Saturday, June 19, 2010
"You know, you worry too much. In fact, everybody worries too much."
Film: "Fun and Fancy Free"
Release Date: 27 September 1947
Director: Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, Hamilton Luske, William Morgan (live action)
History: Mickey Mouse is arguably the most famous and successful Hollywood star, real or fictional, to even grace the silver screen. Walt Disney, in part as a result of the reality, and in part becuase of the fact that Mickey was where his company started, and becuase mickey was his alter-ego, wanted nothing more then to make sure Mickey's star would shine as long as it could and as bright as it could. To that end, Walt was interested as he was making full length featured animated films, to start his beloved character as much as he could. Mickey stared in the very popular segment in "Fantasia," The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and Walt was really keen on putting Mickey in more films. Walt was interested in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, and especially after Mickey's 1933 short, Giantland, felt that placing his beloved mouse in the staring role of that film would be a wonderful choice. Interested in making it a full length film, Walt once again faced the same issues faced that lead him to make the last three "package films," a lack of funds thanks mostly to World War II, so the project was dropped for a time.
Then a few years latter, needing a new film to be made, Disney picked the project back up and made the decision (based purely on cost) to pair it with another story that had be considered for a full length film, Bongo. Disney paired Mickey with long time pals Goofy and Donald Duck for the Jack half of the film, but needed some star power he felt for the Bongo part of it. So he brought in what at the time was possibly his fourth biggest and most popular character to act as a guide for the whole film and something of a partial narrator for Bongo, Jiminy Cricket. The famous cricket had not been seen since his debut in "Pinocchio," and Walt was ready to bring him back. The move would make it so that Mickey, Goofy, Donald and Jiminy Cricket would be the only four characters to appear in more then one of the Disney "Cannon" Animated Films under Walt Disney (after Walt died, the heroes of "The Rescuers" would go on to be the only other characters with that distinction). Jiminy Cricket would later been seen on tv in a number of various programs, most notably his "I'm No Fool" series, and then reunite on the silver screen with Mickey, Donald and Goofy in "Mickey's Christmas Carrol." This film would also be notable for being Walt's last performance theatrically as Mickey Mouse, and one of his last period.
Walt then decided to give the film more bang for the film goers buck, to add some live action segments featuring popular ventriloquist (and father of "Murphy Brown's Candice Bergen) Edger Bergen, with his puppets (and alter-egos) Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd, along with child actress Luana Patten, to tell the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, while Dinah Shore, who as just in the last Disney animated film, would narrate "Bongo," as well as sing a number of songs. Doing well enough at the box office, both halves of this film would be show on tv separately many time through the years, especially Mickey and the Beanstalk, which would be re-narrated by both cartoon character Ludvig Von Drake and long time Disney voice veteran, the guy originally meant to narrate the story, Sterling Holloway.
My Reaction: My feeling for "Fun and Fancy Free" are mixed. I think it is really sad that both stories were not allowed to be the full films they were meant to be, and think in the long run that may have hurt them, most notably Bongo. Bongo was originally going to be a sort of/ kind of sequel to "Dumbo," but was heavily scaled down to fit into this film as half of it. It was a good story, and I think if given the time to explore the main characters and add more depth to them, could have been really special. But instead it felt like just what it was, a filler to a Mickey Mouse film. Maybe part of it was just that, that as the film goes on, you feel like you can't wait to see Mickey, maybe part of it is that the film speeds up parts and stret ches out parts, and on both sides does it to the wrong parts? But all in all, I enjoy watching Bongo the circus bear more then the previous films made by Disney since "Bambi." "Fun and Fancy Free" is the closet film since "Bambi" to get back to that original "feel" of Disney Animated Films.
The second half of the film is without much doubt the best part of it. But, that said, it is still really sad that Mickey and the Beanstalk never got to be it's own film. Unused animation and story ideas, including Mickey selling the cow to the Queen of Happy Valley (Minnie Mouse) and then having "Pinocchio" foe, Honest John be the one to sell Mickey the "magic beans" could have been awesome. Like Bongo, it felt rushed and drug out at the wrong moments, just not to the extent of Bongo. But, that said, it is really easy to see why of the two parts, it has been shown and released on home entertainment formats the most. As for the live action bits, while a fan of Edger Bergen, I was sad that Walt felt the need to add any live action to any of his "fully" animated films, and was happy when he stopped by the 1950's.
My Wife's Reaction: She enjoyed it, but had never seen the original version of Mickey and the Beanstalk. Being as she grew up only ever seeing the re-released version with Ludvig von Drake narrating it, she had a hard time watching the original version as she prefers the later version.
My Final Grade: (B-) Great film as the "package films" go, with Bongo being the weaker portion and Mickey and the Beanstalk being the better half and best reason to watch it.
All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.