Back in the 40’s, Disney released what came to be known as “package films,” which were feature-length compilations of shorter segments. So basically you had a couple of short cartoons packaged together as 1 film that was shown in theaters. These segments didn’t have the same level of quality commonly associated with your regular Disney feature-length film. The animation and stories were more simple and straight-forward and I wouldn’t be surprised if they merely served as opportunities for newer animators to get their feet wet making animated movies. None of these package films stand out to me as being anything exceptional and, quite frankly, I don’t even classify them among the real Disney feature-length films.

Fun and Fancy Free is one of Disney’s package films. It contains 2 short segments, one of which will put you right to sleep while the other may not provide the kind of escape you would expect from most Disney animated films, it will entertain you. The first short is called Bongo the Bear and it could not be short enough. Its about a circus performing bear who wears a performer suit, a fez, and rides on a unicycle. Although he’s widely loved by audiences and he loves the attention and pampering, Bongo longs for the great outdoors where he can be free and live like other bears. Soon he gets his chance as he falls off the traveling circus train and lands in the woods. As you can guess, living in the wilderness isn’t as glamorous as Bongo expected it to be and he quickly discovers to his dismay, the reality of real bear living. Of course, since this is a cartoon and a Disney cartoon at that, the ending is a happy one and Bongo ends up liking outdoor living.

Nevermind how dull the story is. In fact, the story is no simpler than many animated feature-length films and I believe that had Bongo been given the proper Disney treatment, it would have been a classic. However, its obvious that the cartoon was a throwaway project that was released merely to make the studio some cash and possibly a new character to join the regular Disney cast. The animation is downright horrendous. I don’t exaggerate when I say that its a couple of steps removed from being at a Hanna-Barbera level of quality. Up until Bongo’s theatrical release, Disney’s feature-length films had all contained superb quality of animation. Had this film come out during Disney’s low point in the 70s, I could then kind of understand, but this was released during Disney’s Golden Age! Anyway, Bongo the Bear is a film that is STRICTLY geared towards very young children who have yet to grasp complex storytelling and hard-core Disney aficionados who own every piece of Disney memorabilia and regard anything Disney as sacred text.

The second short segment is far more enjoyable and I would recommend you simply skip Bongo the Bear and just watch Mickey and the Beanstalk. Its one of Mickey Mouse’s classic cartoons (personally I like the ghost hunter cartoon the best) and it contains the added bonus of co-stars Donald Duck and Goofy. The story is obviously the classic Jack and the Beanstalk tale with Mickey playing the role of Jack, who buys some magic beans that sprout huge vines that go to the sky. Atop the vines and above the clouds sits a huge castle occupied by a giant, who has stolen the magic harp that brings harmony and prosperity to the little town Jack and his villagers live in. Its a cute story that actually got me thinking of how cool of a live-action film it would make. This is a light, fluffy 30 minutes of entertainment that I think everyone will like. My only gripe about the film is that Disney had adopted a style of animation in the 40s that I didn’t quite care for when compared to the Mickey cartoons of the 30s. The art is not as detailed and realistic looking and it feels rushed. However, its virtually impossible to not enjoy watching Mickey, Donald, and Goofy together in a movie and coupled with a cool story, it more than makes up for its shortcomings.

A final thing to mention is that to make Fun and Fancy Free feel like a film rather than 2 cartoons strung together, Disney created a live-action fill-in portion between the films starring Jiminey Cricket, Edger Bergen (Candice Bergen’s dad), and a song by one of my favorite torch-song singers, Dinah Shore. Its nothing impressive and Edger Bergen is not very good as a ventriloquist (not to mention a little girl you just want to strangle). Its mere filler and the only part I enjoyed was the very end when the giant from Mickey and the Beanstalk is seen walking through the streets of L.A. looking for Mickey.

So there you have it. Fun and Fancy Free is really for Disney animation fanatics like me who feel like they should own every single animated thing they have ever made (I actually don’t own a lot of their films, but I do have all their older stuff). I think its a great film for kids, but adults will be bored to death by Bongo the Bear.

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