This is part of an ongoing series where we watch each theatrical Disney Animated Classic and review it. To catch up with previous ones, please start here.
Fun and Fancy Free Review
This was called a “package film” – a compilation of two stories rather than one long one, so that the company could save money during WWII. These package films are what helped finance Cinderella, among other things, and helped keep the studio in business.
Just from the beginning, the intro song catches me. Then the familiar voice of Jiminy Cricket comes on as he’s floating down what looks like a little stream, but (spoiler alert) it’s some kind of houseplant thing. Jiminy is just being Jiminy, cruising around and being generally good-spirited about life. Which is what the title song is about, by the way. Then he comes across a record called “Bongo”, narrated by Dinah Shore. Bongo is a circus bear who did daring and amazing things like juggle on a unicycle, upside-down. You know, the usual.
But, despite all of his fame he was treated like a thing (sounds familiar, eh Dumbo?) and on the train to the next stop, he dreamed about wanted to escape. Eventually he starts going a bit insane – hearing voices, etc., until finally … he makes it out and into the wild! After some adjustments, Bongo is fitting right in with the other animals. Then, nighttime hits. Bugs, rain, lightning – all things he’s never had to deal with converge on the poor kid. Eventually, he falls in love, has to fight for her, and ultimately wins her heart.
Another segment with Jiminy, where he’s invited to a party in “the real world”, with Edgar Bergen the ventriloquist, who is also the narrator of this next segment called Mickey and the Beanstalk. This short went on to be aired at least twice later on, with Edgar Bergen being replaced by two different actors, one of which was the voice of everyone’s favorite ghost host, Mr. Paul Freese starring as the classic Ludwig von Drake.
This retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk was pitched with Mickey starring in the title role, and Donald Duck and Goofy as his backups, because of Mickey’s failing interest. Walt loved the idea so much that supposedly he was crying tears of joy during the pitch.
Our heroes go through the classic story: Mickey sells their cow for some magic beans, which Donald throws away and they roll under the house. That night, the beanstalk grows and takes them up, up into the sky where they encounter the giant’s castle. And giant food! At any rate, they fool the giant and escape. Again, spoiler alert. This short does have a cute ending, though: the giant visits the narrator’s house and then strolls off down Sunset, with the Hollywood sign in the background. Cute!
If you think of Bongo as a short and Mickey and the Beanstalk as the meat, it’s not a bad package. It was kind of cool to see the original host, even though the Ludwig von Drake addition was a good call. Honestly, Bongo was kind of boring, and would probably bore most kids. Mickey and the Beanstalk was engaging and is by far the best part of the Fun and Fancy Free package.