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Imperfect Fantasy

October 28, 1990

From the beginning I was captivated by the auditory and visual experience of "Fantasia." I could imagine a kindly and wise Uncle Walt, orchestrating his vision of a world where music and life supersede all other petty concerns.

This pleasant mood was shattered by a thunderbolt about two-thirds into the film when, in a pastoral scene set to Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, I briefly glimpsed two zebra-striped, brown-skinned female centaurs serving a fat little Caucasian cherub as if they were his slaves. They never joined the party. In fact, they were present for no more than three seconds.

Before this instance I had regarded the other centaurs, enjoying their courtship rituals, as non-racial pink, blue, orange and green. However, after this moment the vision became a white folks' party with blacks--or brown-skinned centaurs with clearly African zebra bodies--present only to serve.

Was this Disney's vision of Utopia? I don't think a black person, or a centaur of African descent, could be happy there.

From that point on the film lost all of its magic. Those tiny two or three seconds completely decolorized the film, making it a very worldly black and white.

C. FORTENBERRY, MD

Los Angeles

According to Charles Solomon, who wrote "It Wasn't Always Magic , " an Oct. 7 article on "Fantasia": In the original version the two Nubian/zebra centaurettes who attend Bacchus in the Pastoral Symphony sequence appeared on screen somewhat longer and, later, a black centaurette called Sunflower buffed the hooves of the other centaurettes. All of Sunflower's scenes have been excised in recent reissues to avoid offending modern sensibilities. The presence of Bacchus' attendants has been cut to a minimum; removing their entrance entirely would have damaged the storyline.

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