her on who she is, why she’s there, and what actually is her problem? Tough love indeed. Disappearing after having just transformed into a butterfly, Mr Caterpillar leaves Alice, if possible, even more confused.

The Skeleton Dance: (1929)

Now here’s a real golden oldie. Even back in 1929, Disney was freaking ’em out. Part of the Silly Symphonies series, this is one of the earliest Disney cartoons— only a year younger than Mickey Mouse’s first outing in Steamboat Willie. However, the skeletons with serious rhythm still stand up today, even against their modern counterparts. Watch them use each other as pogo sticks, master the bone xylophone, and bend in ways that suggest they need more calcium in their diets. Spoooky.

Friend Like Me: Aladdin (1992)

Up until this moment, what with magic carpets and talking parrots, Aladdin has already been pretty bonkers. However, when Robin Williams’ much loved genie introduces himself, things really crank up a gear. In an effort to convince Aladdin of his powers, Genie flips and spins, multiplies, turns into an elephant, a rabbit, and even employs his own hands as back-up dancers. With entertainment like this who needs three wishes?

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