The presenter (Maurizio Micheli) welcomes us to this, a truly innovative concept: classical music illustrated by accompanying animation. But what's this? A telephone call to inform him it's been done before by a certain Mr Prisney or Grisney or whatever. Nevertheless, the presenter presses on, and introduces the people behind the entertainment, such as the orchestra who are bundled into the back of a lorry to be escorted to the theatre, and of course the animator (Maurizio Nichetti), who is released from being chained up in a dungeon especially for this event. Then the conductor (Nestor Garay) arrives and we're all set to begin...
Walt Disney's Fantasia was such a good idea that it's surprising it wasn't done more often, Elmer Fudd shouting, "Kill the wabbit!" notwithstanding. Yet here director Bruno Bozzetto saw the possibilities of his own version, a more sardonic and adult concept, not to say a more irreverent approach as well. Scripted by Bozzetto, Nichetti and Guido Manuli, the tone of the cartoons veers from amusing to sorrowful, but always bright and colourful, and the short introductory sequences of black and white comedy are inventive and raise their own share of laughs.
Those anarchic sequences see the conductor as a tyrant not aversed to beating up one of the less co-operative members of the orchestra, an orchestra consisting of chattering, little old ladies. The animator sits at a sloping desk and sketches the animations while the music plays and the first one consists of a spoof of the pastoral episode of Fantasia, featuring a portly satyr who's getting on a bit attempting to win the attentions of the ethereal nymphs populating the forest. It's perfectly delightful and more than a little mournful, a nice way to start.
Next a short effort which introduces one of the recurring themes: a cynical look at the progress of the modern world. Here, a reluctant pioneer leaves the caves and build his own hut, then house, then tower block, all the while growing annoyed at the way his fellows are imitating him. Then, the finest and justifiably most celebrated sequence in the film, with a Coca-Cola bottle dropped onto an alien world by a visiting spaceship providing the impetus for a story of evolution which becomes a long line of ever changing creatures marching in time with Ravel's Bolero. This piece is dazzling and there's a sense of what follows not quite matching it.
After the high, the low: a cat sorrowfully wishes a derelict tenement block would be filled with people again; too similar in tone to the first and altogether too twee. Then the story of a bee trying to feast on a flower continually prevented by a romancing couple has its charms but is nothing special. The following cartoon makes up for these as the wily snake in the Garden of Eden tempts Adam and Eve with an apple, only to partake of the fruit himself and experience the horrors of self-awareness and, yes, progress. The grand finale turns out to be a host of endings each funnier and in worse taste than the last and on the whole Allegro Non Troppo sparkles enough to sail over its lesser points with well chosen music, superb artistry and an infectious sense of fun. And watch out for Mr Rossi.