Ranking Disney: #46 – Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
Another package film. I can’t really fault these films at all for being where I’ve ranked them. Disney just happened to get going as a studio right before a world war hit, so it was just a bad stroke of luck that they couldn’t get enough finances going to keep making films like they do now. They really couldn’t get going until Cinderella. So you really have to be lenient with them on anything between Bambi and that.
This is actually their fourth package film (of six. I don’t count Fantasia here, since that was meant as a unique piece of art. These are really just compilations of stuff. Anyway, of the package films — this is middle of the road. It’s not bad and it’s not good. The package films sort of take on one of three plots: The Three Caballeros and Saludos Amigos are structured around locations (more so Amigos. Caballeros has the framing of Donald getting gifts, but it’s still based on location), and then Make Mine Music and Melody Time have a bunch of musical segments that run one after another (like Fantasia, only more like a playlist). This film, along with The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, only has two parts to it. It’s just two stories thrown together. They’re not connected by anything, really. This is the weaker of the two, simply because no one remembers the first half of it and the second half, while memorable, isn’t as amazing as I thought it was in my mind all these years. But still — it’s not a bad film. (It’s just drawn that way. Zing! No, I’m kidding. It just doesn’t have much to it. That’s why it’s here.)
I said up there that there were only two segments to this film. I guess you could say there are three, if you count the section running throughout the stories. Ichabod and Mr. Toad doesn’t really have that. That one actually is one half, and then the other half. This one has a framing device, which sort of acts as another segment, but not really.
It begins with Jiminy Cricket floating in a leaf in a houseplant and singing “I’m a Happy-go-Lucky Fellow.” He goes to a bookshelf (after some comical run-ins around the house, with a doll and a cat and a record player. At the record player, he finds “Bongo” a “musical story sung by Dinah Shore” and puts it on.
I don’t have any screenshots of the Bongo section, so you’re just gonna have to make due with segments from the other section.
“Bongo” is a love story. Bongo is a circus bear who is the star of the circus. He can jungle and dance and fly the trapeze, and all sorts of things. Only, the one thing he really wants to do is live free in the wild. He dreams about it, to the point where he starts going stir crazy.
Eventually he breaks free of the circus and winds up free in the wild. And there are songs and stuff as he enjoys the wild, lazily living fun and fancy free. And he has a rough first night in the wild. He realizes he doesn’t know how to live like a real bear. He has a humorously hard time trying to catch a fish, which results in him running into a female bear. And it’s love at first sight. Which leads to a fantasy musical number of him picturing a future with this girl.
And when we return from reality, we see the biggest, meanest bear in the forest come out, and he starts beating up Bongo. Only the female bear stops him, saying that Bongo is hers. She hits him, as bears tell each other they like each other with slaps, only he doesn’t know that. He thinks she’s just hitting him. But then she tries hitting him again, and he ducks, and she hits the big bear, who thinks it means she’s in love with him. And Bongo is heartbroken.
He goes off into the forest, upset that he doesn’t know how to be a real bear. Though he eventually does figure it out and returns to slap the girl bear. Only the big mean bear gets to him first and starts beating him up. But Bongo, with the courage of love, fights back. He beats up the big bear and humiliates him. Eventually the big bear falls down a waterfall, and Bongo returns to his lady and promptly slaps her in the face. And the two live happily ever after.
We then return to Jiminy, who goes to the table, where he finds an invitation to a party, where Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen will be. So he heads over to the house across the street. He listens out the window as a live-action Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd (Charlie is the dummy, remember. Along with Mortimer. Edgar was the ventriloquist. Everyone seems to mix that up) tells stories to a single little girl. (It’s actually kind of creepy that it’s just the two of them at this party.) Edgar then tells the story, which is Mickey and the Beanstalk.
I’ll stop to say — “Mickey and the Beanstalk” and the Ichabod section of that film are two of the most famous Disney shorts ever. If those films were in the same package film (which would never work, because they’re both kind of dark on the whole, and the idea of the half segments is that one be the lighter one and the other be the darker one. Only problem is — no one ever remembers the lighter one), that would have caused it to be ranked much higher. But alas, it isn’t.
