This segment of Fantasia is actually two separate pieces of music, each with its own mood and animation style. The first piece of music is by Modest Mussorgsky called A Night on Bald Mountain. This part opens onto a mountain that oversees a small town. The peak of the mountain comes to life and reveals itself to be a large, black demon. This demon called Chernabog uses his powers to raise ghosts from their graves and call other evil creatures such as witches and goblins to his mountain.
When these spirits and creatures reach his mountain Chernabog who is now surrounded by flames makes these ghosts and ghouls dance for his pleasure. As he grows tired of this amusement he is seen to crush some of these creatures with his hands and others he throws down into a fiery pit.
In the distance a bell is heard ringing, this bell signals the approaching dawn. Each time that the bell rings Chernabog flinches or cowers, covering his eyes. The ghosts travel back to their graves and Chernabog folds his wings over himself and is once again part of the mountain.
As the sky begins to lighten the second piece of music starts to play, this is Franz Schubert's Ave Maria. Soft, peaceful singing can be heard and as the camera moves we see a long line of people walking through the woods. The screen fades to black and a lone voice is heard singing in english. A strip of light appears and as the camera moves closer we see that it is a window overlooking the forest, the camera eventually moves through the window and the forest going up towards the sky. As this segment finishes the last image is that of the sunrise.
This segment more than any other in the film is filled with religious themes and imagery. The most prominent of which is its depiction of good and evil. When the two sections are looked at side by side it is very clear that the first piece symbolizes evil and that the second symbolizes good.
These two pieces use the opposites of light and dark to symbolize good and evil. The first piece A Night on Bald Mountain is very dark and frightening. It takes place at night, the sky is dark and Chernabog himself is black. The music is harsh and sinister as well which adds to the overall dark mood of the piece. Ave Maria is the complete opposite of this. Dawn is approaching and the sky is no longer dark. Each of the people walking through the woods is carrying a torch which increases the light in this section. The style of animation is even different from A Night on Bald Mountain, the drawing in Ave Maria is very soft and delicate where as Bald Mountain contains much bolder animation. Once again though the music is what sets the mood of the piece, Schubert's Ave Maria is sung slowly, it is soft and peaceful and the antithesis of the music in the first half of this segment.
The demon Chernabog is based on an old Slavic deity named Chernobog or Crnobog which means black god. Chernabog himself can be compared to the Christian devil. This imagery goes even further as Chernabog is seen throwing ghosts and ghouls down into a fiery pit, very much like the Christian idea of hell. While there is no counterpart in Ave Maria to Chernabog, there is a counterpart to the images of hell. As hell is symbolized as a fiery pit within the earth, the end of the Ave Maria sequence sees the camera moving up towards the sky and supposedly towards heaven.
This segment has come under criticism for the use of the song Ave Maria. Perruci Ferraiuolo author of the book Disney and the Bible: A Scriptural Critique of the Magic Kingdom believes that this segment is a "celebration of evil" (pp. 30) and considers the use of Schubert's Ave Maria in such a piece is considered to be "an affront to Roman Catholics." (pp.29) I think that calling A Night on Bald Mountain a celebration of evil is far-fetched. I believe that by using the Ave Maria in this segment Disney intended it to act as a contrast to the evil depicted by the first piece of music. Far from being a "celebration of evil" I think that this segment illustrates that no matter how strong evil appears to be, good will overcome it in the end.