In the animated adaptation of Goethe’s poem the Sorcerer’s Apprentice from the film Fantasia, Mickey Mouse (the apprentice) is tasked with carrying water from a well to the sorcerer’s cellar. The task is difficult to do by hand, so he seeks to automate the process using the sorcerer’s magic hat. He enchants a broom to fetch water from the well and deposit it in the room. Seeing that his work is done, Mickey falls asleep.
He wakes up with water lapping at his feet, the cellar is slowly flooding. The system continues to operate without control, relentlessly and efficiently depositing water in the cellar. Seeing no other option, Mickey tries desperately to destroy his creation, chopping the broom into splinters with an axe. Unfortunately the magic is too strong, the splinters form an army of new brooms which all set to work fetching water.
He is eventually saved by the sorcerer who returns and undoes the spell.
The story takes on a surprisingly radical meaning for a Disney film. It acts as a critique of industrial capitalism, warning against unleashing forces which we cannot control. The magical brooms are dedicated only to maximising production, they represent the drive of capital to accumulate. The broom-machines pursue production even though it threatens to drown the apprentice in the cellar, or… push the planet to environmental collapse.
So, what does the sorcerer represent in this story? The intervention of the state, or the hand of god?