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“Bald Mountain, according to tradition, is the gathering place of Satan and his followers. Here, on Walpurgisnacht, which is the equivalent of our own Halloween, the creatures of evil gather to worship their master.”
―Deems Taylor, introducing the Night on Bald Mountain segment.[src]
Chernabog is a demon featured in the "Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria" segment of Disney's 1940 animated feature film, Fantasia. He is based on the God of the Night in Slavic mythology. At Walpurgis Night (the Witches' Sabbath), he emerges from the peak of Bald Mountain to summon all of his minions, who dance furiously in tribute before being thrown into the mountain's fiery pit. His reign comes to an end with the morning sunrise, and the sound of church bells.
Described as “Satan” by host Deems Taylor, Chernabog has been praised as Disney's best representation of pure evil, and as animator Vladimir Tytla's greatest triumph. As a very "raw" representation of evil, he is not placed in the context of any real story. Furthermore, he and his minions' actions are not committed in pursuit of any discernible goal other than general tyranny. Some other media has attempted to give his character a more concrete context.
Despite the tonal contrast between the character and other antagonists in the Disney pantheon, Chernabog is a primary member of the Disney Villains franchise, most heavily featuring as a centerpiece in merchandise and other experiences.
The idea for Chernabog was conceived by German artist Heinrich Kley (who, though he did not officially work at the Disney studio, inspired many of the Disney artists, and whose drawings were collected by Walt Disney), who once sketched a pen and ink drawing of a gigantic demon forcing workers out of a factory by blocking the chimney. Albert Hurter, inspired by this drawing and others like it by Kley, drew various sketches of a huge, winged devil tossing handfuls of souls into a volcano. Hurter's sketches also included studies of his hands as his flailing minions attempt to clamber onto his fingers for safety; this imagery is used in a scene in the final film. After Hurter's initial sketches, Kay Nielsen established the final appearance of him and his world in a series of detailed pastel illustrations, as well as a model sheet for him. He was then created as a real model, to be used as the reference by Tytla during animation.
“No one but Tytla could have given Chernabog the odious, predominantly animal mentality which made him so fearsome.”
In the film, Chernabog was animated by Vladimir Tytla. Tytla was Ukrainian and thus had a clear image in his mind of the character of his culture's folklore. Thornton Hee recalled wanting to ask Tytla about something but finding that the animator's room was in complete darkness save for the fluorescent light under Tytla's drawing, which lit his face in an eerie way as he worked. This unnerved T. Hee enough to compel him to leave without alerting Tytla to his presence at all.
Being the representation of pure evil, Chernabog does not possess a dominant personality like other Disney Villains. He doesn't have a tragic backstory or a motive for his actions, he's evil just for the "fun" of it. However, most material outside of Fantasia depicts him as a ruthless monster, feared by all who encounter him. He is one of the most powerful villains Walt Disney has ever created for that reason. Many of his appearances also show him to be somewhat comedic, as seen in The Wonderful World of Disney, and House of Mouse. His power is shown to be incredibly demonic, being able to unleash hellish realms and spirits.
The sequence takes place in a mountainous area, in which a village is overlooked by Bald Mountain. The latter's peak is revealed to be Chernabog's wings, which he spreads out as he looks at the village down below. Stretching out his arms, he casts a dark shadow over the village and summons ghosts, including the spirits of hanged criminals (who pass through the noose a second time as they rise from their graves), fallen warriors in the moat and grounds of a ruined castle, and the souls of all who are not buried in sacred ground.
The ghosts join together to become a single mass, swirling around Chernabog, who summons fire and demons. As the latter emerge and gather below him, he grabs a number of them and disdainfully throws them into the fires of Bald Mountain, while his other minions dance on. He then uses flames to create images: first, the flames resemble elegant dancers; then, to his pleasure, they transform into dancing barnyard animals. He then transforms them into blue demons, who dance before him, causing him to grin maliciously. As the dancing continues, it becomes more frantic and chaotic. Harpies fly above the demons, occasionally grabbing them and throwing them into the inferno. The celebration culminates in a blinding flash of fire from the inferno. Chernabog, ready to continue, eagerly leers over his minions but is interrupted by the sound of church bells, which herald the coming of the dawn. Though he initially ignores it, the sunlight forces him and his minions to retreat, and the ghosts return to their resting places. He raises his arms one final time, and closes his wings, protecting himself from the sunlight and becoming the mountain's peak once more.
In the House of Mouse series, Chernabog's role is largely for comical purposes. In the majority of his appearances, the jokes are about his giant size. Voiced by Corey Burton, he is sometimes seen in the audience, often with a regular-sized table, which causes him to sit in a difficult position. At one point, he admits to gossip columnist Clarabelle Cow that he is afraid of the dark. In the later episode "Where's Minnie?" however, when the lights go out, he comments, "I kinda like the dark."
In "Mickey and Minnie's Big Vacation", Daisy says he and Zeus played darts with lightning bolts. He also loves corny jokes, especially where Mickey jokes about Chernabog hosting a Halloween party ("it's easy to get to his place, just take a "right" on Bald Mountain") to which Chernabog replies, "It's funny, because it's true!"
Chernabog made a special appearance in the episode "Touchdown and Out", where he is called upon to serve as a member of Pete's football team against Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy. Chernabog creates the field and stadium, and his dark powers allow Pete's team to take the lead fairly quickly. Toward the end of the game, Donald coughs the ball through Chernabog's chest, causing the demon to fall into the ground unconscious, unknowingly dragging Pete and the Beagle Boys down with him.
Chernabog was considered for inclusion in early drafts of the film for a big cameo part in the film's climax. However, the director decided it would be better to save him for a sequel should they ever get the chance, as a villain of his magnitude deserves a stronger part. Though his part was cut, there is a gargoyle that appears several times in the film resembling him, often in shots with Horvath, the film's villain.
Chernabog appears in the second half of the fourth season of Once Upon a Time after being released from the Sorcerer Hat. Here, Chernabog is still a demon, but is always referred to as "The Chernabog," and has a satyr-like appearance with its dark aura. It seeks the person with the heart that has the darkest potential, and it is not necessarily a person who had done bad things but simply a person who had the potential to be evil. This can be shown by the Chernabog trying to get Emma and not Regina; the reason being that Emma, being a child of a couple's True Love, can either be a mighty hero or a terrible villain. The Chernabog also went after Maleficent in the past after she along with the other Queens of Darkness and Rumplestiltskin attempted to steal the Dark Curse. It may have been because Maleficent was pregnant at the time, and thus carried a heart with the greatest potential for darkness.
In Storybrooke, the beast was defeated by tricking it over the town line and since the creature was made of pure dark magic, it was completely destroyed after crossing over.
Chernabog appears as a boss at the End of the World in the first Kingdom Hearts game. The Japanese version of the game uses "Squirming Evil", the track used for most Disney Villain battles. However, in the American version of Kingdom Hearts, as well as in Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, the background music for the battle with him is an arrangement of "Night on Bald Mountain", renamed "A Night on the Bare Mountain".
On their way to confront Ansem, while fighting his legions of Heartless, Sora, Donald, and Goofy encounter him at the remnants of Bald Mountain. He wakes up and promptly attacks the trio, but is defeated after a grueling battle.
He also appears in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, this time named Chernobog, as the boss Riku has to fight at the end of the Symphony of Sorcery world. This battle is similar to a Dive phase, with him sending pillars of fire and specters at the character, However he is defeated in the end.
