Disney Film History: Fun and Fancy Free
The package film era is a difficult one to write about. Many of the Disney films of the 1940s were just longer pieces that were cut down, turned into shorts, and compiled together for the sake of getting a product out there. Many of them made money and we can be glad for that because the Disney company wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for these films and the government help the studio got in exchange for propaganda and other things. When it came time to research for Fun and Fancy Free, I didn’t think the information would be plentiful and it would be a repeat of what I had said about the film Make Mine Music or The Three Caballeros. What I found was a plethora of information that makes Fun and Fancy Free a serious piece of history.
Let’s start with the stories. Unlike Make Mine Music, this film is made up of only two short pieces: Bongo and Mickey and the Beanstalk. Each have a unique story and for their sake, I’ll be telling both and splitting this article in half so-to-speak. What ties these two shorts together are segments that give this film a bit of credibility from the get go. Before our first short, Bongo, we meet up with Jiminy Cricket, our old friend from Pinocchio, as he discovers a record of the story. Of course, the record is of Dinah Shore, a popular singer of the period. The choice was probably made due to the success of using contemporary musical artists in Make Mine Music, never-the-less, Dinah Shore narrates our story and does it beautifully. The interlude between Bongo and Mickey and the Beanstalk includes famous ventriloquist Edgar Bergen. Jiminy is invited to a party featuring the entertainer and Bergen puts on his classic act with his dummies Charlie and Mortimer. If you’ve never seen there act, do go out of your way to see it. Bergen is the most superior ventriloquist to ever perform, plus his act is clean so all ages can enjoy it. The segments between the two shorts really gives the film a smooth feel and helps elevate it with the star power involved, but let’s move on to the actual shorts and what they mean in the long run.
The first short, Bongo, was actually a short story written by Sinclair Lewis for Cosmopolitan Magazine in 1930. Lewis was a satirical writer usually criticizing American society and pop culture so this short story was a stretch for him. (A circus bear that feels desperate to leave the circus and live in the wild, while at the same time falling in love with another bear at the circus.) The original plan from Disney was to purchase the rights to the story from Lewis and release this film in the 1940s as a full length animated sequel to Dumbo. Ideas soon got nixed and Bongo became it’s own story filled with all sorts of animals, but when World War II started, the full length version was shortened into what we have now. It’s a cute tale with Bongo and his love interest, Lulubelle, looking more cartoonish while the world around them looks more realistic. It’s stunning to look at visually, but because of the shortened story, isn’t memorable enough to make anyone’s top 10 list. I’d be interested in seeing what they could have down with this film if WWII didn’t happen, but the film may not have made money if that weren’t the case.
The second short in Fun and Fancy free was deliberately placed second, or last, because of the star power involved with Mickey Mouse. It’s interesting to note that Mickey and the Beanstalk involves the trio of Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, and this marks Mickey’s second feature film, but Donald takes the cake as this is his third appearance in a feature film, making Donald more visible than the icon Mickey Mouse, but I digress. Mickey and the Beanstalk had been a story Disney had played with before. The shorts “The Brave Little Tailor” and Giantland” tell a similar story, so I think Walt knew that the Mickey segment of this film would be a sure thing. The short stands out for another reason, maybe a reason some of us don’t know. Walt Disney had been the voice of Mickey Mouse ever since Steamboat Willy, but as age, smoking, and the workload at the studio caught up with Walt, he opted to give up the voice to someone else. Fun and Fancy Free marks the last time Walt Disney was the permanent voice of Mickey Mouse. Another interesting minor note is the film was cut down due to it’s combo with Bongo. The original story had Minnie Mouse giving Mickey the magic beans. Up to this point in the new millennium, almost 100 years of Disney full length animation, Minnie has never appeared in a feature length animated film, but she would have if Mickey and the Beanstalk was not shortened.
All in all, Fun and Fancy Free became a financial and critical success. That being said, the package films of the 1940s roll on to help fund the movies of the 1950s, but we aren’t there yet. We still have more films of the 40s to cover. Could I say Fun and Fancy Free is my favorite of the package films, no, in fact, it might be my personal choice for least favorite. It’s shortened stories seem to have burdened the possible full length features each of these two stories could have been, however the film is good and after doing some serious research, realize that this film played a significant role in Disney history.
What are your thoughts on Fun and Fancy Free? Have you seen the whole film or have you only seen it in segments? Leave your comments below and keep the conversation rolling.
Posted on July 19, 2013, in Articles, The Whole Picture and tagged Dinah Shore, Disney, Donald Duck, fancy free, Fun, Fun and Fancy Free, History, Jiminy Cricket, Josh Taylor, Mickey Mouse, Modern Mouse Radio, package films, Review, Walt, Whole Picture, WWII, Xbox. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.