Fun and Fancy Free
Release Date: September 27th, 1947
Inspiration: “Little Bear Bongo” by Sinclair Lewis and “Jack and the Beanstalk”
Domestic Gross: $2.04 million
Worldwide Gross: $3.165 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%
IMDB Score: 6.6/10
Storyline (per IMDB): Disney version of fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstalk”, featuring Mickey, Donald, and Goofy in the main roles. Also contains another short film, re-released as “Bongo”.
Pre-Watching Thoughts: We continue on with the Disney canon and we have the fourth of the six package films to be released during this time. It was no surprise that Disney was still feeling the effects of World War II and were still in money-saving mode, but unfortunately the quality of the films has taken a bit of a hit after starting out so strong. Since there are only two shorts in this film instead of multiple shorts like in Make Mine Music, hopefully this film will be a bit more streamlined and that it will be a vast improvement on the previous films.
Voice Cast: So we have a bunch of returning actors for this film which was fine since we get a lot of familiar faces on the screen in terms of the characters and therefore, we didn’t have a reason to add that many new voices. The returning actors making an appearance here include Cliff Edwards who returns as Jiminy Cricket, and we also have Walt Disney himself, Clarence Nash, and Pinto Colvig voicing Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy respectively. This is actually a pretty sad moment because this would be the last time that Disney would voice Mickey Mouse aside from archived footage of him being used way down the line. We also have legendary singer Dinah Shore return as the narrator and singer of “Bongo”, and finally Billy Gilbert returns as well as he provides the voice of Willie the Giant. Of the new people that were brought in, we had puppeteer Edgar Bergen serve as the narrator for “Mickey and the Beanstalk”, and he even brings his puppets Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd to assist him. His special guest is child star Luana Patten who had appeared in “Song of the South” and makes an appearance here, and finally Anita Gordon appears as the singing harp and the King’s Men also make a return here as the singing crows in Happy Valley. It was good to have some familiar voices involved since they have become synonymous with the characters they played and they played their roles well in this film.
Villain: For the first time in quite a while, we have a few villains in the film which was interesting since we didn’t have a clear hero or heroes unless you consider Bongo, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy as heroes though for me they didn’t quite make it. We first have Lumpjaw the bear who tries to steal Lulubelle from Bongo only to fall victim to him and his unicycle and he is swept away in the river, and he was a fine villain though he was on the lower end of the villains. In that same vein, we also have Willie the Giant who steals the golden harp from Happy Valley to help him sleep, and he tries to kill Mickey, Donald, and Goofy when they come to his castle only for them to reclaim the harp and Willie is seemingly sent to his death when they destroy the beanstalk though we see he survives and continues to look for them. Willie does seem to be a gentle and fun giant though he does show some unpleasant tendencies when he goes after Mickey and his pals, but it is not enough to rank him high on the list and more than likely he might be at the very bottom since he is a gentle giant. It is important to note these package films don’t focus on a lot of these first few categories since there are multiple segments and there is no real interlocking storyline.
Other Characters: We do have a solid number of characters sprinkled throughout both segments and even in between the two segments, and we start that right off the bat with Jiminy Cricket making his return to help bridge the two segments. For “Bongo”, we have Bongo the bear himself as he goes from being a circus act to living in the wild which he has a hard time adjusting to, and then we have Lulubelle the bear who Bongo falls in love with and ends up fighting Lumpjaw for. We also have the other animals in the wild who end up befriending Bongo and the rest of the bears who stand in fear of Lumpjaw until Bongo gets rid of him, and while none of the characters have dialogue the story is still well told by Dinah Shore. For “Mickey and the Beanstalk”, we of course have Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy who are starving farmers who climb the beanstalk to the castle, and we also have the singing harp that Willie steals and Mickey and his friends rescue. Given that there were only two segments in this film as opposed to the multiple segments in the previous film, it was fine to have this few characters in the film since they were fine being in their own segments.
Songs: After the last film which featured a lot of songs that were already known, we go back to original songs for the film and we have a lot of songs to carry the film. We kick off with “Fun and Fancy Free” which was the title track for the film, and as I mentioned before it always seemed like they just wrote a song that features the film title in it. The next song is when Jiminy sings “Happy Go Lucky Fellow” which he does a fine job at, and then we go right into “Bongo” as Dinah Shore sings the songs “Lazy Countryside”, “Too Good to be True”, and “Say It with a Slap”, all of which were fine songs for the segment and Shore shows why she is a legend in the music business. We then have the few songs for “Mickey and the Beanstalk” which include “My, What a Happy Day”, “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum” which was sung by Willie, and finally “My Favorite Dream” sung by the harp which was also a trio of fine songs for the segment. Again while these songs may not rank high in the overall canon, they were fine enough for this film and were good for their specific segments.
