One Man, One Woman, Eight Decades of Disney Animated Features watched in order, and the overly complex system they invented to grade them. These are our thoughts, rants, and observations.
This is Disney By The Numbers.
In the previous review, I teased that Mickey might come and save the day.
That was a lie.
I needed to end the review on a high note and Mickey’s one of the best ways to do it.
Truth be told, these package films are rough. When one thinks of Disney Animated Features, they think of innovative animation, heartwarming characters, and clever story telling. But the package films, thus far, haven’t been able to deliver all of that. In Saludos Amigos we got a couple of classic characters but standard animation and little to no storytelling. In The Three Caballeros we got mind-breaking animation, but at the expense of the characters and the story, and in Make Mine Music… well we didn’t really get much of anything. So what about Fun And Fancy Free? Is it possible that this might be the package film to finally thread the needle and deliver a full flavor Disney experience?
Only the numbers can tell!
- Theme 0
- Tightness of Script 2
- Dialogue 1
- Use of Comedy 2
- Use of Drama 1
We start in familiar territory, a framing device to glue the two disparate stories together. And as far as framing devices go, it’s not bad. Jiminy Cricket shows up to sing our first song and ease us in. Jiminy, at this point in history, often served as a mascot in Disney media but we haven’t seen him in a feature film since his debut in Pinocchio and he’s always a welcome presence. even if he doesn’t exactly make much sense.
Pinocchio took place in 1883 and Fun And Fancy Free takes place in 1947. That would put him somewhere in his 80’s if we assume he was around 30 during the events of Pinocchio, but then again, the average lifespan of a cricket is about 3 months so… I’m pretty sure that the Blue Fairy did more than just make him Pinocchio’s conscience back in the day. Pretty sure he’s immortal now.
I mean look at him! He looks great! What with his soul obviously trapped in that bubble and… oh no.
A piece of his soul stored outside of his body… a noseless face… Oh… oh Jiminy no…
Well, now that I’ve ruined that little bit of everyone’s childhood… let’s get back to it.
Right off the bat, Fun And Fancy Free has an advantage over the other package films we’ve looked at thus far. While those contained multiple shorts crammed together to equal a feature length runtime, Fun And Fancy Free has a ground total of two: Bongo and Mickey And The Beanstalk. With only two segments, this allows the movie to take a little more time in developing the stories and characters which, in theory, is a great thing.
The first short, Bongo, is introduced to us by the Cricket-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. He plays a record of Dinah Shore to a sad doll and a teddy bear… with his mouth sewn shut…
Once the story finally gets going, Dinah Shore proceeds to tell the story of Bongo, the circus bear that runs away to live in the wild and finds love. It’s a cute enough story but frankly, this is where that added runtime hurts the film. There just isn’t enough story in the Bongo short so each musical number feels like it’s just padding. Any comedic or heartwarming bits feel like a slog to get to because of it.
This serves as the Achilles heel of the film. We were off to a great start with You-Know-Who introducing the segments, but by the time it’s over we’re already kind of bored. From there he decides to crash a party for a little girl being thrown by a man in 40’s and his puppet friends…
Okay… and I was saying that The Three Caballeros was a weird movie not to long ago? Disney… why do you do this to us? We’ve done nothing but love you!
This segment, featuring Edgar Bergen is another lowpoint for the movie. He takes over for the Heir of Stromboli and narrates the Mickey And The Beanstalk short, which is a real shame because Mickey And The Beanstalk is a fantastic reimagining of the fairytale. But all the while Mickey and his pals are trying to work some Disney Magic, Edgar Bergen’s puppets keep interrupting with “comedy.”
It just… it just almost feels like Walt Disney Productions wanted to fail at this point.
- Lyrics 2
- Score 3
- Number of Songs 2
- Notoriety of Songs 0
What you find when you watch Fun And Fancy Free is that the entertainment value to be found in this film is essentially split between the two shorts, with Mickey And The Beanstalk being the clear winner. This holds true even in the music. Dinah Shore delivers a couple of songs in the Bongo segment that really feel overlong and drawn out. They’re not even bad songs, but simply outstay their welcome.
