“Fun and Fancy Free”

NOSTALGIA LANE MOVIE REVIEW: Our first stop in this kiddish marathon is “Fun and Fancy Free,” which stars Edgar Bergen (I Remember Mama, Charlie’s Haunt), Dinah Shore (Dinah! [TV series], Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick), Charlie McCarthy (Stage Door Canteen, You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man), Mortimer Snerd (Charlie McCarthy Detective, A Neckin’ Party), Luana Patten (Song of the South, Home from the Hill), and the voice work of Walt Disney (The Mickey Mouse Club [TV series], Fantasia), Anita Gordon (Paint Your Wagon, State Fair), Cliff Edwards (His Girl Friday, Gone with the Wind), Billy Gilbert (The Great Dictator, His Girl Friday), Clarence Nash (The Three Caballeros, Mickey’s Christmas Carol), and Pinto Colvig (Bozo’s Circus [TV series], Sleeping Beauty). It was written by Homer Brightman (Cinderella [1950], Bozo: The World’s Most Famous Clown [TV series]), Harry Reeves (The Adventures of Ichabod Crane and Mr. Toad, Saludos Amigos), Ted Sears (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Peter Pan [1953]), Lance Nolley (Bongo [Short], Paul Bunyan [Short]), Eldon Dedini (Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color [TV series]), and Tom Oreb (Alice in Wonderland [1951], Make Mine Music [Short]). This movie is a collection of two shorts: “Bongo,” the story of a circus bear who escapes into the wild; and “Mickey and the Beanstalk,” a twist on the folk tale involving Mickey (Disney), Donald (Nash), and Goofy (Colvig).

You know that gif on the internet that details Mickey cutting translucent slices of bread for his buds because they are poor? If not, that’s fine, but it comes from this film. Why I am telling you this, I have no idea. It may be the fact that the sequence I described is the only one I clearly remembered from this movie walking in. Of course I grew up on this flick, but not as much as most. I recall fondly loving the Mickey Mouse and giant beanstalk tale, but that was really the only portion my mind attached to, as I soon discovered that there was more to this VHS tape than a mouse, a duck, and a dog climbing up a giant beanstalk. Composed of two short films intertwined with breaks with Jiminy Cricket (Edwards), this “feature-length movie” has quite the background to it (which was included as a bonus feature at the end of the tape). For those who are interested, this release was sent to public by Walt Disney Productions in an attempt to gain more money during war times. The year was 1947 when this was put in theaters, and times leading up to that were extremely tough for the animation industry. While these shorts presented in the overall film were being created, animators were being sent to aid in World War II and Walt Disney himself was called to make animated featurettes geared to help the cause. It was a scrambled era for this Disney company, and in the heat of it Walt was accepting an array of ideas to keep his company afloat and champion of animation after coming off of the successes of movies like “Snow White,” “Pinocchio,” “Bambii,” and “Dumbo.” Many short films were created and subsequently bunched together as packages to make the feature-length titles released in theaters. It was to mimic the movie “Fantasia,” though the quality of these pictures didn’t reach its height looking at their ratings on many review sites. “Fun and Fancy Free” is among these pieces of cinema that fell short of high acclaim, and gives off the energy of a light trying to shine through a dark time. I enjoyed the animation presented by this feature. It’s always nice to see hand-drawn cartoons, as they inhibit better emotions than the 2D animation crafted nowadays. The two shorts given in this film, “Bongo” and “Mickey and the Beanstalk,” had similar yet different styles of animation, one being lighthearted and the other being dark. They each have their own special qualities, though I preferred Mickey’s short over Bongo’s. In fact, it wasn’t that much of a close race. To me, Bongo had a nice story, yet was too slow in pacing. A bear is mistreated in the circus, only to escape to the woods in order to have freedom. It was rather predictable for what it’s worth, besides the different direction it took towards the end. Once Bongo made it to the woods, everything slowed down; it essentially was a viewing of his discovery/walking around until the next story arc came. When it did, it took until the climax for things to get fun. I don’t look for all-out fun in Disney films in order for them to be good. Yes, that’s what the company is known for, but story should take precedence over everything besides characters. “Bongo” didn’t have much of a story, and was pretty much a nice look accompanied by narration/music from Dinah Shore, a big musician during that time. She had a beautiful voice, both for narrating and singing, and I enjoyed listening to the songs, even though the pacing didn’t do it any favors. Really, “Bongo” was just the opening act for “Mickey and the Beanstalk.” Once that short rolled, things moved in a quick pace. Comedy ensued rapidly, and I found myself laughing consistently at the genius narration/commentary of the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his pals Charlie and Mortimer. Once I saw these people on the screen, my mind took me back to my immense fears of the ventriloquist dummies. Anything that resembled a doll talking, besides “Toy Story,” creeped me out as a kid so they were obviously scary. Though they still give a creepy vibe today, I did laugh at their characters more. The story of this short is one we’ve all seen before. Heck, it’s been reincarnated in many animated films/shorts (a recent interpretation came in “Puss in Boots” a few years back). However, it is in the characters and funny dialogue/physicality that drives this plot home, and I enjoyed every minute of watching it. It’s actually what saved the rating of this feature believe it or not. The Jiminy Cricket moments sandwiched between these shorts as well as the introduction were nice, though only serving the purpose to segway into a short. I found myself studying his bits in terms of history rather than entertainment. You can really feel the vibe of war seeping in what Jiminy promotes. He was constantly talking about how people are always stressing and worrying about the end of the world, and need to take their mind off of things for a while, giving reason to this movie. We should all take moments to enjoy things in a “fun and fancy free” fashion, and I was fascinated in the hidden subtext. Sure, it’s not that deep once you know the meaning behind it, but it’s interesting to watch nonetheless. Overall, this was a movie that I liked looking back on, though found it unbalanced in quality. “Mickey and the Beanstalk” was genius, while “Bongo” was sub-par. There’s plenty of things to enjoy in this movie, however it falls short of being as legendary as other Disney releases. I’m sure kids will like it for the most part. My nine-year-old sibling seemed to have the same opinion as me about the whole thing, though he was itching to leave after sitting through ten minutes of “Bongo.” FINAL SCORE: 76%= Juicy Popcorn

Here is the trailer:

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