Fun and Fancy Free
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|Fun and Fancy Free|
Original theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jack Kinney (animation)
Bill Roberts (animation)
Hamilton Luske (animation)
William Morgan (live-action)
|Produced by||Walt Disney|
|Written by||Homer Brightman
Sinclair Lewis (original author of Bongo)
|Music by||Oliver Wallace
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.|
|Running time||73 minutes|
Fun and Fancy Free is a 1947 animated feature produced by Walt Disney and released by RKO Radio Pictures on September 27, 1947. It was one of the "package films" (feature-length compilations of shorter segments) that the studio produced in the 1940s. It is the 9th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, and the fourth package film by Disney.
The "Mickey and the Beanstalk" portion of the film was the last time Walt Disney voiced Mickey Mouse, as he was too busy working on other projects to continue voicing the famous character. Disney replaced himself with sound effects artist Jimmy MacDonald.
This film features two segments: Bongo and Mickey and the Beanstalk. Jiminy Cricket first appears inside a large plant in a large house, exploring it and singing "I'm a Happy-go-Lucky Fellow" until he happens to stumble upon a doll, a teddy bear, a record player, and some records, and sets it up to play the story of Bongo.
This segment is based on the tale "Little Bear Bongo" by Sinclair Lewis, following a circus bear named Bongo who wishes to live free in the wild. Bongo is raised in captivity and greatly praised for his performances, but poorly treated off stage. As such, while travelling by train his natural instincts urge him to break free. Once he does and enters a forest, it takes about a day before his idealistic assessment of his new living situation is shattered and he is faced with some hard conditions. The next morning however he meets a female bear named Lulubelle. The two of them fall in love, but he is immediately faced with a romantic rival in the brutish, enormously-shaped Lumpjaw. Bongo fails to interpret Lulubelle slapping him as a sign of affection and when she accidentally slaps Lumpjaw, he claims her for himself, forcing all other bears into a celebration for the "happy" new couple. Bongo comes to understand the meaning of slapping one another among wild bears and returns to challenge Lumpjaw. He manages to outwit Lumpjaw for most of their fight until the two fall into a river and go over a waterfall. While Lumpjaw is swept away, Bongo's hat saves him from falling down and he can finally claim Lulubelle as his mate.
Bongo is narrated by Dinah Shore.
This segment is an adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy as peasants who discovered temperamental Willie the Giant's castle in the sky through the use of some magic beans.
Mickey and the Beanstalk was narrated by Edgar Bergen in live-action sequences, who, with the help of his ventriloquist dummies Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd, told the tale to child actress Luana Patten at her birthday party.
A third version of Mickey and the Beanstalk was on the Disney television show "The Mouse Factory", which aired from 1972 to 1974. This version starred Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop.
Mickey, Donald and Goofy lived in a place called "Happy Valley", which was plagued by a severe drought, after a golden harp who sang to make people happy, was stolen from a nearby castle in Happy Valley. The trio had nothing to eat except one loaf of bread and a single bean; in a memorable scene the bread was cut into paper-thin slices. After Donald, driven insane by hunger, broke the fourth wall and attempted to kill their cow with an axe, Mickey decides to trade the cow for money to buy food. Goofy and Donald are excited that they'll be able to eat until Mickey comes back and reveals he traded in their beloved bovine for magic beans. Thinking that Mickey got tricked, Donald furiously threw the beans and they fell through a hole in the floor. However, it turns out the beans were magic as later that night, a beanstalk sprouted and it carried (and rips apart) their house upward as it grew. Climbing the gigantic beanstalk they entered a magical kingdom of equal scope, and entering the castle, Mickey, Donald and Goofy helped themselves to a sumptuous feast. This roused the ire of Willie the Giant, who is able to transform himself into anything. When they were spotted by Willie, Mickey spotted a fly-swatter and asked Willie to demonstrate his powers, by turning into a fly. Willie initially suggested turning into a pink bunny, but when he agreed to their request, he turned into a pink bunny anyway, and spotted Mickey, Donald, and Goofy with the fly-swatter. Disappointed and angry, Willie captured Mickey, Donald, and Goofy and locked them in a box to keep them from causing anymore tricks. Mickey however escaped. It was up to Mickey to find the key and rescue them, with the help of the singing golden harp. Once freed, the hapless heroes returned the golden harp to her rightful place and Happy Valley to its former glory, killing the giant by chopping down the beanstalk (the ending is never actually shown, but is told to be a happy ending).