But then you get to Mickey And The Beanstalk and the songs pick up, they’re comedic and peppy with “My What A Lovely Day” and the food song that Donald and Goofy sing. The final song “In My Favorite Dream” is not only beautiful, but also furthers the plot.
It’s also worth noting that the score is completely on-point. The scene where the beanstalk grows up to the sky is accompanied by a wonderful song that evokes a charmer coaxing a snake from a basket. The more over-the-top the song gets, the more it emphasizes each bit of gravity and comedy. This alone ups the music rating for this little movie.
Curiously the movie starts with a number from Jiminy Riddle about how care free he is and how that’s the way to live life. Forgetting for a second the unspeakable acts he must have committed to turn a puppet into a Horcrux, I never really got the impression that he was all that laid back. His job was to be the good shoulder angel after all. But apparently it was all an act so it makes sense.
- Quality of Animation 2
- Use Of Color 2
- House Style 1
- Character Design 1
- Breaks New Ground 0
There’s unfortunately not a lot to say about the animation in this particular film. By now the it’s pretty much the standard fair we’ve come to expect from these package films. The Animation quality is fine enough but not quite to the level they previously had been.
- Character Interaction 1.5
- Importance To Overall Plot 1.5
- Complexity 1
- Pulls At Heartstrings 0
- Overcomes Obstacles 1
For as much as I’ve been praising Mickey And The Beanstalk over Bongo here, I have to give props to the little circus bear. If it wasn’t for him, and his romance with his lady bear, LuluBelle, Fun And Fancy Free wouldn’t have scored a single point in this category.
Mickey seems to care more about the cow than he does his friends, and all of them want to rescue the magic harp from Willie the Giant out of self interest; If they rescue her, they return their home back to the paradise it was before, they’re not personally invested in her.
Bongo’s story has a straight up love song in it! It’s not an especially great love song, but it does have plenty of visuals that communicate love, pink and red hearts, heart shaped glasses, little cupid… bears… and it burns up a good chunk of runtime.
Okay so maybe it’s not a classic Disney love story but it’s probably the most heartfelt one we’ve had since Dumbo. So good on you Bongo and LuluBelle for giving us a romance to root…
Good Lord. Disney… this is why people don’t like your package films.
For some context here, the love story between Bongo and LuluBelle revolves around the idea that bears say they love each other by slapping each other. There’s even an entire song and dance about it. It’s supposed to be goofy and funny. And it probably is, but it just kind of makes this love story feel a bit off. But at least it wasn’t Donald Duck trying to get with a flower.
- Sidekick 1
- Charm 2
- Goodness 2
- Emotional Transformation 0
- Comedy 2
I’m going to show 100% of my bias here and just say it. Mickey Mouse has always, and will always be Disney’s #1 character. He’s their one character that can do literally anything. Donald and Goofy both excel at comedy; with Goofy also being capable of the occasional drama. But Mickey? He can do comedy, drama, he can even do romance without smacking his girlfriend around, Bongo!
And Mickey can do action. In fact, he’s one of cinema’s first true action heroes, easily standing with the likes of Douglas Fairbanks and Buster Keaton. This is why Mickey is responsible for virtually all of the heroics found in this movie. He’s the one that bests Willie the Giant… and Willie isn’t even the first giant Mickey has brought down. He’s done it at least two other times with one of them being defeated by sewing.
In spite of the film being a packaged affair cutting off it’s potential at the knees, Mickey Mouse delivers heavily in the hero category.
- Evilness 0
- Comedy 2
- Sophistication 1
- Henchmen 0
- Poses A Threat 2.5
Fun And Fancy Free actually manages to have villains, which feels like a novelty after three movies where that hasn’t really been a thing. The first is Lockjaw, a romantic rival for Bongo, and that’s pretty much it. He’s a big brutish bear that Bongo beats up before beating up Lulubelle.
Yes, I know I keep making this joke, but I’m not going to stop pointing out how weird that is!
Our other villain is the aforementioned Willie the Giant, and frankly, he’s pretty entertaining. He’s a classic example of Disney taking an element from it’s source material, in this case Jack And The Beanstalk, and then developing that thing into so much more. In the original tale, the giant is little more than a monster who Jack steals from and kills merely because it’s a giant.
