Fun and Fancy Free Review

Fun and Fancy Free is the fourth film in Walt Disney Animation’s first dark age, better known as the “Package film era.” In the wake of World War II, with resources and staff dwindling (some even drafted), the Walt Disney Company was forced to cut corners with their animated features. Unable to create something of the same scale, scope and detail as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves or Pinocchio, Disney instead opted to emphasize short films,  package them together, and release them as a ‘feature film.’ Though the circumstances couldn’t be helped, suffice to say this era of Disney is often forgotten for a reason.

Following Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros and Make Mine Music, Fun and Fancy Free continued the package film trend, and didn’t exactly improve on it. Fun and Fancy Free cuts down the number of featured shorts to two, and while that does make for a more focused film than its predecessors, it also means it has less chances to win the audience over to this format. Not to mention the segments in between the two shorts are the most padded yet.

The two featured shorts are Bongo, the tale of a circus bear who escapes into the forest and falls in love with a girl bear, invoking the wrath of a brutish villain bear, and Mickey and the Beanstalk, the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, but with Mickey, Donald and Goofy in the lead roles.

The film begins with Jiminy Cricket – yes, Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio – wandering around a random house, singing a happy song while encountering a goldfish and a black cat (who are not Cleo and Figaro from Pinocchio, by the way), before stumbling on a porcelain doll and a teddy bear next to a record player. Among these records is Bongo, the aforementioned bear romance story, which happens to be narrated by actress Dinah Shore (this movie was released in 1947, so you’d be forgiven for not being familiar with who that is). Inspired by the perceived love of the (quite inanimate) doll and teddy bear, Jiminy Cricket decides to play the Bongo record, which is where the first short begins.

After Bongo finishes, Jiminy Cricket happens upon a birthday invitation, with said party just so happening to be going on at that time. So Jiminy makes his way to the party to get some free cake, and this is where the filler segments get weird. It turns out the birthday party is for child actress Luana Patten, and takes place in the very much live-action world. Patten is being entertained at her party by famed ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, as well as his two then very famous (now just plain creepy) ventriloquist dummies Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. Bergen then tells the story of Mickey and the Beanstalk, with Charlie and Mortimer giving their own commentary with annoying frequency.

This just blows my mind on so many levels. First of all, the fact that Jiminy Cricket is in this movie just feels so strange. I know he’s one of Disney’s most iconic characters, but unlike Mickey, Donald or Goofy, who were “cartoon stars” who would be cast in different roles while retaining their core personalities, Jiminy Cricket was a character in an animated feature film. He was a key character in a defined narrative. So while the characters of the Mickey Mouse universe make sense to be used in package films like this, it just seems so weird to have a character like Jiminy Cricket show up in something that has no actual connection to Pinocchio.

“Ummm… No.”

Second, if you’re going to have Jiminy Cricket serve as the segue between the shorts, why not have Jiminy Cricket narrate the shorts himself? At least then his presence would make more sense. Instead, we have actors and entertainers from the late 1940s narrate the stories while Jiminy just kind of listens. It’s pretty transparent that Disney was in some desperate times that they had to utilize star power and resurrect a character from a previous and infinitely better movie in order to sell this movie. Sure, celebrities are a big part of animated features today, but they actually voice characters in the movies, they don’t just show up as themselves in live-action segments like some kind of guest star.

With all due respect to Edgar Bergen and Dinah Shore, watching this movie in 2020 feels like unearthing some kind of time capsule by their presence. I mean, part of the allure of animation is its timeless appeal. So it just seems so weird to have a Disney movie so overtly (if unintentionally) date itself. Had Bergen and Shore voiced some of the actual characters in the shorts, that’d be fine, but the fact that the movie feels the need to tell (and show) the audience which stars from decades ago are narrating the shorts is just so strange.

Enough with the filler segments. What about the shorts themselves? Well, like the previous package films, there’s really nothing too special about them. I suppose Mickey and the Beanstalk has the appeal of being one of the rare instances of Mickey, Donald and Goofy sharing the screen together, and it also has the little bit of trivia as being the last time Walt Disney himself voiced Mickey Mouse. Mickey and the Beanstalk is decently entertaining enough, and introduced audiences to Willie the Giant (the dude  what played the role of the Ghost of Christmas Present in Mickey’s Christmas Carol, in case you always wondered who the hell that was), but it’s nothing spectacular. And whenever Mickey and the Beanstalk starts to pick up some steam, it’s either interrupted by the constant nagging of those ventriloquist dummies, or flat-out cuts away back to said live-action segments.

It’s just kind of weird how the characters of the Mickey Mouse universe – Disney’s supposed ‘signature characters’ – were only put into Disney’s animated features when they needed to sell one of these package films. Is asking for a proper Disney movie starring Mickey, Donald and Goofy really asking for too much?

As for Bongo, well, it’s probably best that Fun and Fancy Free gets this one out of the way first. Because it honestly feels like it could be any Disney short from the time, but stretched unnecessarily long. This short in itself is around a half hour, but it feels longer than that. It’s the definition of a mediocre short, which may have been more charming if it were all the shorter.

