A pair of palace doors open and we enter. Enter Madame Upanova the ostrich, who begins to perform her warm-up exercises, waking her fellow dancers. As they perform, their movements made somewhat ungainly by their long legs, Madame Upanova is thrown into the air, descending gracefully. She flutters her eyelashes and her bow at the viewer. She then finds a large conch of fruit and distributes it among her dancers, but chooses to keep the grapes for herself. The ostriches squabble between themselves over the grapes, resulting in the grapes being dropped into a pool, from which bubbles rise. Madame Upanova and her dancers promptly flee.
Hyacinth Hippo comes out of the pool. She eats the grapes while shaking water off her ballet slippers and tail, and is dressed in a tutu by her servants, making herself up with a powder puff, and then begins to dance slowly and gracefully - ironically much more gracefully than the skinny ostriches - playing 'pat-a-cake' with her hippo servants and pirouetting, spinning her fat up her body and sinking down again. However, this soon tires her out and she yawns. Her servants pull her to a couch, which she falls asleep on, her weight bending the couch visibly as evening falls.
Enter Elephanchine and her elephant troupe. They tiptoe in so as not to wake the sleeping Hyacinth, surrounding her briefly, and then moving to the pool where they begin to blow bubbles with their trunks. One to her astonishment blows a bubble with a goldfish in it. Hyacinth yawns widely, inhaling all the bubbles and when one bursts on her bottom, tugging her tutu down a little. However, she does not awaken. With their bubbles, the elephant troupe create their own tutus and begin to blow bubbles and kick them off their backs, though one gets a bubble stuck on her foot. They create a pillar of bubbles that supports the slumbering Hyacinth high in the air. A strong wind blows, blowing the elephants and their bubbles away, night falls, and Hyacinth drifts gently to the ground.
The clock strikes six, and alligators begin to approach the sleeping Hyacinth, surrounding her. One whispers to his companions and points at the sleeping Hyacinth. Enter Ben Ali Gator. Seeing the alligators surrounding Hyacinth, he tosses his cape aside and leaps forward, frightening them away. He then approaches Hyacinth and is instantly astounded by her beauty. She awakens and is surprised by Ben Ali Gator, then enters a Pas de Deux with him, first fleeing, then running back, and leaping into a lift, which the much slimmer Ben Ali has trouble performing. He pirouettes her, eventually riding around on her extended leg and finally bowing to her.
In the climax, Hyacinth teases Ben Ali, running from his advances and nearly running into several alligators as she does so. He pursues her, falling into the pool as he does so. She then runs through a line of dancing hippos. Ben Ali and his alligators pursue them also, frightening them away. The ostriches and elephants hide behind pillars as the alligators search the palace, pulling out hippos, elephants, and ostriches, with the ballet becoming rapidly more chaotic. All of the characters are shown dancing together, including Ben Ali with Hyacinth, performing lifts rapidly, finally standing over her, with her gazing adoringly at him.
On a final drumbeat, the doors slam shut, collapsing in on each other, and the scene fades to black.
Ben Ali Gator - A noble and courteous alligator, who falls in love with Hyacinth Hippo. He is the leader of the Nighttime Dancers, and is distinguished from his rival alligators by his cap with a feather, and that he throws aside his red cloak.
Hyacinth Hippo - A lovely and graceful hippo, who falls in love with Ben Ali Gator. She is the leader of the Daytime Dancers and is distinguished from her servant hippos by her yellow tutu and ballet slippers, while her servants wear pink.
Madame Upanova - A vain and somewhat ungainly ostrich. She is the leader of the Morning Dancers and is distinguished from her student ostriches by her pink bow and ballet slippers, while her students wear blue.
Elephanchine - A soft-footed elephant. She is the leader of the Evening Dancers, but is indistinguishable from them, as all the Evening Dancers are elephants and wear pink ballet slippers, and none of them has any significant role in their section.
- Musical score: Amilcare Ponchielli – Danza delle ore from the opera La Gioconda
- Directed by T. Hee and Norm Ferguson
- Character designs: Martin Provensen, James Bodrero, Duke Russell, Earl Hurd
- Art direction: Kendall O'Connor, Harold Doughty, and Ernest Nordli
- Background painting: Albert Dempster and Charles Conner
- Animation supervision: Norm Ferguson
- Animation: John Lounsbery, Howard Swift, Preston Blair, Hugh Fraser, Harvey Toombs, Norman Tate, Hicks Lokey, Art Elliott, Grant Simmons, Ray Patterson, and Franklin Grundeen
- Dance of the Hours was originally going to be added to Fantasia 2000, following "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", but was removed for time.
- After The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Dance of the Hours is probably the second most popular segment, and its dancers are used in much of Fantasia's promotional material.
- When the ostrich slips and falls on her rump, a drum beat is added to the score. It was omitted (possibly overlooked) in the 1982 digital re-master since it was not part of the original score. It has since been restored.
- Hyacinth Hippo and Madame Upanova had brief cameos in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, as half the cast of Fantasia was apparently on loan to R.K. Maroon from Disney.
- Hyacinth Hippo and Ben Ali Gator have become a popular romantic pairing.
- The finale music was used in the Mickey Mouse Works short Dance of the Goofys.