Plot: Unlike Make Mine Music which was pretty much just a series of segments set to music with no real flow between them, we follow the formula similar to the Three Caballeros where we have two segments that are tied together in a very loose way. Jiminy Cricket acts as a host of sorts and the two segments that we get are told in the style of a story being told, “Bongo” through a record narrated by Dinah Shore and “Mickey and the Beanstalk” told by Edgar Bergen to his guest Luana Patten. It was pretty clear that “Mickey and the Beanstalk” was the main segment of the film and “Bongo” was just here to help fill out the film, and I also liked how we only had two segments which made the film feel more streamlined as opposed to having multiple segments with no consistent flow. It is nice to see Mickey, Donald, and Goofy together in a film especially considering this would be their only film that wasn’t a short segment, and since they wouldn’t be in a full-length film again it was a fun enough short to feature them especially in a familiar fairy tale.
Random Watching Thoughts: We get another theme song shoehorned in to match the title of the film; How much did this choir get paid for doing these films I wonder?; It’s good to see Jiminy Cricket again on the big screen; “Misery for the Masses”, just the kind of book everyone needs in their collection; Cleo the goldfish makes a return as well; Even though it is the 1940s, those newspaper headlines could easily be used today with what is going on in the world; Since when did cats like to eat crickets?; I like how Jiminy talks to the dolls like they are real people even though he knows they’re dolls; I don’t know how many children would have classical records by the likes of Beethoven and Brahms in their collection; Wrong story about bears there Jiminy; That is the most talented bear ever if he can do all those things in the circus; Even back then, they brought up the poor conditions for animals in the circus; That had to be the easiest escape from a locked door ever; The two chipmunks in the tree looks just like Chip and Dale; So Bongo is easily able to climb a pole in the circus yet he can’t climb up a tree; It is always interesting how they portray the beauty of nature in the eyes of the animals; The animals took a quick liking to Bongo even though they were earlier laughing at him for not being able to climb the tree; I feel like some of the designs of the animals were just copied over from the animals in Bambi; Ahh, the real quiet of nature while the insects cause a major commotion; Nature turned on Bongo extremely quickly after luring him into it; I do like how they showed how hard it is for Bongo to transition from a domesticated bear to living in the wild; Even in nature we have love at first sight; Even though my views on these package films have not been too positive, I will never deny that the animation in them is fantastic; Where did all those bears come from?; Lumpjaw just sounds like a name for a villain; So bears show affection for each other by slapping each other in the face; Bears clearly have no rhythm when it comes to square-dancing; Lumpjaw makes a complete mess of the forest by knocking all those trees down, you would think he was a lumberjack; How lucky was Bongo to have his hat catch on a branch to save him from falling down the waterfall; I’m surprised that even though they are bears, they didn’t catch flak for the fact that a male bear was slapping a female bear in the face; My how the world has changed as a little girl staying with an older man and two puppets was perfectly acceptable in the 1940s, but today he would be accused of being a potential pedophile; Charlie the puppet is quite the cynic; Only a harp would be able to keep a valley completely happy and when it was taken, the land fell into depression; That is the saddest excuse for a sandwich ever when it’s two super thin slices of bread and a thin slice of a bean; Donald says that he’ll be all right as his eyes spin like crazy; Charlie is a dark puppet if he’s talking about killing a cow in front of a little girl with no remorse; Fun fact of the film: there was talk about showing a scene of Mickey selling the cow and the two he would be swindled by were none other than Honest John and Gideon from Pinocchio, and another potential scene saw him be sold the beans by Queen Minnie Mouse; Another interesting fact is that Walt Disney was originally against the idea of doing “Mickey and the Beanstalk” because he thought it destroyed the characters; It’s amazing how long that cottage was able to hold out before being destroyed by the beanstalk, and that they are able to stay asleep as long as they are even if they are being thrown around by the beanstalk; So reading up on this short, it was originally intended to be released on its own and production began after Dumbo, but RKO Radio Pictures doubt on the film coupled with World War II forced it to be released like this; Donald you fool, why would you taunt the giant mosquitos?; Goofy is going through so much trouble trying to get his hat on that giant glob of J-ELLO; Is it just me or does the model of the harp look like an inspiration for a certain fairy we will see in a few films?; I love how they hyped up the giant to be a mean and scary thing only for us to find out he was really a gentle giant; Chocolate pot roast with green gravy just doesn’t sound appetizing; So he gets excited about the pot roast only to then make himself a sandwich; Since when did Mickey have the ability to be a palm reader?; The harp is smart to sing the instructions to Mickey so he doesn’t get caught; You know everyone talks about the giant falling when they cut down the beanstalk, but no one talks about the potential damage the beanstalk causes on the areas where it crashes down, especially considering how big it is; How was Willie able to survive falling down the beanstalk like that?; So we find out that the house is overseeing Los Angeles since we see Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
Overall Thoughts: Overall, this film was a significant improvement on the previous two films though it still pales in comparison to the films that came out prior to the package films. It’s hard to completely fault Disney for taking this route as they were still recovering from World War II and the loss of profits overseas, and it’s clear that they were just trying to get through the decade any way they could while saving as much money as they could. That said, we have seen a pretty big decline in the quality of the films after starting the decade strong though again the onset of World War II was a bit out of their control. Hopefully, the last two package films can match this one in terms of its quality and help end the decade on a high note, and as for this film it is about in the middle as it is one of the better of the package films.
Final Grade: 5/10