Next in our series of composite Disney films is Fun and Fancy Free, which is made up of two major shorts. Originally, they were both supposed to be separate movies, but because of WWII, Disney had to make do with smushing them into one movie. Frankly, I’m a little glad about that, because I spent much of this movie feeling kind of weirded out.
So we start with the familiar faces of Jiminy Cricket, Cleo the fish, and what looks like Figaro’s evil twin. Jiminy sings us a little song and remarks on how the world is falling apart around us, but that shouldn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves. Fun and fancy free, and all that.
Jiminy launches us into the story of Bongo the bear, as told by Dinah Shore. Basically: Circus bear is unhappy, runs away into wilderness, is terrified of wilderness because he’s a circus bear, meets girl, gets slapped by girl, runs away, comes back, slaps girl back, lives happily ever after.
The first half of this Bongo bit is kind of boring–Bongo frolics in the wild before freaking out over the cutest butterflies ever. Do butterflies never wander into circus tents? Anyway, this takes a longer time than I needed, and then we get the girl bear. And then…they dance in the clouds. Seriously, Disney? Bambi didn’t have enough cloud dancing for you? I’ll let it slide this time, though, because a) there isn’t a lot of dancing, so much as…floating along, and b) those winged bear cherubs were pretty adorable. Yeah, we’ve crossed over from boring to kind of weird.
There’s another bear who likes the girl bear, and that’s about when we reach the slap-happy portion of this short. The girl bear slaps Bongo a couple of times, and Bongo takes this as a form or rejection, of course, but then we find out (through song!) that for bears, slapping is amorous in nature. Yeah. The song in question is called, “A Bear Likes to Say It with a Slap.” I…don’t really want to think about it too hard. Except that there’s this one verse in the song (during which there’s a giant slapping bear orgy, I guess) that just has unfortunate implications:
He slapped her once and he missed her jaw
And he wound up smackin’ his mother-in-law.
Now here comes grandpa gettin’ in line
And here comes baby bear behind.
Am I the only one seeing weird incestuous undertones in this verse? I’m not even sure what’s going on, so let’s wrap this up–Bongo realizes that slapping = love, so he rushes back to smack his ladylove in the face, and all is well. Yay?
Finally, we’re done with Bongo, and we move on to Mickey and the Beanstalk. When Disney airs this short separately, it’s usually Jiminy narrating, or Ludwig von Drake, or else Sterling Holloway (holla!). I…really wish I could have seen one of those versions, because this one had puppets. Really creepy puppets.
Edgar Bergen is our celebrity/ventriloquist narrator in the movie, complete with several puppets and a real little girl. This is all live action, which just makes it feel even more out of place. I don’t think I’ve painted this picture properly: we have a room with a little girl, an older gentleman, and about three puppets limply sitting around with their frozen expressions. Maybe I watched that one episode of Goosebumps too many times, but these puppets were just terrifying. And throughout the lovely, animated tale of Mickey and the Beanstalk, the puppets interrupt to make smart-ass comments and to remind me of their horrible, creepy presence. I really wanted them to shut up and just let Mr. Bergen tell the story already.
Let’s move on to happier thoughts. This is a pretty well-known short, I think–Mickey, Goofy, and Donald climb the beanstalk, face the giant, rescue the singing harp, and try to escape with their lives. Now, I usually feel kind of bad for the giant in the original fairy tale, because he’s just minding his own business when this little rapscallion breaks into his house, steals his stuff, and then kills him. The giant in this story, though, stole his singing harp from Happy Valley, so I think it’s within the rights of our heroes to get her back.
And they do, and it’s cute, and the harp sings a song. All the while, those puppets keep butting in and creeping me out. One of them, though, kind of redeemed his existence for me by feeling bad for the giant at the end. If his plastic face didn’t weird me out so much, I would say I even liked him. But lo! The giant isn’t dead, and he wanders off into Hollywood in search of Mickey and co. No, really. I told you this movie was weird. Damn puppets.
Favorite scene: (my favorite thing in the movie is when the giant sneezes, because it’s such a hilariously dainty sneeze for such a big dude, but I can’t find a clip of just the sneeze, so…) A Bear Likes to Say It with a Slap
Because I never thought such a musical number would exist in all my days.
Next time: Melody Time!