But even if you haven’t seen this film, you’ve seen this segment.
This is basically Jack and the Beanstalk with Mickey as the main character. It begins in a happy valley, where a golden harp (with a female on it) sings happy tunes. But then the giant comes down and steals her and the happy dries up and becomes sad. We drop in on Mickey, Donald and Goofy, who live in squalor. They have to share a single bean amongst the three of them. Donald eventually goes crazy and grabs an axe to kill their only remaining cow because he’s so hungry. But they won’t do it, because the cow is their friend.
(I really should have screenshots of this. One of these days I’ll go back and get them and put them here. But for now you’re going to have to deal with this. And just watch the damn film on youtube. It’s not the original version, but as you can see in the related videos tab, the whole film is there. Options.)
But they go to sell the cow instead (because that’s much better). Mickey sells them for some magic beans, which grows all the way up into the clouds, into the giant’s land, where everything is giant. They get into the castle, where they find the harp, who says she was kidnapped by the giant. The giant shows up (who can grow and shrink himself and disappear, because apparently he knows magic). Mickey tries to trick the giant into turning into a fly, but then they have the harp sing him to sleep. Then Mickey climbs into the giant’s pocket and steals the key to the chest where the harp is locked. And they escape down the beanstalk, and cut it down as the giant comes down after them and he crashes.
And then we return to live action, as Bergen finishes the story. Mortimer is upset the giant died, but Bergen says that the giant never existed, so there’s nothing to be upset about. And then the giant comes and lifts up the roof of the house and asks if anyone saw a mouse. Bergen then faints as Jiminy goes back home and the giant sneaks off into Hollywood, lifting up the roofs of Grauman’s Chinese and putting the Brown Derby on his head like a hat, and walking off.
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Official Disney Number: #9
Run Time: 73 minutes
Release Date: September 27, 1947
Box Office: N/A
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- “I’m a Happy-Go-Lucky Fellow,” sung by Jiminy at the beginning.
- Lazy Countryside,” sung by Dinah Shore. I’m pretty sure this is right when Bongo escapes.
- “Too Good to be True,” sung by Dinah Shore over Bongo’s romantic fantasy sequence.
- “Say It With a Slap,” sung by Dinah Shore, as they explain how bears show affection.
- “My, What a Happy Day,” sung by the harp when they explain how awesome she is.
- “Fee Fi Fo Fum,” sung by the giant. It’s a pretty great song.
- “My Favorite Dream,” sung by the harp as she lulls the giant to sleep.
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(Above the line is live-action.)
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- This was the last time Walt Disney voiced Mickey Mouse. After this, he was too busy working on other projects to continue.
- Originally these were going to be two separate films. But the original script was completed the day after Pearl Harbor, so the films were shelved. But then Disney decided to do them as a package film as a way of saving money during the war (which is how we got this string of films).
- They were originally going to tie these shorts into the Disney universe. The plan was to include some of the supporting characters from Dumbo into the “Bongo” short, and there was also a scene in “Mickey and the Beanstalk” where Honest John and Gideon from Pinocchio swindle Mickey out of his cow for the magic beans.
- The Bongo story was inspired by a Sinclair Lewis story.
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1. The giant’s castle reminds me a lot of Snow White’s castle in the sky. (Or at the very least, this shot does. Not to mention the similarity to Sleeping Beauty, when Maleficent puts thorns in Prince Phillip’s way in front of the castle. Both of those are sort of visible in this shot.)
Also, Jiminy talks to a fish (which looks remarkably like Gepetto’s fish). I don’t have a shot of this, because apparently I was just drunk when I watched this movie.
Like I said, I don’t have many motifs or anything, which is probably because I’m just an idiot. If I see more on a further viewing, I’ll come back and put them in here. (Disney could help that along by releasing these older films on DVD and Blu-Ray, and making them easier to fucking find…Disney.)