Chernabog is the main antagonist of the series, playing the role of the ruthless leader of the Overtakers. It was originally thought that Maleficent was the leader until he was revealed to be so. Initially, he was confined to the Yeti at Expedition Everest by the Imagineers until Maleficent released him at the end of Disney at Dawn. At the end of the third book, he takes over the Dragon Maleficent animatronic figure at Fantasmic! to fight the Keepers while Maleficent battles Finn personally. They are later captured and taken to a secret location at the Kilimanjaro Safaris. At the end of the fourth book, the Overtakers manage to break them out of their prison and effectively escape. In the fifth book, it is revealed that Chernabog's been somehow inactive and his true powers are soon to be exposed.
After voodoo queen Tia Dalma tricks Finn into killing his best friend Dillard, Chernabog licks his blood off the knife, gaining his powers back. However, Finn manages to trap him in a room filling with water, leaving him to drown, but in the end, he's revealed to have survived.
In the seventh book, Chernabog is found by Tia Dalma and transported to Disneyland. In the final battle, he sits on top of the Matterhorn. Finn uses a golden watch left to him by Wayne Kresky to draw a lighting bolt to Chernabog, reducing the villain to fried bat wings. Tia Dalma later uses one of his wings in a potion to bring back Maleficent.
In Fantasmic!, Chernabog is one of the villains summoned by the Evil Queen to do away with Mickey and destroy his imagination. Clips from Night on Bald Mountain are shown on water screens, indicating that he is summoning a host of ghouls against Mickey. He is defeated with all the other villains once Mickey defeats Maleficent.
In World of Color, Chernabog brings forth the colors of fear. Here, he conjures up the element of fire in contrast to water. He is accompanied by the Firebird and Judge Claude Frollo, while the pre-opening version of the show had Dr. Facilier calling on him when throwing tarot cards to start the sequence. He also appeared in other renditions of the show, including 2015‘s World of Color: Celebrate! and 2019’s World of Color: Villainous!
Chernabog appears during the final mission of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. In this attraction, Hades plots to rule the Magic Kingdom by assembling various Disney villains. However, Merlin, several Disney heroes, and park guests fight against them and win. At one point, Hades summons Chernabog (whom he calls "his #1 guy") to fight the guests. Even still, he is defeated and becomes imprisoned in the crystal of the Magic Kingdom along with the other villains.
In the Disneyland Paris version of the Storybook Land Canal Boats, Chernabog appears in a scene based on the village from Night on Bald Mountain, though he is perched atop a ruined castle tower instead of the peak.
In the former Once Upon a Dream parade, Chernabog served as the centerpiece of the villain-centric float.
The words in his name, "cherna" and "bog", mean "black" and "god" in Slavic languages.
In the Slavic myths, Chernabog (named Chernobog) is a black god of darkness who contrasts with Belobog, the white god of light and the two are in eternal conflict. This could explain Chernabog's fear of light. Chernabog and Belobog are similar to Satan and God, or Ra and Apep.
In Michael & Mickey, a short film produced as an outro for the Disney's Hollywood StudiosBackstage Pass tour later re-edited into the intro for The Best of Disney: 50 Years of Magic, despite terrifying Mickey half to death, Chernabog is shown to be fearful of and obedient to former CEO Michael Eisner.
Chernabog makes cameo appearances in the DC Comics story Kingdom Come in a villain bar and in a climactic battle.
Chernabog was referred to as "Yen Sid" in the pencil tests for Fantasia. But "Yen Sid" was used as the name of Mickey's magic master in The Sorcerer's Apprentice scene in the film, and the animation of both characters was supervised by Tytla.
Walt Disney called Chernabog "the devil himself".
He shares many similarities to the Firebird, the villain from "The Firebird Suite" in Fantasia 2000. They both emerge from a mountain, they wreak chaos, they can both manipulate fire, they are both forces of destruction, and good ultimately triumphed over both of them, although the Firebird is not necessarily evil like Chernabog. It is interesting to note that they both appeared in the last segment of the two movies. However, Chernabog is a force of evil while the Firebird is a force of nature. Another difference between them is that, despite the fact that the Spring Sprite restores life to the forest, the Firebird leaves on its own terms, whereas Chernabog is forced to cease his evil antics by a holy bell.