Fun and Fancy Free

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Fun and Fancy Free
Funfanposter.jpg
Original theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by Walt Disney
Story by
Starring
Narrated by
Music by
Edited by Jack Bachom
Production
company
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release dates
  • September 27, 1947 (1947-09-27)
Running time
73 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $2.4 million (US rentals)[1]

Fun and Fancy Free is a 1947 American animated musical package film produced by Walt Disney and released on September 27, 1947 by RKO Radio Pictures. It is the 9th Disney animated feature film and the fourth of the package films the studio produced in the 1940s in order to save money during World War II. The Disney package films of the late 1940s helped finance Cinderella, and subsequent others, such as Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.

The film is a compilation of two stories, the first of which, Bongo, is hosted by Jiminy Cricket and narrated by Dinah Shore. Based on the tale "Little Bear Bongo" by Sinclair Lewis, Bongo tells the story of a circus bear cub named Bongo who longs for freedom from captivity. Bongo escapes the circus and eventually forms a romantic relationship with a female bear cub named Lulubelle in the wild, realizing that he must prove himself in order to earn Lulubelle as his mate. The second story, Mickey and the Beanstalk, is hosted by Edgar Bergen and is a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk featuring Mickey, Donald, and Goofy as three peasants who discover the temperamental Willie the Giant's castle in the sky through the use of some magic beans. They must battle the greedy but lovable giant in order to restore peace to their valley. Mickey and the Beanstalk was the last time Walt Disney voiced Mickey Mouse, because he was too busy on other projects to continue voicing the famous character. Disney replaced himself with sound effects artist Jimmy MacDonald.

Plot[edit]

Bongo[edit]

Jiminy Cricket first appears inside a large plant in a large house, exploring and singing "I'm a Happy-go-Lucky Fellow", until he happens to stumble upon a doll, a teddy bear, and a record player with some records, one of which is Bongo, a musical romance story narrated by actress Dinah Shore. Jiminy decides to set up the record player to play the story of Bongo. The story follows the adventures of a circus bear named Bongo who wishes he could live freely in the wild. Bongo is raised in captivity and is praised for his performances, but is poorly treated once he is off stage. As such, while traveling by a circus train his natural instincts urge him to break free. As soon as he escapes and enters a forest, a day passes before his idealistic assessment of his new living situation has been emotionally shattered and he experiences some hard conditions. The next morning however, he meets a female bear named Lulubelle. The two fall in love, until Bongo immediately faces a romantic rival in the brutish, enormously-shaped bear named 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 much of their fight until the two fall into a river and go over a waterfall. While Lumpjaw is swept away and dies, Bongo's hat saves him from falling down and he finally can claim Lulubelle as his mate.

Mickey and the Beanstalk[edit]

This segment is narrated by Edgar Bergen in live-action sequences, who, with the help of his ventriloquist dummies Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd, tell the tale to child actress Luana Patten at her birthday party. The short later aired as an individual episode on a 1963 episode of Walt Disney's anthology TV series with new introductory segments. Ludwig Von Drake (voiced by Paul Frees) replaces Edgar Bergen as the narrator in the 1963 version, for which he has a Bootle-Beetle companion named Herman (replacing the sassy comments of Edgar Bergen's ventriloquist dummy Charlie McCarthy). A second version of the short was produced replacing Bergen with narration by Sterling Holloway, as a stand-alone short in such venues as the 1980s TV show, Good Morning, Mickey!. This short was one of many featured in Donald Duck's 50th Birthday. 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.

A jovial countryside land called Happy Valley, kept alive at all times by a singing harp, is suddenly plagued by a severe drought and falls into turmoil and depression after the harp is stolen from the castle by a giant (and also nicknamed "Gruesome Gulch"). The residents are driven into poverty and forced to leave in order to avoid death by starvation. Eventually, only three residents are left: Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. The trio have but just one loaf of bread and a single solitary bean to eat. One particular night, Mickey is forced to cut the bread into slices so ridiculously paper-thin that you could see right through them. Donald, driven to insanity by starvation, tries to chop up their cow with an axe, but is stopped by the combined efforts of Mickey and Goofy. Mickey then decides to sell the cow for money to buy food.

Goofy and Donald are excited about eating again and begin to sing about delicious dishes until Mickey comes back and reveals that he traded their beloved bovine for a container of beans, which he claims to be magical. An enraged Donald, thinking that Mickey had been tricked, furiously throws the beans down the floor and they fall through a hole. However, it turns out that the beans are truly magical after all as later that night, the light of a full moon causes a beanstalk to sprout from under the house and lift it far up into the sky.

The next morning, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy climb the gigantic beanstalk and enter a magical kingdom of enormous scope, where they appear to be tiny creatures compared to their surroundings. They eventually make their way to a huge castle, where they help themselves to a sumptuous feast. There they stumble across the harp locked in a small box, as she explains that she was kidnapped by a "wicked giant". Sure enough, just then, a giant named Willie that is nicknamed "gruesome gulch"emerges from the shadows, grunting angrily but then suddenly breaking into a happy song ("Fee Fi Fo Fum") and bouncing a ball about while demonstrating rather amazing powers like flight, invisibility, and shapeshifting.

As Willie prepares to eat lunch, he accidentally catches Mickey in his sandwich. Mickey sneezes when Willie pours pepper and tries to run away, but Willie catches him. Mickey plays palm reader and gains the childish giant's trust. Willie offers to show off his powers, and Mickey, spotting a nearby fly killer, asks him to change into a fly. However, Willie suggests turning into a pink bunny instead, and as he does he sees Mickey, Donald, and Goofy with the fly-swatter. Angry, Willie captures Mickey, Donald, and Goofy and locks them in the harp's chest so as to keep them from pulling any more tricks.

