The Grand Canyon from a Disney Perspective

For many, Walt Disney’s Fantasia set in motion a love for classical music by using their amazing animation artists to give the music a visual dimension.

Dancing hippos and ostriches along with Mickey Mouse as a Sorcerer’s Apprenticeare among the most memorable.  You can see Mickey attempt to regain control of the wand above.

Something I didn’t know until recently is that Disney made a musical documentary about the Grand Canyon. This film, however, was not imagined through animation, but amazing film shot in one on America’s grandest national parks.

Ferde Grofe’s career really took off while working for Paul Whiteman, when he was asked to orchestrate Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in 1924, but even then, the seeds had already been planted for what would become his most popular work, the Grand Canyon Suite.  Some years earlier, Grofe had strapped enough gas cans to his vintage jeep to ensure he could make the trip without getting stranded and set off to see a sunrise over the Grand Canyon, which had been declared a national monument less than a decade earlier.  What he saw unfold during his time there left a lasting impression.  When later asked to describe what he saw, he told a radio interviewer that it was impossible to put into words.  Fifteen years after that trip, Grofe described his experience in the only way he could…musically.

Grofe would write many other suites reflecting what he saw during his travels across America…a Death Valley Suite, Hudson River Suite, Mississippi Suite, Niagara Falls Suite, even a Hollywood Suite, but none would ever make the lasting impression left by the Grand Canyon Suite.

Below, Walt Disney takes us on a tour of the Grand Canyon accompanied by Grofe’s orchestral portrait.