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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Disneyear: Fun and Fancy Free (1947)

Fun and Fancy Free.... interesting title. Like Make Mine Music, this film doesn't have just one story to it. But unlike MMM, there's not a lot of stories either. There's only two and Jiminy Cricket hosts them... another interesting choice. Let us venture forth.

The start of the movie has Jiminy floating around on a leaf boat singing the title song to a goldfish bowl... interesting. After escaping a cat, Jiminy bumps into a recording of Dinah Shore narrating Bongo, the first short featured. It's the story of a circus bear who wants to live out in the wild. After escaping, he finds that he has some trouble fitting in the forest until he meets a girl bear. Everything goes well until she unexpectedly slaps him, hurting his feelings and strangely hers too. Then they show that bears show love by slapping each other... yeah, I'm not sure if I buy that 100%. Bongo scratching his head says it all. Oh well, it makes a cute song and a cute story overall. Nothing special, but still enjoyable.

After the story ends, Jiminy finds an invitation to a party hosted by Edgar Bergen, a great ventriloquist in case you didn't know that. He, Charlie McCarthy, and Mortimer Snerd (his puppets) tell a little girl there and Jiminy, out of sight for some reason, tell us the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Being Disney, the story has Mickey Mouse as Jack with Donald Duck and Goofy living with him. This version goes that the land was happy thanks to a magic singing harp. After she gets kidnapped (surprisingly rather stealthily) by the giant, the land pretty much goes to the crapper, with everything dried up to the point where our three heroes face starvation. One day, Mickey sells the only cow they had for "magic" beans. Out of anger and frustration, Donald chunks the beans only to have them grow to a huge beanstalk overnight and carries the three to a magic kingdom on the clouds. They eventually find where the harp is held: a giant castle with an enjoyably doofus giant named Willie (voiced by Billy Gilbert, aka Sneezy from Snow White) lives. They get back  the harp through a climatic chase scene, the three cut down the stalk, the giant falls, return the harp, and live happily ever after. Again, cute story (well, mostly...), but this is the better of the two shorts. It actually has some dark moments mixed with the cute ones, as you'll read in the next paragraph. Willie's an enjoyable idiot character and I actually do enjoy that harp's singing voice.

Oh, and there's this scene: it's near the beginning where the land is in a drought and the three are facing starvation. Donald just snaps. It's not like the shorts where it's funny to see him crack, this is downright scary! It's one of the most realistic depictions of insanity I've ever seen and it may be a little scary to some kids. (By the way, I know that's Ludwig von Drake narrating it. I don't think there's a vid on YouTube with Bergen narrating it.)

Don't worry, the rest of the short is happy-go-lucky and whimsical. Like this:

After the story, Mortimer Snerd starts to get upset, thinking the giant was killed. Edgar reassures him by saying the giant was only make believe,  figment of his imagination. Then irony crashes through the roof as Willie is very much alive, looking for Jack (Mickey) throughout Hollywood.

And that's Fun and Fancy Free. While not nearly as creative as Make Mine Music, this movie is still cute with a charm and likability to it. Oh, and interesting fact: it's the last time you hear Walt Disney voice Mickey Mouse. My qualms with it, though, keep it from being one of my favorites. One is that how on earth are all the elements in the movie connected with each other? First you have Jiminy Cricket, then a circus bear going back to the wild, then Edgar Bergen and his puppets, then Jack and the Beanstalk? How are all these connected? Second, the shorts aren't that cinematic. They still work, as short cartoons, but as a movie? I don't know. Well, I take that back, I actually think the Jack and the Beanstalk short could have been adapted to a movie. Just add a few more details, an extra hour of material, and boom, a movie! Maybe it wouldn't have been as strong as this version, but I can see it happen. And I forgot to mention the giant has the ability to change into anything (kind of overkill, really), but the short really doesn't do anything especially creative with it. Oh well, this is still a cute movie. I'd recommend it for a lazy weekend.

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