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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

Week # 13: "Fun and Fancy Free"

(Originally published on 4/3/22)


Fun and Fancy Free

Run time: 73 min.

Release Date: September 27, 1947

Where/when I first saw it: Possibly on laserdisc, mid-’90s

How I watched it today: Blu-ray, Thursday evening

After “Song of the South,” it would seem that Disney would be back to making feature-length films that had one continuous story (like, you know, a real movie). Instead, they stayed the course of releasing “package films” that showed the studio in a state of creative stagnation, even recycling another fairy tale (“Jack and the Beanstalk”) that could only be given new life by casting the Disney stock characters of Mickey, Donald and Goofy. Having a familiar character (Jiminy Cricket) host the film would also add to its viability as a Disney product. And then there’s the live-action element that has started to become a regular part of this era, with Edgar Bergen (a star ventriloquist during this period) reading the story to… his niece? Daughter? Not sure what the deal is there. Dinah Shore’s voice can be heard narrating the first story, though, via a phonograph played by Jiminy. She reads the charming story of “Bongo,” a circus bear who learns to start fresh in his natural habitat.

And you know, “Fun and Fancy Free” is rather charming. “Bongo” is the better of the two stories, if only because it stays with the story instead of cutting back and forth between the story and the storyteller, like “Beanstalk” does, which goes back to the storytelling method used in “Song of the South.” I suppose if you have Bergen and he’s famous for being a visual comedian, you better use him as much as possible. That’s the wisdom there. I would rather hear Jiminy tell the story. “Bongo” will also remind many of “Dumbo,” with its circus star storyline and the dark side of the circus business.

As the package films go, “Fun and Fancy Free” has a little more in its favor than some of the others, with its use of four major Disney characters doing what they do best while telling stories that have a little more breathing room than the average short. “Bongo” also has a pleasantly weird turn as the poor bear learns about how bears express love (“Say It With A Slap”). Unlike the Disney film before this, there's nothing controversial here and maybe that’s the idea behind this venture. Not just to save money on product that needs to be churned out quickly, but also to save face with the public and not raise any eyebrows. It’s just Jiminy, Mickey, Donald and Goofy, characters you know and love. It’s another trifle, but a colorful and lively one.


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