The Pterosaurs of Fantasia (1940)

In 1940 Walt Disney stunned the world with his tribute to classic music, an animated movie called Fantasia. In his tribute to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (Le sacre du printemps), Disney featured versions of Dimorphodon and Pteranodon, two of the several dozen pterosaurs known at that time.

Disney’s Dimorphodon
Disney’s prescient depiction of Dimorphodon (Fig. 1) correctly provides this pterosaur with the Zittel wing, stretched between the elbow and wingtip without contacting the hind limbs, which are incorrectly splayed.

Disney Dimorphodon

Figure 1. Disney's prescient depiction of Dimorphodon awakened by a theropod and flapping over a pelycosaur from Fantasia (1940), recovered from

Disney’s Pteranodon
Following the famous Smithsonian mount, the paradigm at the time, Disney incorrectly depicted Pteranodon with wings stretched to the ankles. Not much muscle on those arms, another tradition that is disappearing today. The free fingers correctly point ventrally. Looks like the left foot has toes flexing laterally, just the opposite of the knees, which are correctly splayed and followed by another prescient set of uropatagia! Here again the limb musculature in the thigh is sorely lacking.

Disney's Pteranodon

Figure 2. Disney's Pteranodon from Fantasia (1940) recovered from

Despite These Problems
No doubt, Disney’s images in Fantasia inspired more living paleontologists than anyone realizes despite the various problems we recognize today (like the overweight, tail-dragging, swamp-dwelling sauropods). The spirit Disney gave his dinosaurs and pterosaurs trumps any shortcomings in the images themselves.

Paradigms of Their Time
Disney’s images were all considered paradigms of paleo traditions in the 1930s and 1940s, but many of those paradigms have changed since then. This gives me hope that someday a pterosaur renaissance will follow in the footsteps of the recent dinosaur renaissance and soon pterosaurs will also be commonly depicted with strict adherence to the fossil record.

As always, I encourage readers to see specimens, make observations and come to your own conclusions. Test. Test. And test again.

Evidence and support in the form of nexus, pdf and jpeg files will be sent to all who request additional data.

YouTube/Rite of Spring from Disney’s Fantasia

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