Disney Marathon: ‘Fun and Fancy Free’


Last week we went with Atlantis, an unseen modern animated Disney film that wasn’t…good. So let’s turn back the clock to when Disney were still trying to make ‘package films’ a thing.

For those just joining us, this is a movie marathon with a twist. Myself (cranky 30s blogger), my son Josh (stoic 10 year old Nintendo obsessive) and my daughter Amelia (drama llama 8 year old princess) are watching Disney movies in a random order and ranking them. We hope to see interesting differences in how we organise our lists.

Film: Fun and Fancy Free

Released: 1947

Director: Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, Hamilton Luske, William Morgan

Cast: Edgar Bergen, Luana Patten, Dinah Shore, Cliff Edwards, Walt Disney, Clarence Nash, Pinto Colvig, Billy Gilbert, Jimmy MacDonald

Plot: A pair of stories told by Jiminy Cricket and famed ventriloquist Edgar Bergen. First we have ‘Bongo’, about an escaped circus bear looking for love and then ‘Mickey and the Beanstalk’, which is self-explanatory.

Review: If you’re confused about the term ‘package film’, it’s a largely unseen format in the modern day where a couple of short films are packed together. Sometimes there’s a common theme or concept, sometimes they’re bookended in some way. Disney made this a habit during the wartimes that threatened to sink the entire company just as they were getting interesting. Fun and Fancy Free is one of these films, arriving a short two years after the end of the second world war.

This particular package has two decent sized parts, with the first part of the bookends bringing Jiminy Cricket (Cricket) back to the screen. He breaks into someones house and messes around with stuff before becoming inspired to tell the story of ‘Bongo’. Bongo is a small circus bear and talented acrobat and unicyclist who has become disillusioned with his captivity. He yearns to enter the wild and live a life of freedom. Ironically the Disney company would bend over backwards with the awful 2019 remake of Dumbo to explain that holding performing circus animals in captivity is bad. They could have just pointed to this movie from 70 years earlier.

Anyway, Bongo escapes into the woods and meets a nice lady bear with whom he starts a romance. There’s a big, mean bear who wants to romance the lady bear in the rapey, stalkery way cartoon animals of the time do, and a misunderstanding occurs. We had to wind the movie back to work out what the problem was, but we hadn’t yet learned via song and dance number that bears express their feeling of love by slapping each other in the face, and when Bongo doesn’t slap the lady bear she is heartbroken.

It’s a nicely animated story, but the conflict is so arbitrary and contrived that it’s impossible to get invested. Moving on.

Jiminy Cricket finds a party invitation and takes this as a cue to head next door where he stumbles upon a true nightmare. An old man, Edgar Bergen, is hosting a Christmas part attended by a small child and a couple of ventriloquist dolls. You haven’t accidentally switched from Disney+ to Shudder, this is just the kind of thing people did for kicks at the time. Eventually the serial killer decides to tell a story.

We open on a delightful pastoral scene where the magic of a singing Golden Harp is maintains the blissful existence. When a giant abducts the harp, the land becomes desolate and starving farmers Mickey, Donald and Goofy travel up a beanstalk to save the day. The sequence of the beanstalk growing at high speed while the farmers sleep through the chaos is exceptionally well animated and fun, demonstrating how good the Disney animation studio is at creating physical comedy. Having the dozing characters tumble and get carried by the growing tendrils of the plant is very cool.

It’s a fun twist when they encounter the giant in his kingdom and discover that not only is he welding magical abilities, but is a fairly cheerful fellow. Knowing that a physical confrontation is impossible, Mickey and pals seek to outwit Willie the Giant. This involves trying to convince him he should become a fly they could swat and lulling the giant to sleep. It’s easy to see why this segment has become the more memorable component of the movie and is given front and centre in any rerelease marketing.

The final live-action sequence comes with a clever overlap with the animated story, so at least it caps out nicely. It’s a fun little diversion, which given the state of the world at the time seems to be the intent, but not much more than that.

Best Song: We’ll give it to ‘Say It With a Slap’, simply for how weird that plot device was.

Weirdest Trivia: It’s been said that this was Walt Disney’s final performance as Mickey Mouse, but Mickey’s Delayed Date is the real final role. This part was only partly completed by Walt, however, with Jimmy MacDonald filling in.

Rating: FIVE out of TEN

THE RANKING

ME

This movie was…fine. It’s fine. If it’s on in the background then I’ll happily watch it again. The Mickey Mouse adventure is worth a look. The creepy old man ventriloquist party less so.

Click those titles if you want to see what we said about the other movies.

  1. Zootopia
  2. Robin Hood
  3. Aladdin
  4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  5. Wreck-It Ralph
  6. Alice in Wonderland
  7. Beauty and the Beast
  8. Moana
  9. Big Hero 6
  10. The Great Mouse Detective
  11. Frozen
  12. Tangled
  13. The Sword in the Stone
  14. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  15. Mulan
  16. Cinderella
  17. Emperor’s New Groove
  18. Fantasia
  19. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  20. The Three Caballeros
  21. The Princess and the Frog
  22. Hercules
  23. Oliver & Company
  24. The Aristocats
  25. Fun and Fancy Free
  26. Saludos Amigos
  27. Home on the Range
  28. Bolt
  29. Dinosaur
  30. The Fox and the Hound
  31. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  32. Pocahontas
  33. A Goofy Movie
  34. Treasure Planet
  35. Chicken Little

AMELIA

Amelia was pretty much bored and creeped out by the ventriloquist dummies. She likes the retro Mickey cartoons, but this didn’t work for her.

  1. Frozen
  2. Moana
  3. Tangled
  4. Emperor’s New Groove
  5. Zootopia
  6. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  7. The Great Mouse Detective
  8. Home on the Range
  9. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  10. Mulan
  11. Hercules
  12. Alice in Wonderland
  13. Cinderella
  14. Wreck-It Ralph
  15. Bolt
  16. Pocahontas
  17. Dinosaur
  18. The Aristocats
  19. The Princess and the Frog
  20. Robin Hood
  21. Beauty and the Beast
  22. The Three Caballeros
  23. The Fox and the Hound
  24. The Sword in the Stone
  25. Saludos Amigos
  26. Oliver & Company
  27. Aladdin
  28. Treasure Planet
  29. Big Hero 6
  30. Fun and Fancy Free
  31. A Goofy Movie
  32. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  33. Chicken Little
  34. Fantasia

JOSHUA

Yeah, they snoozed through this one. Ranked low for them both.

  1. Zootopia
  2. Big Hero 6
  3. Aladdin
  4. Emperor’s New Groove
  5. Treasure Planet
  6. Moana
  7. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  8. The Three Caballeros
  9. Saludos Amigos
  10. Wreck-It Ralph
  11. Frozen
  12. Mulan
  13. The Princess and the Frog
  14. Robin Hood
  15. Bolt
  16. The Sword in the Stone
  17. Beauty and the Beast
  18. Oliver & Company
  19. Tangled
  20. The Great Mouse Detective
  21. Cinderella
  22. Home on the Range
  23. Pocahontas
  24. A Goofy Movie
  25. The Aristocats
  26. Fantasia
  27. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  28. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  29. Fun and Fancy Free
  30. The Fox and the Hound
  31. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  32. Dinosaur
  33. Hercules
  34. Alice in Wonderland
  35. Chicken Little