Disney Classics #9: Fun and Fancy FreePosted: April 24, 2017
This movie is essentially a double feature of shorter stories, and both parts are pretty decent, if flawed.
The linking device is Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards), who sets up both stories. Firstly he arrives in a playroom where he plays a record which plays music by Dinah Shore that serves as narration for the first part.
This deals with the story of Bongo, a circus bear who fed up of his “gilded cage” escapes and winds up living in the woods. He struggles to adapt at first but soon finds his feet and falls for Lulubelle.
Unfortunately, having been raised in the circus he has no idea of bear courtship rituals which apparently involve slapping each other, and he is hurt when Lulubelle strikes him. Lulubelle then gets grabbed by the hulking, bullying Lumpjaw. When Bongo realises his mistake he runs back to Lulubelle and fights off his rival.
I kinda dug this part because the story is quite well done and the action is madcap and fun. There’s also a marvellously surreal sequence as Bongo and Lulubelle fall in love, which is rather trippy. I also like that as with Dumbo the film is pretty hard on how circuses treat animals, which is quite ahead of it’s time. There are a few parts when it drags a little and the song isn’t particularly catchy, but it still mostly works.
Jiminy then finds a invitation to a party and goes to it. Here he arrives at the weirdest party ever. I get that this film comes from a more innocent era, but for a modern viewer it’s kinda weird that a grown man throws a party for a little girl which is only attended by her and his two ventriloquist dummies. I guess that in the context of the film the ventriloquist dummies are meant to be real characters, but it still feels odd. Why not throw in another couple of kids?
Also, ventriloquist dummies are creepy as hell anyway, but one of them in particular, Mortimer, will haunt my dreams.
The ventriloquist, Edgar Bergen, then narrates the story of “Mickey and the Beanstalk”, with the dummies throwing in gags along the way. Some of these gags actually work, and the dummy Charlie offers sarky commentary and postmodern nods to the story. The story is of course Jack and the Beanstalk but with Mickey in the role, accompanied by Goofy and Donald.
It’s worth mentioning that this movie would be the last feature length outing for Mickey where Walt himself provided the voice.
The story is familiar and told with a few changes, Happy Valley is suffering because the Golden Harp has been stolen, and when they grow the beanstalk they find it in the possession of the giant. It’s an okay story, but it goes on a bit long and sags in the middle.
There are a few moments where it works, such as when Donald, mad with hunger, tries to kill the farm’s cow, which the little girl is appalled by. And Donald is the most entertaining as the barely controlled ball of rage.
Mickey and Goofy are their usual selves and the story is told well enough. The ending where Willie the Giant is shown to have survived is a cop out and a daft flourish the movie doesn’t need.
The two part structure actually works, with both stories having enough room unlike in the previous episodic movies. But it doesn’t feel like a complete film and the presence of the creepy dummies hurt it a lot in my view.
Disney Score: 5/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.