The titanic struggle of wills ended at 6:17, with a draw. It began a half an hour earlier, when I informed Gnat that she could not have a cookie unless she drank her milk. Its not as if I asked her to glug down the entire production of a cow with an udder the size of the Graf Zeppelin; it was her modest little Hello Kitty glass, and it was half full.
I want a cookie, she said.
When you drink your milk.
Wed already had a battle over dinner; she had pronounced the tandoori chicken to be icky and stuffed herself with rice. No cookie without some chicken, I said. Chicken and milk = cookie. The path is clear. The road is unencumbered. Every dessert begins with a single gulp. Start swallowing.
To hasten things along, I took out a cookie, one of these dreadful Mickey Mouse Magic cookies. No necromancy seems involved in the baking - if so, theyd taste better. They make Hydrox cookies taste like - well, like Oreos. They taste like black flour. The magic refers to a blue moon embedded in the cream filling, and refers as well to the picture of Mickey on the package, dressed in Sorcerer's Apprentice garb. I was pleased when she picked them out, because the Sorcerer's Apprentice is one of my favorite cartoons. For many reasons:
1. I love Fantasia, middle-browd as it is. The Toccata & Fugue section was my first introduction to that work, and Im sorry to say I like Stokowskis orchestration better than the original. Never been a biggs fan of the power of the organ, for that matter. The animation at first is rather pedantic - look, dancing violin bows to indicate the . . . the violins! But it gets better, and there are some startling and gorgeous abstractions. It ends with images of death and resurrection - big surprise for those who expected funny dwarves - and the final image of Stowkowki standing before a vast red sun, commanding the orchestra to bring its great crushing weight down on those grim final bars, has no peer.
When I first saw the movie I was a 14 year old classica music nut, and hence deeply steeped in the romantic myth of the Conductor - the white-haired man in tails who waves a stick and commands this vast apparatus to summon the divine by blowing through tubes and scratching at catgut. Stokowski fit the bill.
2. Ive learned a lot about Disney cartoons in the last six months, having watched the Early Mickey / Color Mickey / Compleat Goofy / Silly Symphonies discs over and over again. One of the things Ive noticed is that no one else could do water like the Disney boys. They had trouble with dust kicked up by motion, oddly enough; sometimes theyd resort to the old literal squiggly lines. But they owned water. Sorcerer's Apprentice is the apogee of that skill; its almost a showoff piece, the equivalent of the automated luggage-area sequence in Toy Story 2.
3. When Mickey climbs up to the cliff to make the skies do his bidding - the scene the cookie package uses - the heavens have a distinct Moderne feel; its almost as if hes turning the lights on and off in the clubroom at the top of the Chrysler building. Even the cliff is sculpted with setbacks like Rockefeller Center. (I know this latter detail because I just fished out the DVD and watched the sequence again. Its about as good as animation gets, and it makes you wonder again how mickey mouse became a term of derision. It ought to be high praise.)
4. I was just thinking of my Fantasia soundtrack - it weighed a ton. Three or four discs, heavy sleeves - why, Im sure it cost nine, ten dollars. Wonder what happened to it. Sold it for heroin, no doubt; I pawned it at the store, trying not to look the shopkeeper in the eye as I handed over a symbol of innocent youth for a few dollars, trying to keep my jumpy hands steady, hoping the sweat that rolled off my brow didnt have that sickly sweet stench a junkie got when the shakes started.
No - wait - its back home in Fargo. In my old room. Thats right! And I never was a heroin addict. Whew; thats a relief. Anyway, I just realized I can use AudioHijack to hoover up the soundtrack from the DVD, in all its glorious mono.
5. Fantasia may have been Mickeys last hurrah, really. Years before hed been eclipsed by his costars, who were more interesting for their flaws. They were either venal and hotheaded, as with Donald Duck, or stupid and decent, like Goofy. Without his costars he would have run his course much quicker, since theres only so much you can do with an all-purpose cheerful plucky mouse. When he did get solo roles in the late 30s, he was playing a character - the Brave Little Tailor, or the hubristic apprentice. Prior to Fantasia Mickey had never been in a Disney feature film, which - given his status as the franchise player - is rather startling to consider.
Theres a wonderful moment at the end of the sequence when Mickey - in silhouette - shakes hands with Stokowskis silhouette. The iconic shapes of middlebrow and highbrow culture find common ground. Then Mickey says well - so long! Ill be seeing ya and scampers off.
That was the last time Walt Disney voiced Mickey.
Anyway. You can imagine why the pedestrian flavor of the cookie disappoints. The Mickey Mouse Magic cookie is part of a brand extension that also includes a breakfast cereal. It, too, disappoints, and Gnat wants nothing to do with it. She probably isnt thrilled with the cookie, either, but it is a cookie, and she wanted it.
Finish your milk.
I picked up the cookie. Finish your milk, or Ill eat the cookie.
So I ate it.
She was stunned. Cookie - gone! GONE! The world collapsed, and she began to wail. I felt a little guilty, having literally taken candy from a baby, but weve been through this before. Its like executing a hostage to show youre serious. I got out another cookie and laid it on the table. Drink your milk, and its yours.
Eventually Gnat said she wanted a newspaper; I gave her a section of the Wall Street Journal, and we read in frosty silence, that well fine see if I care silence we all know and love. Eventually she got down from her chair and wandered off. Amazing. She gave up the cookie. She won.
If Disney licenses the Chernobog demon from the Night on Bald Mountain sequence for juice boxes, I do not want to know what sort of battle well have over that.