The cartoon ends with Willie the Giant (having survived the fall) stomping through Hollywood looking for Mickey Mouse. Before the scene closes, Willie notices The Brown Derby restaurant and picks up the building looking for Mickey and notices the restaurant looks like a hat, places it on his head, and stomps off with the HOLLYWOOD lights blinking in the background.
- Edgar Bergen – himself, Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd
- Luana Patten – herself
- Dinah Shore – singer, narrator of Bongo
- Cliff Edwards – Jiminy Cricket
- Walt Disney and Jimmy MacDonald – Mickey Mouse
- Clarence Nash – Donald Duck
- Pinto Colvig – Goofy
- Billy Gilbert – Willie the Giant
- Anita Gordon – singing harp
- Candy Candido - Lumpjaw the black bear (growls) (uncredited)
During the 1940s, Mickey and the Beanstalk and Bongo were originally going to be developed as two separate feature films.
In the late 1930s, Mickey's popularity fell behind Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto and Max Fleischer's Popeye. In order to boost his popularity, Walt Disney and his artist created cartoons such as The Brave Little Tailor and The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which later became a part of the feature film Fantasia. In early 1940 during production on Fantasia, animators Bill Cottrell and T. Hee pitched the idea of a feature film based on Jack and the Beanstalk starring Mickey Mouse as Jack, with Donald Duck and Goofy as supporting characters. When they pitched it to Walt, he "burst out laughing with tears rolling down his cheeks with joy", as Cottrell and Hee later recalled. Walt enjoyed it so much he invited other employees to listen to it. However he said as much as he enjoyed it, the film would never be put into production because as Walt claimed that they "murdered [his] characters". However, Cottrell and Hee were able to talk Walt into giving it the greenlight and story development of The Legend of Happy Valley commenced on May 2, 1940.
The original treatment remained more-or-less the same than what ended up in the final film. However there were a few deleted scenes. For example there was a scene in which Mickey took the cow to market where he meets Honest John and Gideon from Pinocchio who con him into trading his cow for the "magic beans". Another version had a scene where Mickey gave the cow to the Queen (played by Minnie Mouse) as a gift, and in return she gave him the magic beans. However, both scenes were later cut when the story was tightened for Fun and Fancy Free and the film does not explain how Mickey got the beans.
Shortly after rough animation on Dumbo was complete in May 1941, The Legend of Happy Valley was put into production, using many of the same cast, although RKO doubted it would be a success. Since it was a simple, low-budget film, in six months fifty minutes had been animated on "Happy Valley". Then on October 27, 1941, due to the Disney animators' strike and World War II which had cut off Disney's foreign release market caused the company to be in serious debt so Disney put The Legend of Happy Valley on hold.
Meanwhile, production was starting on Bongo, a film based on the short story written by Sinclair Lewis for Cosmopolitan magazine in 1930. It was suggested that Bongo could be a prequel to Dumbo and some of the cast from the 1941 film would appear as supporting characters, however the idea never fully materialized. In earlier drafts Bongo had a chimpanzee as a friend and partner in his circus act. He was first called "Beverly" then "Chimpy", but was ultimately dropped when condensing the story. Bongo and Chimpy also encountered two mischievous bear cubs who were also dropped. Originally, the designs for the characters were more realistic, but when paired for Fun and Fancy Free the designs were simplified and made more cartoony. The script was nearly completed by December 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
On that same day the army came into the studio, and asked them to help out with something, which would take over all productions. Due to this Bongo was put on hold, along with Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Wind in the Willows, Song of the South and The Legend of Happy Valley. During the war the military asked the Disney studio to mainly produce propaganda films. During and after the war Walt stopped producing single narrative feature films due to the high costs and decided to "package" animated shorts together to make a feature film, a package film. He did this during the war on Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros and continued doing them after the war until he had enough money to make a single narrative feature again.
Walt felt since the animation of Bongo and The Legend of Happy Valley (which had been renamed Mickey and the Beanstalk) was not as sophisticated enough to be a standard Disney animated feature film, the artists then decided that they would be more convenient as part of a package film. At first Walt wanted Mickey and the Beanstalk to be paired with Wind in the Willows (which was in production around this time), under the new title Two Fabulous Characters. However Mickey and the Beanstalk was cut from Two Fabulous Characters and paired with Bongo instead. Two Fabulous Characters eventually added The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and was re-titled The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad.
