“A truly magnificent achievement…In the art of marrying music with animation, Philharmonia Fantastique is the biggest step forward since Fantasia itself.”

John Williams

“It’s a noble enterprise, with deeper ideals about human diversity and unity. Bates is, as ever, an engaging musical storyteller.”

BBC Music Magazine

“In the spirit of such self-referential educational works for young listeners as Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” or Lenny Bernstein’s expository outings on programs including “Omnibus,” Bates’s work is a section-by-section guided tour of the modern orchestra.”

The Washington Post

“Mason Bates’ genre-defying works demonstrate considerable artistry.”


“Mason Bates, Musical America’s 2018 Composer of the Year, is carrying a lot on his shoulders. At a time when classical music is eagerly, anxiously, even desperately trying to connect with a younger generation, Bates is one of the rare composers who is at once popular, hip, and active at the large classical music institutions, opera houses and orchestras that are having the hardest time winning young audiences.”

Musical America

Philharmonia Fantastique: The Making of the Orchestra is a 25-minute multi-media concerto from Mason Bates, composer of the Grammy Award-winning opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, in collaboration with Oscar-winning director and sound designer Gary Rydstrom, and animation director Jim Capobianco. The animated film flies through the instruments of the orchestra to explore the fundamental connections between music, sound, performance, creativity and technology.

The soundtrack won the 2023 GRAMMY Award for Best Engineered Album, Classical.

Philharmonia Fantastique portrays the four families of the orchestra, each with their own unique sound worlds and musical motifs: the slinky, sophisticated noir-jazz of the woodwinds; the lush romanticism of the strings; the aggressive techno-fanfares of the brass; and the percussion section “drum circle” in all its versatility. Ultimately the work’s message is one of unity: the diverse instruments of the orchestra are most powerful when working together as one giant instrument.

Guided by a magical Sprite, the film shows violin strings vibrate, brass valves slice air, and drum heads resonate. Imaginatively blending traditional and modern animation styles, it is a kinetic and compelling guide to the orchestra that engagingly illustrates the intricacies of how instruments work individually and collectively to produce such a huge range of sound.

Nearly every aspect of the production mirrors the central thesis that the orchestra is the ideal marriage of tradition and innovation. The title itself is a nod to Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique (a striking dramatic storm with innovations in orchestration), but the music of Philharmonia Fantastique ventures beyond the bounds of classical to bring in elements of jazz and techno. The combination of music and animation echoes classics like Fantasia or Peter and the Wolf, but with a fresh approach and a new journey led by the Sprite.

The film features a unique hybrid of animation and live action filming. Guided by Jim Capobianco, the animation team created a hand-drawn, 2D style reminiscent of 1950’s French films. To look inside instruments, the team used high-definition special effects cameras, including probe lenses, to peer inside a violin, flute, and up close to brass valves. The film also features sound design built from the key clicks of woodwinds, taps on the body of string instruments, and vintage analogue synthesizers.

Music by Mason Bates
Directed by Gary Rydstrom
Written by Mason Bates & Gary Rydstrom
Animation direction by Jim Capobianco

Produced by Alex D. da Silva & Mason Bates Executive producers Jody Allen, Rocky Collins, Ruth Johnston & Mary Pat Buerkle
Soundtrack recorded by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Edwin Outwater

Commissioned by Chicago Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, American Youth Symphony, Sakana Foundation, John & Marcia Goldman Foundation and Paul J. Sekhri & The Sekhri Family Foundation.

With thanks to the Heinz Family Foundation, Bette and Joe Hirsch, Judy and David Anderson, Noelle and Evan Shahin, Robin Raborn and John Lazlo, Paula Blank and Irwin Derman for their generous contribution to the education program and digital materials for Philharmonia Fantastique and Sprite’s World.

With thanks to the John & Marcia Goldman Foundation, Carol M. Kaganov and Joseph & Bette Hirsch for their generous support of the inaugural educational installation of Philharmonia Fantastique at Moonshoot Studio at The REACH, Kennedy Center.