Friday, December 10, 2010

DAF #43 - Fun and Fancy Free (1947)

Edgar Bergen: "No longer was the valley happy, for without the magic of the harp, all was misery, misery, misery."
Charlie McCarthy: "Just like the eighth grade."

Title: Fun and Fancy Free
Year: 1947
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 13 minutes

Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket
Dinah Shore as Herself/Narrator of "Bongo"
Edgar Bergen as Himself/Charlie McCarthy/Mortimer Snerd
Luana Patten as Herself
Walt Disney as Mickey Mouse
Clarence Nash as Donald Duck
Pinto Colvig as Goofy
Billy Gilbert as Willie the Giant
Anita Gordon as Singing Harp

Plot: Jiminy Cricket introduces the story of a circus bear in the wild and the tale of Mickey and the Beanstalk.
Based on: "Little Bear Bongo" by Upton Sinclair and the fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk" by Joseph Jacobs.
Setting: The Woods, present day (1947); Happy Valley, "the past".

Tagline: It's got that Disney magic!

First Viewing:
Spring of 2006 on borrowed on VHS from Karen.

Package film #4. Fourth in order of release, and fourth in my trip up the DAF's. To remind you, the south-of-the-border fiestas, Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros were the first two. Next was Make Mine Music (review will be coming soon) which is often referred to as "a poor man's Fantasia" just like Melody Time is. But in between those flicks came Fun and Fancy Free.

The films was made of up two segments, "Bongo" and "Mickey and the Beanstalk". They were actually being developed as their own feature length movies but then WWII shot that to hell. Thus, they were stitched together to make my #43.

In the beginning, Jiminy Cricket comes in singing a jovial little ditty not good enough for Pinocchio. He enters a little girl's bedroom and notices her sad faced teddy bear and doll, to cheer them up he puts on a record of Dinah Shore reciting a story of three bears...but it's not the story you think.

Bongo is a circus bear, trained in all sorts of death defying tricks. Despite him being this badass performer, his handlers treat him like shit. Bongo gets it into his head to escape and be a normal bear out in the woods. He jumps off the train and into the forest where he relishes in the wonders of the rustic life.

Then comes the night. Bongo does not sleep and almost regrets his decision until he see the lovely she-bear, Lulubelle. They have a love at first sight moment and all seems well until the arrival of Lumpjaw, the biggest, most brutish, bastard bear in all the land. Lumpjaw has it in his head that Lulubelle is his girl. She defies him by slapping Bongo in the face. He is stunned. Bongo doesn't know that when bears love each other, "they say it with a slap." (Really?) In the end, which is a precursor for the end of Back to the Future, Bongo stands up to Lumpjaw and he and Lulubelle live happily ever after

The depressed doll and teddy bear are cheered up by the story of "Bongo" so Jiminy's work is done. On the table of the little girl's room (which just so happens the be the room of Luana Patten, Disney's go-to child actress) he sees that she has been invited to a party by (at the time very famous) ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, and his dummies, Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. Being a fan, Jiminy crashes the party.

Here we have a fairly extended live action sequence which is rather odd to me in my 21st century sensibilities. A grown man invites a little girl to a party with no other people. He entertains her with his creepy, vinyl dummies. Yeah...sounds like an Law and Order: SVU episode waiting to happen. But since it's the 40's, no such impropriety is evident. Mr. Bergen begins telling the story of "Mickey and the Beanstalk".

Once upon a time, there was a valley, no not the Great Valley, this was Happy Valley where a magical singing harp made everyone...happy. But now the once prosperous valley has fallen to ruin ever since the harp was stolen. Everyone is suffering, especially Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy who are down to their last bean and paper thin slices of bread. To make matters worse, their cow has dried up so Mickey decides to sell her but, say it with me now, he trades her for some magic beans.

The beans grow into a beanstalk around the trio's shack and carries them to the top all in their sleep. They go to the castle and attack the giant food left on the table. Willie the Giant comes into the scene singing a song about his magical powers. Through tricks, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy rescue the harp and all is restored in Happy Valley.

Can I just say right now that I HATE THE FUCKING GIANT!!!? I am not a fan of incompetent characters when their incompetence is the only characteristic they possess. Willie is the king of that shit. Not only is he dumb, I can't believe he even has motor skills. Plus he embodies all the stereotypical physical attributes of the dumb: he's fat, he has a cowlick, missing teeth and a low voice with limited vocabulary. And yet, he is somehow celebrated. What. The. Fuck.

Ironically, the best part of this animated movie is the live action character, Charlie McCarthy. In a movie that is so treacly and optimistic, Charlie's sarcastic quips are much appreciated. When I first saw FAFF, my reaction to the puppets were "oh shit". And yes, Mortimer Snerd is just as fucking irritating as the equally dumb Willie the Giant, but Charlie makes up for it.

Fun and Fancy Free is not very good. It's extremely dated and uneven. The two segments  have been split up and released several times. Edgar Bergen's voice over has been replaced a few times in Mickey and the Beanstalk, which is a shame because Charlie McCarthy's snarky jokes are the best part. It's sad indeed when a ventriloquist dummy is the best part of a Disney movie. 

“I'm a Happy-Go-Lucky Fellow” - Cliff Edwards (Jiminy Cricket)
"Lazy Countryside" - Dinah Shore
"Too Good to Be True" - Dinah Shore
"Say it With a Slap" - Dinah Shore
"My What a Happy Day" - Anita Gordon (Singing Harp)
"Fee Fi Fo Fum" - Billy Gilbert (Willie the Giant)
"My Favorite Dream" - Anita Gordon
"Fun and Fancy Free" - Cliff Edwards

Favorite Song: “Too Good to Be True” - Dinah Shore
Favorite Moment: Any snide comment by Charlie McCarthy.
Favorite Character: Charlie McCarthy (Bongo for original characters)

Next Film: Brother Bear (2003)


Andrew said...


Taylor Kerekes said...

I believe that your review is not 100% right. I think this film is still fairly good, though it's hard for me to decide which is the better segment.

Taylor Kerekes said...

And this film is not THAT dated or uneven.