Willie, by contrast is an actual character, he’s the aggressor in the story, kidnapping the Harp which serves to get the plot going. While he’s a violent simpleton, he’s also hilarious; he’s easily distracted, he trips over his words. “Fee Fi Fo Fum” goes from being a simple catchphrase to the magic words Willie uses to transform himself; a skill he likes to use to show off. And while he can transform into anything, he likes to be cute, transforming into an adorable pink bunny instead of a house fly.
Willie is no Maleficent, Scar, or Ursula. He lacks their henchmen, sophistication, drive, and malcontent. But after going so long without a real villain to point to, it’s refreshing.
- Comedy 2.5
- Inventiveness 1.5
- Clear Help Or Hindrance 2
- Strength of Relationship with Main Character 2
Going into this movie, I was a little worried. I’ve made it no secret how much I’m a fan of Mickey Mouse. But I also think his co-stars are phenomenal characters as well. Both Donald and Goofy single handily carried Saludos Amigos on their backs and raised that film higher than it could ever have done so otherwise.
However The Three Caballeros undid a lot of that good will. While I didn’t hate the movie overall, it didn’t do any of the characters any favors. Jose and Panchito left looking like bullies and Donald set human/duck relations back to the Stone Age. Beyond that, we haven’t even seen Donald since and given how much of a mind-break that movie was, I worried not only how I would think of him, but if he’d ever be the same again. But then I remembered that these are cartoons and they bounce back pretty easily from tramua like that.
Truth be told, it’s always fun to see Donald and Goofy. And while Donald was pretty awful in his last appearance, in Fun And Fancy Free he’s pretty delightful. Goofy supplies his usual physical comedy, but if you really want to see what the character is capable of, go watch A Goofy Movie.
Both characters do a great job as supporting characters and easily demonstrate why Disney made them a classic trio. I’d make a Harry Potter “Golden Trio” joke right now but I already did that in the Bambi review so instead I’ll just leave you with this-
-and let you figure out who’s who.
As for the other supporting characters, LuluBelle is the only supporting character in Bongo and she’s really only a love interest. Edgar Bergen has a troupe of ventriloquist dummies, so that’s horrifying, and You-Know-Who is just biding his time, drinking unicorn blood to survive until he can show up in Mickey’s Christmas Carol a few decades after this movie was released. So maybe that’s why I wound up talking about Doctor Donald, Captain Mickey, and Science Officer Goofy for so long.
Disney Magic and Legacy
- Theme Park Presence 0
- Timelessness 1
- Impact On Culture 0
- Scope of Audience 1
- Disney Feels (Or Did It Make us Cry?)1
Fun And Fancy Free, like a lot of these package films (and a certain Dark Lord) extended its life by chopping itself up into pieces and living on through others. Mickey And The Beanstalk, for example, has been presented by itself-divorced from the cricket, Bongo, and the puppets (thank God). In fact, if you ever really want to watch Mickey And The Beanstalk, I suggest seeking it out by itself. Instead of subjecting the audience to a shady late night party for a kindergartner thrown by a middle aged man and his puppets, the framing device is Ludwig Von Drake telling the tale, which is a major upgrade.
It goes without saying that Mickey and Co have gone on as mainstays in Disney Media, but even Willie has shown up again in Mickey’s Christmas Carol as the Ghost of Christmas Present, not bad for a two-bit villain in a forgotten Disney classic.
Grand Total: 47.5
Well, I don’t know that Fun And Fancy Free wound up saving Disney Animation like I hoped. In the end, it’s sort of a wash. Mickey And The Beanstalk is highly entertaining and so is Bongo to an extent, but both lack the quality of animation and storytelling that Disney is known for. Furthermore Mickey And The Beanstalk is hindered by its framing device, with the puppets chiming in every ten seconds like they thought they were Tom Servo and Crow.
Furthermore, this film wound up being educational; we got to examine a little bit of why Mickey is such a great character, and we got to enjoy Donald Duck again. And more than anything, we got to understand Jiminy Cricket’s deep dark secret and because of that we’ll probably never watch Pinocchio the same way again.