Saint-Saens wrote Carnival of the Animals in 1886as a fun distraction from working on his Third Symphony; he never intended for it be taken seriously. The full composition wasn't even published until 1992, 71 years after his death. It ended up being one of his most popular compositions.
You’ve probably heard it
The 14-movement composition spawned a multitude of recordings and children’s books, plus a ballet. The “Finale” was part of the score for Disney’s Fantasia 2000. “Aquarium” was covered by surf-rock guitarist Dick Dale, and was used in The Godfather Part II, Babe, Charlotte’s Web, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button– just to name a few.
He was an ambitious composer from the start
Saint-Saens began playing the piano when he was two-and-a-half years old, and composed his first work at the age of three. His ambition never flagged; the original score for Carnival was intended to be played by two pianos, two violins, a viola, cello, double bass, flute, clarinet, and xylophone – and a glass harmonica (also known as armonica).