The Vaults is a multi-disciplinary space constructed in a maze of disused railway tunnels under London’s Waterloo train station. The venue has been the home of some critically acclaimed immersive theatre during its five years of operation most notably with Les Enfants Terribles and EBP’s (non-Disney) Alice’s Adventures Underground. Now, The Vaults have created a new immersive experience around the seven segments that make up Walt’s folly.
Fantasia was critically acclaimed upon its release in 1940 but the film failed to find an audience in the US and had no European release due to the outbreak of World War II. It took several decades for the movie to break even on its theatrical runs. The studio continued to re-release the movie right through to the film’s home video debut in 1990. It took almost 60 years for the sequel Fantasia 2000 that Walt always envisaged when he decided on the segment format so that sequences could be swapped out over time.
Sennheiser has been partnering with museums, most notably London’s Victoria & Albert, to utilize their binaural infra-red headphones to create immersive entertainment experiences. The V&A’s blockbuster temporary shows that have deployed the technology have included David Bowie Is and Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains. The guidePORT system automatically provides the music and soundtrack when visitors approach a specific segment in The Vaults to seamlessly integrate all the sound material for the experience. The headphones themselves provide an incredible 3D sound experience as if the performance was happening right in front of you.
The Vaults brought onboard Daisy Evans, founder of Silent Opera, as director (opera on headphones), sound designer David Gregory and musical director Stevie Higgins. Gregory and Higgins have re-recorded all of the sequences using the talents of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The result is a more modern sound than the original designed specifically for the Sennheiser headphones. The musical team has altered tempi, timbre and style to give the score a new unique sound.
Much like the movie the opening sequence is Bach’s Toccata & Fugue as arranged by Leopold Stokowski. Visitors are invited to lie on circular chaises long to experience a mesmerizing overhead video of twirling, revolving musical instruments.
It is the perfect introduction to the technology deployed. Upon exit, visitors can choose their own path. To the left is a live-action dance performance complete with overflowing well to Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (without Mickey).
Directly in front are the volcanoes of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.
Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite is a multi-disciplinary encounter with incandescent mushrooms, flowers and glens.
Ponchielli’s The Dance of the Hours is an engaging and humorous live-action ballet on a thrust stage.
Finally, Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain is a recorded dance sequences that gives way to a forest lit by lanterns for the conclusion, Schubert’s Ave Maria.
The experience can take 90 minutes to experience the live performances and musical sequences in their entirety. Fantasia has always been a personal favorite of mine and to experience the movie with a new immersive artistic vision was a delight. The spirit and tone of each segment remains but The Vaults’ team have applied their own interpretation to ensure that this limited run experience is memorable for all the right reasons.
Sounds and Sorcery Celebrating Disney Fantasia is running until September 30. Tickets can be purchased here.