There are moments of enjoyment in Fun and Fancy Free (namely those that involve Mickey, Donald and Goofy with as little interruptions as possible), but like the package films before it, it doesn’t feel like it belongs in the official Disney canon of animated films. Films like The Nightmare Before Christmas (one of the most beloved animated films from the 1990s) aren’t part of the primary Disney canon, so why are these shoddily made time-savers from the Package Film Era? Granted, I don’t think any of these package films holds the distinction of being the worst Disney movie ever, but none of them are particularly good, and they aren’t even much in the way of movies themselves.

The Mickey short is decent enough, but Bongo is kind of a slog, and the filler segments feel more padded and pointless than ever.

Three Caballeros was probably the highlight of this era, if for no other reason than its utter insanity and surrealism. But Fun and Fancy Free has none of that. But it does have ventriloquist dummies!

Jiminy Crickets…




Author: themancalledscott

Born of cold and winter air and mountain rain combining, the man called Scott is an ancient sorcerer from a long-forgotten realm. He’s more machine now than man, twisted and evil. Or, you know, he could just be some guy who loves video games, animations and cinema who just wanted to write about such things.

3 thoughts on “Fun and Fancy Free Review”

    1. It’s possible you may have seen the Mickey short on its own, as a number of the shorts from the package films were later released separately (which really makes me wonder why the package films are part of the official lineup of Disney animation).


      1. In my opinion the only way to watch Mickey and The Beanstalk is to watch it paired with The story of Bongo in Fun And Fancy Free. Even if you don’t like The Bongo segment which I personally don’t understand how anyone could dislike or hate Bongo. But even so The best way to watch Mickey And The Beanstalk is to watch it in Fun And Fancy Free because if you watch Mickey And The Beanstalk by itself your watching it edited. For instance inthe individual home video releases they edit the part where Mickey, Donald, and Goofy encounter GIANT DRAGONFLIES and Donald decides to be a MASSIVE DICK and antagonizes one of the GIANT DRAGONFLIES by pretending to shoot it down which causes said GIANT DRAGONFLY to attack them. If your watching Mickey And The Beanstalk by itself the GIANT DRAGONFLY gets eaten immediately by a GIANT FISH which would later be reused animation 6 years later in Peter Pan where Tinker Bell almost gets eaten by several fish If you’re watching Mickey aAnd The Beanstalk in Fun And Fancy Free The GIANT DRAGONFLY DIVEBOMBS Mickey, Donald, and Goofy several times before getting eaten by The GIANT FISH. Also the separate home video releases they edit the scene where Goofy loses his hat on some jello. If you’re watching Mickey and The Beanstalk separately Goofy immediately falls into some cereal while trying to get his hat. In Fun And Fancy Free he spends about a minuet bouncing on a jello trampoline before he dives and swims thru the jello and crashlands into the cereal while trying to get his hat back. It’s been said that Walt Disney later edited The GIANT DRAGONFLY sequence for separate TV broadcasts and hone video releases where Donald Duck pretends to shoot down a GIANT DRAGNFLY and it DIVEBOMBS them in retaliation before it gets eaten by a GIANT FISH because there was an uproar from The Japanese American Community as well as American WWII Veterans who were survivors of Pearl Harbor. Because The GIANT DRAGONFLY scene was to similar to Japanese Fighter Pilots who INFAMOUSLY martyred themselves during Pearl Harbor by flying their planes Kamikaze into the Naval Ships. But there’s no explanation why Disney edited The Jello Trampoline sequence This is why I recommend you watch Fun And Fancy Free rather than watching Mickey And The Beanstalk separately even you dislike The story of Bongo. And I love Bongo not as much as Micky and The Beanstalk. But I do love The story of Bongo. The animation in Bongo is spectacular to the point where the trees and the mountains and the grass and the water and the waterfall are very convincingly photorealistic even now in 2021. There is a slight to moderate pacing problem in Bongo which isn’t in Mickey And The Beanstalk. And the story doesn’t start to gain momentum until LumpJaw Bongo’s antagonist and rival for Lulubelle’s affections shows up than Bongo starts to EPICLY KICK LumpJaw’s Ass with his unicycle. I also love the fact that Disney had his writers and animators research the mating habits of bears in the wild and in captivity. Because like it or not bears actually show affection for one another by slapping eachother. Whether it’s platonic friendships between two bears who are just friends or whether the bears are mating partners. I just found out today that several MILLENIAL AND ZOOMER SNOWFLAKES have problems with The story of Bongo, because the bears slap eachother in the film. But that’s what bears really do in the wild and in captivity. That is also what the bears did in Lewis Sinclair’s original short story of Bongo which ends very differently. In the original Bongo is rejected by the wild bears including his love interest SilverEar who becomes LumpJaw’s mate He wanders the wilderness until he comes across another Circus which he joins and finds his mate in captivity Anyway that’s my defense of The Story of Bongo in Fun And Fancy Free.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: