Phew! These package films are rough going. 2 more after this. The end is in sight…
I think for the first couple I was a little bit nicer than I should have been. They really are awful but I figured they had little to work with with the war, but I was thinking today recently I watched the Looney Tunes gold collection boxed sets and their golden era was also during the war and they were much more creative and funny and well done than any of these package films. My thoughts on Looney Tunes can be found here
So, I’m afraid I’m going to be tougher on Fun and Fancy Free, Ichabod and Mr Toad and Melody Time. I can tell you one thing I have never looked forward to watching Cinderella more in my life.
But today we are talking about Fun and Fancy Free. I don’t know if it is better or worse than the other package films or I’m just getting tired of them but certainly it is very thin gruel and in a way Make Mine Music took more chances so was more entertaining.
First of all, the name Fun and Fancy Free is a misnomer because there is nothing fancy or free. Fun is a toss up. It consists of two longer animated stories with Jiminy Cricket narrating and then it changes to a party with Edgar Bergen, Charlie McCarthy and kids.
Released in 1947 Fun and Fancy Free was an attempt by Disney to keep the studio afloat after being basically co-opted by the US Government for propaganda films. However, as I will show later other studios are still producing good animation at this time period so I am less forgiving of that excuse.
I am also so tired of music like this with the choral singing and long swaying loud instrumentals. It’s so boring and forgettable. It worked in Bambi because it was used in a few songs that were part of the plot but these 40s choral introductions are the worst. (I guess this is Dinah Shore and I’m not a fan)
The first segment Jiminy introduces us to is called Bongo and it is a strange piece of work but where Make Mine Music did strange for 6 minutes this is 30 so it tried my patience more
Bongo is a circus bear that yearns to live in nature outside of his circus cage. Eventually he breaks free and struggles with the forest where all the bears are three times bigger than Bongo except for one girl he immeditely falls in love with.
Disney at this point is big on the instant love but that is so boring. Even for an animated short it is boring.
But then it takes an unexpected and perplexing turn when the girl bear slaps Bongo as hard as she can. He feels sad but then he learns that evidently bears in the forest show love for each other when they slap. There is even a song about it…
I’m sorry Disney but I can’t endorse your Say it with a Slap song unless it’s a Saturday Night Live parody…
So that’s all of Bongo
Then Jiminy gets invited to a birthday party. And at this party is a little girl, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy (and other puppets). I know that Bergen is practically the father of ventriloquism and a comedic genius in the minds of many. However, I don’t think this particular movie is a good showcase of that ability. I hate to say it but I could see his lips moving every time the puppets spoke. Sometimes very visibly making the words with his mouth. I wish I could find a clip to show you.
Like I said, I’m sure he is brilliant but just not in this movie. It ends up coming off as kind of strange bordering on creepy.
After chit-chat we get to the best but still frustrating part of the film
Mickey and the Beanstalk
In this piece we tell the story of Jack and the Beanstalk but with Mickey as Jack. Mickey is living as a farmer in Happy Valley. They are happy and everything is growing because of a magic harp that plays peaceful music.
The harp is stolen and then the town turns to ruin. This leaves Mickey, Goofy and Donald with basically no food. The situation is bleak and low.
The starvation makes Donald have crazy eyes and do strange things with a hatchet.
In a strange choice they decide to make fee, fie, foe, fum a magic spell where the giant can change into anything he wants; although why he picks a giant pink bunny is never really explained. I might pick a dragon or eagle. Just saying
Mickey and the gang find the harp and need to take it from the giant which they do relatively easily. And seriously it all resolves in like 5 minutes. The harp is rescued and Happy Valley is back to it’s happy self.
Oh and the giant ends up in Hollywood looking down at Edgar and the little girl’s party. (A little strange to have a man, little girl, and 2 puppets at a child’s party…)
Mickey and the Beanstalk is fine but not especially memorable. Aside from the giant having magic there is no attempt to make it different and even those powers aren’t really used in an interesting way. If there ever was a phoned in fairy tale this was it. The only thing that makes it of real note is it is the last time Mickey is voiced by Walt Disney.
To see a much funnier and original version of Jack and the Beanstalk watch the Looney Tunes Jack Wabbit and the Beanstalk.
I think most people would agree Looney Tunes for the win.
It’s funnier. It’s shorter. It’s stranger. The iconic characters get more to do. It’s just more creative and interesting.
So, that’s it for Fun, Fancy Free. A bear that learns to slap women to show love (great message for kids…) and a 40 minute fairy tale bit that Warner Brothers did better in 7 minutes.
I hate to say it but this is my least favorite Disney so far. It’s not creative, funny, beautiful or unique. Bland, bland, bland and the live action sections don’t work and are awkward.
I’m giving this my lowest grade yet D-