Disney had provided the voice for Mickey Mouse since his debut in 1928, and Fun and Fancy Free was the last time that he would regularly do the role, since he no longer had the time or the energy to do so. This was also sound effects artist Jimmy MacDonald's first time doing Mickey's voice, as he dubbed in some additional lines due to the fact that Disney recorded most of Mickey's dialogue in the spring and summer of 1941. Disney would, however, later reprise the role for the introductions to the original 1955-1959 run of The Mickey Mouse Club.
Celebrities like Edgar Bergen and Dinah Shore were cast to introduce the segments in order to appeal to a mass audience. Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio was also placed in the scene in which he sings "I'm a Happy-go-Lucky Fellow", a song written for and cut out of Pinocchio before its release.
- Ward Kimball (Jiminy Cricket, Donald Duck, Lumpjaw)
- Les Clark (Singing Harp, Lulubelle)
- John Lounsbery (Willie the Giant)
- Fred Moore (Mickey)
- Wolfgang Reitherman (Goofy)
- Art Babbitt (Bongo)
Release and reception
The film was released on September 27, 1947 and met fairly decent reception. The Disney package films of the late 1940s helped finance the 1950 movie Cinderella, and subsequent others, such as Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.
TV broadcasts and home video releases
Although the two shorts were not made into individual full-length features, as was the original intention, they did air as individual episodes on Walt Disney's anthology TV series in the 1950s and 1960s. Mickey and the Beanstalk, in particular, aired on a 1963 episode with new introductory segments, and Ludwig Von Drake's narration (voiced by Paul Frees) replacing Edgar Bergen (and the sassy comments of his ventriloquist dummy Charlie McCarthy). Another version of Beanstalk replaced Bergen with narration by Sterling Holloway, which was used as a stand-alone short in such venues as the 1980s TV show, Good Morning, Mickey!. This short was also one of the many featured in Donald Duck's 50th Birthday.
In 1982, Fun and Fancy Free was released in its entirety on VHS. It was re-released on VHS in 1997 and 2000. It was also released on laserdisc in 1997, and on DVD in 2000. In 2004, the theatrical version of Mickey and the Beanstalk was also released as a bonus feature on the Walt Disney Treasures set Mickey Mouse In Living Color, Volume Two. The TV version, featuring Ludwig Von Drake as the narrator, is available as part of the Disney Animation Collection (Volume 1).
The two shorts were also released by themselves. Bongo and Mickey and the Beanstalk were released separately 1988 in the Walt Disney Mini Classics line. In this case, Bongo is similar to the one that aired on the anthology series, in a 1955 episode, which uses Jiminy Cricket's narration and singing replacing Dinah Shore's. Similarly, the Ludwig Von Drake version of Mickey and the Beanstalk was the version released in the Mini Classics. This version was then re-released in 1993, as part of Disney's Favorite Stories collection. "Fun and Fancy Free" was released in a 2-Movie collection Blu-ray with The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad on August 12.
The video and TV releases of Mickey and the Beanstalk have different edits in many parts:
- In the TV version the opening scene where "Happy Valley" is shown being developed as a vision is absent.
- In some VHS releases,[which?] the scream of the harp is edited out when the giant first kidnaps her.
- In the TV version, the scene where Mickey, Donald and Goofy are walking through the giant's footsteps is edited out.
- In some VHS releases, the dragonfly scene was shortened to the part where the fish eats it. The reason is unknown, but probably due to references to World War II.
- In some VHS releases, the clip of Goofy diving into the gelatin, trying to retrieve his hat, was shortened to him diving into the walnut bowl.
- The TV version had some additional music added to some parts[where?].
- In the theatrical version, when Willie wakes up from his sleep to chase after Mickey and the others, Luana is heard saying, "Oh!". This was edited out of the TV version, but some VHS releases have left it in.
- Gabler, Neal (2006)"Walt Disney: The Triumph of American Imagination", Alfred A. Knopf Inc, New York City
- "The story behind Fun and Fancy Free", Disney VHS, 1997
- Barrier, Michel (1999) Hollywood Cartoons Oxford University Press, United Kingdom
- Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color - Volume 2 (Bonus Material "Color Titles from 'The Mickey Mouse Club')
- Official website
- Fun and Fancy Free at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- Fun and Fancy Free at the Internet Movie Database
- Fun and Fancy Free at Rotten Tomatoes