Top critical review
Dated but Fun and Fancy Free
on 21 June 2015
While none of the package features that the Disney Studios released during the aftermath of World War II have stayed very popular intact, elements from them are actually quite popular. In fact, it might be a surprise to learn that a few of their popular mid-length releases started out in these features. That’s certainly the case with one of the two segments from Fun and Fancy Free.
Jiminy Cricket is our host for this movie, and he opens it with the title song (a song that was written for him and then cut from Pinocchio.) After that song is over, he transitions into the two stories, but his overall part in the film is very small.
Up first is “Bongo”, the story of a circus bear who is trained to do all kinds of acts. He’s the star of the show, but when not in the big top, he’s a prisoner of the owners. All that changes when he discovers his cage is unlocked one day and makes a daring escape into the wild. But will the bear be able to survive on his own? And what will happen when he meets up with other bears?
This portion is told by Dinah Shore, who sings a few songs that go along with the film. There’s no spoken dialogue between characters. Animals in a Disney film not talking – shocking isn’t it? Still, the story is fairly entertaining and contains some great physical comedy as only a cartoon can do. As it turns into a romance, the comedy keeps coming, and that part of the story is just as entertaining.
I’d guess that most kids would actually enjoy this short with the exception of the music. While popular for the 1940’s, the style is definitely dated today. If kids are young enough, they probably won’t care. Still, it’s probably not something they would be clamoring to watch over and over again.
The second feature is “Mickey and the Beanstalk,” and this is the one that I was surprised to learn had originated in a longer film the first time I watched this movie. It’s Disney take on the classic tale with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy in the roll of Jack and a giant who possesses some magic. DisNerds will be interested to note that this was the last time Walt regularly provided the voice of Mickey.
Yes, the characters actually talk here, and the voice casting is perfect. In addition to our three heroes and the Giant, there’s also a singing harp. That means we get several new songs, but they seem to fit typical Disney movies of the era, and I would guess that kids will actually enjoy them. I know I did when I was a kid.
This story is told by Edgar Bergen, a ventriloquist of the day, and it cuts away occasionally to him, his puppets, and a little girl who is celebrating her birthday. This is the only live action in the film. Parts of it are certainly fun, but I feel it slows down the story overall. Or maybe it’s just the fact that I grew up watching “Mickey and the Beanstalk” without those live action interruptions. Either way, I feel this part is dated and might turn off kids. I wish for DVD releases they had included just the animated portions as an extra.
While both of these stories have the ability to entertain kids, I think the dated elements will keep them from requesting Fun and Fancy Free on a regular basis. However, die hard Disney fans will still enjoy having it in their collection as a stepping stone from World War II into the animated films of the 1950’s.