Fun and Fancy Free, Walt Disney’s 9th animated feature, is the quintessential package film of this era. Rather than the many segments in Make Mine Music, this film offers two, slightly longer stories. The two segments were developed separately as feature length films and both are introduced here by Jiminy Cricket, a character made so popular by Pinocchio that Walt Disney and the animators decided to use him again. Something that that sets this film apart from some other Disney films is its use of live-action footage. This live-action material cements the film in a time and place, somewhat like the Latin America films, albeit in a different way. Fun and Fancy free is distinctly American, with the storytellers of the segments being popular entertainers of the time, Dinah Shore and Edgar Bergen. The sequences featuring these stars gives us a look back at the entertainment industry during the early days of Hollywood and is a delight to see for classic film buffs.
The first story Bongo is based on a children’s book written in the 1930’s. It is a cute love story about two bears trying to show their love for each other in the only ways they know how. Partially taking place at a circus, it reminds one slightly of Dumbo. Though this segment is enjoyable, it is also somewhat forgettable. This may have been something that Disney realized later- both this segment and its title character have been seldom utilized as a property and has rarely been reissued.
The second segment, Mickey and the Beanstalk, is based on the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk. Walt Disney had already tackled this story once before as one of his early “Laugh-O-Grams”. That particular short was lost for many years, before finally turning up in a private collection. The version in Fun and Fancy Free, as the title implies, stars Mickey Mouse as the Jack character. During these years at Disney, Mickey was a movie star appearing in “roles” such as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia and then here in what would be his second feature film appearance. This practice would be put on hold for decades until finally appearing as Bob Cratchit in 1983’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol.
This story works well on its own, but is made even better with Edgar Bergen’s interactions with his ventriloquist dummy character Charlie McCarthy. This also serves as the introduction of Willie the Giant, a character later reused in Mickey’s Christmas Carol. It is fun to see Mickey, Donald, and Goofy together in a feature film and must have been exciting for films audiences at the time too. This film is noteworthy for being the last regular appearance of Walt Disney voiced his famous mouse.
Live-action remake: There is no live action remake in the works for Fun and Fancy Free.
Fun and Fancy Free in the theme parks: Unfortunately, neither of the segments in Fun and Fancy Free are represented in any Disney theme parks.
Fun and Fancy Free is currently available to stream on Disney+.