In order to escape, Mickey must find the key and rescue his friends, and does so with the help of the singing golden harp, who begins singing Willie to sleep. Mickey almost alerts Willie to his presence by sneezing after falling into a box of powder in Willie's pocket, but the same powder makes Willie sneeze and he loses sight of Mickey. Mickey frees his friends and they make a break for it with the harp. However, Willie wakes up from his sleep and spots them, giving chase all the way to the beanstalk. Mickey stalls him long enough for Donald and Goofy to reach the bottom and begin sawing the beanstalk. Mickey arrives just in time to finish the job of cutting down the beanstalk, and Willie, who was climbing down, falls to his apparent death.

Back in the narrator's home, the narrator (be it Ludwig Von Drake or Edgar Bergen) finishes his story and cheers up his companion (be it Herman or Mortimer Snerd), who was crying for Willie. Just as the narrator says that Willie is a fictional character and not real, Willie himself appears, alive and well, tearing the roof off the narrator's house. Willie inquires about Mickey's whereabouts, but the narrator faints in shock while the companion tells Willie goodnight. Before the scene closes, Willie notices The Brown Derby restaurant and picks up the building searching for any sign of Mickey and since the restaurant looks like a hat, places it on his head, and stomps off with the HOLLYWOOD lights blinking in the background.

Voice cast[edit]

Production[edit]

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. To boost his popularity, Disney and his artists created cartoons such as "Brave Little Tailor" and "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", which was later included in 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 Disney, he "burst out laughing with tears rolling down his cheeks with joy", as Cottrell and Hee later recalled. Disney enjoyed it so much he invited other employees to listen to their tale. However he said as much as he enjoyed it, the film would never go into production because as Disney claimed, they "murdered [his] characters".[2] However, Cottrell and Hee were able to talk Disney into giving it the greenlight and story development as The Legend of Happy Valley, which commenced on May 2, 1940.[3]

The original treatment remained more-or-less the same in the 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".[3] 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 cut when the story was trimmed for Fun and Fancy Free and the film does not explain how Mickey got the beans.

Shortly after the rough animation on Dumbo was complete in May 1941, The Legend of Happy Valley went into production, using many of the same cast, although RKO doubted it would be a success.[4] Since it was a simple, low-budget film, in six months fifty minutes was 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 serious debts so Disney put The Legend of Happy Valley on hold.[4]

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,[3] 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 the character was ultimately dropped when condensing the story.[3] Bongo and Chimpy also encountered two mischievous bear cubs who were dropped.[3] Originally, the designs for the characters were more realistic, but when paired for Fun and Fancy Free the designs were simplified and drawn more cartoony.[3] The script was nearly completed by December 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.[3]

On that same day the army came into the studio and would take over all production. 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 produce instructional and propaganda films. During and after the war Disney stopped producing single narrative feature films due to costs and decided to "package" animated shorts to make feature films, a package film. He did this during the war on Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros and continued after the war until he had enough money to make a single narrative feature again.

Disney felt that since the animation of Bongo and The Legend of Happy Valley (renamed Mickey and the Beanstalk) was not sophisticated enough to be a Disney animated feature film, the artists decided to include the story in a package film.[4] At first Disney wanted Mickey and the Beanstalk 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.[2]

Disney had provided the voice for Mickey Mouse since his debut in 1928, and Fun and Fancy Free was the last time he would voice the role, since he no longer had the time or energy to do so. This was sound effect artist Jimmy MacDonald's first turn at doing Mickey's voice, as he dubbed in additional lines due to the fact that Disney recorded most of Mickey's dialogue in the spring and summer of 1941. Disney however, reprised the role for the introduction to the original 1955-1959 run of The Mickey Mouse Club.[5]

Celebrities Edgar Bergen and Dinah Shore introduced the segments in order to appeal to a mass audience. Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio sings "I'm a Happy-go-Lucky Fellow", a song written for and cut from Pinocchio before its release.[3]

Directing animators[edit]

Reception[edit]

Fun and Fancy Free received mostly positive reception. Rotten Tomatoes reported that the film has a 71% approval rating based on 7 reviews, with an average score of 6/10. The site's consensus reads, "Though it doesn't quite live up to its title, Fun and Fancy Free has its moments, and it's a rare opportunity to see Mickey, Donald, and Goofy together."[6]

Home media[edit]

Fun and Fancy Free was released first released on VHS in 1982. It was re-released on VHS in 1997 and 2000. It was released on laserdisc in 1997, and on DVD in 2000. In 2004, the theatrical version of Mickey and the Beanstalk was 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 narrating, is available as part of the Disney Animation Collection (Volume 1).

The two shorts were also released by themselves. Mickey and the Beanstalk and Bongo were released separately in 1988 and 1989 respectfully 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 released in the Walt Disney Mini-Classics line. This version was then re-released in 1994, as part of Disney 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, 2014.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Top Grossers of 1947", Variety, January 7, 1948 p 63
  2. ^ a b Gabler, Neal (2006)"Walt Disney: The Triumph of American Imagination", Alfred A. Knopf Inc, New York City
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "The story behind Fun and Fancy Free", Disney VHS, 1997
  4. ^ a b c Barrier, Michel (1999) Hollywood Cartoons Oxford University Press, United Kingdom
  5. ^ Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color - Volume 2 (Bonus Material "Color Titles from 'The Mickey Mouse Club')
  6. ^ "Fun & Fancy Free (1947)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 31, 2016. 

External links[edit]