This is going to be another short entry. I know, I know, but this is a particularly bumpy part of the Disney Canon. Don't worry faithful reader, we will soon get to more Disney Classics, just a couple more package films to go.
This week, it's 'Fun and Fancy Free'. Since most of the ideas the studio had for feature films were used to make up the segments in 'Make Mine Music', this film only has two segments (although each are relatively long, to give the movie a total running time of 1:10). Both segments have a framing device involving a surprisingly pale Jiminy Cricket wanting to cheer up a doll with a couple of fanciful tales.
The first story, narrated by Dinah Shore, is called 'Bongo' and is about a circus bear called, obviously, Bongo, who answers the call of the wild and decides to leave the circus to have a more bear-like life. He has trouble adjusting to the wild until he falls in love with a cute female bear. Bongo, as a character, is particularly well designed (at least in my opinion) and I am kind of sad he didn't have a more successful and memorable run as part of the Disney family. Then again, the short itself is a little too-cutesy and not that original or impressive, which makes it a very fun sit for children (I asume), but not as enjoyable as other Disney outputs are for adults.
The second segment is a far more popular one. 'Mickey and the Bean Stalk' casts Mickey, Donald and Goofy at the center of the fairy tale of similar name. This segment shows some of Disney's experiments of combining animation and live-action in the framing device, which has Jiminy crash child-actress Luana Patten's birthday where actor Edgar Bergen, with the help of puppets Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd is telling the titular story.
In our Disney Canon Detour entry on Mickey Mouse Shorts, I mentioned Mickey's greatest short subject called 'The Brave Little Tailor' as well as his most comedic shorts in which he is accompanied by Donald and Goofy. 'Mickey and the Beanstalk' is kind of a combination of both types of shorts.
It has a very well-written and clear storyline based on a fairy tale (like the 'Brave Little Tailor'), but at the same time benefits by having Donald and Goofy as sidekicks. The 'Brave Little Tailor' showed how effective and compelling Mickey could be as a lead character and this segment shows how amazing the three characters are when you have them working together. What keeps this from being the bets short featuring the trio is, at least for me, the narration. I don't know if it was Walt's insistance that made all shorts in the package films have so much narration, but it I think it gets in the way of the story most of the times.
'Fun and Fancy Free' is probably the most entertaining and easy sit for children and adults of any of the package films we've covered so far. A lot of time is lost in the framing story which is not all that amusing, but the fun segments make up for that. Because it was fairly cheap to produce, it made some good money for the company upon its release. Money that would help finance Walt's return to full-length features a couple of years later.
Next Time: Just two more "package" films to go. The firs of which is called 'Melody Time'. And yes, it has more similarities with 'Make Mine Music' that just the name. On the meantime... Well, it's hard to pick out clips from a feature made of two half-hour cartoons. So here's Mickey and the Beanstalk in its entirety (Albeit in a re-release version narrated by Ludiwig von Drake).