It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these Revisiting Disney entries, hasn’t it? Well, we’ve had a lot of other things going on, so no real chance to watch any other animated features. Until tonight, that is, when we took in Fun and Fancy Free. This one is a combination of two unrelated segments, “Bongo” and “Mickey and the Beanstalk.” Why they chose to package these two together isn’t entirely clear. It might have been due more to their lengths than anything else, although I guess they do both meet the theme of being fun cartoons rather than heavy stuff.
Anyway, after an introduction by Jiminy Cricket, we make our way into “Bongo,” which is narrated by Dinah Shore.
It’s the story of a circus bear who longs to escape his life of captivity, and eventually gets the chance to do so. After having some trouble adjusting to his new life in the wilderness, he falls in love with a female bear, and gets in a fight with a huge brute of a bear called Lumpjaw over her. The fight scene sort of put me in mind of Popeye with its exaggerated slapstick violence. Also, we learn that a bear apparently says “I love you” with a slap. Not sure if that’s true, but I guess it doesn’t count as domestic violence when it involves bears instead of people. This one was cute, but really did drag a bit. It probably would have worked better as a short, but what’s weird about that is that Walt originally wanted to do it as a full-length feature film.
I’ve heard of abridged versions of “Mickey and the Beanstalk” with different narrators, including Sterling Holloway and Ludwig von Drake. In the original, though, it’s narrated by ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, who was a huge star at the time. Live action framing sequences have him telling the story to a little girl, with help from his dummies Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. I can’t say I’m much of a fan of ventriloquism, and while parts of the narration are funny, I think the cartoon could have worked without these bits. Oh, well. The story involves Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy as poor farmers in Happy Valley, which hasn’t been so happy since Willie the Giant stole the magical singing harp. The three characters are now destitute, forced to share a single bean.
Donald totally snaps from hunger (you knew he’d be the first to go, didn’t you?), and first starts eating the utensils, and then tries to kill the cow with an axe, in a sequence that I’ve seen on a few “creepiest moments in Disney films” lists. After the other two calm him down, we get into the basic “Jack and the Beanstalk” plot with Mickey trading the cow for beans, the beanstalk growing, and an encounter with a giant.
Actually, there’s a bit of “Puss in Boots” in there as well, as Willie has the power to change shape. Mickey initially tries to trick him into turning into a fly so they can kill him, but he gets wise to it, and he gets help from the captured harp in saving his friends and the valley. The movie ends with Willie showing up at the birthday party, and then tramping around Hollywood looking for Mickey. The characterization of Willie doesn’t make him evil so much as an overgrown child who doesn’t know right from wrong. I have to wonder who’s cooking his food for him. Or is that just more evidence of his magical power? Willie would show up again as the Ghost of Christmas Present in Mickey’s Christmas Carol.
Overall, this wasn’t a bad feature, but wasn’t especially memorable either.