I hope everyone is enjoying Disney+, or as I call it: the catalogue of weird to borderline traumatic stuff from my formative years... +. If you don't know what I mean by that, then I can only assume you've limited yourself to watching the offerings on the front page, the stuff they're still proud of (for now). But if you care to take a gander underneath all that, you might find yourself stumbling upon something that triggers vivid early memories you didn't know you had, like I did this week.
Like another great Disney animated classic, this one starts with Jiminy Cricket, illegally entering someone's home. In this instance, it's the entirely animated home of real life child star, Luana Patten. He then proceeds to play one of her records (like he owns the place) and it regales us with the tale of ‘Bongo’, a circus bear who wants to escape his life of forced stardom and live in the wild. It's an entertaining and heartfelt story, and conveys a lot of emotion with bears that don't speak (with words at least), due in large part to the melodic narration of Dinah Shore.
But this was only the first narrative of the film; then Jiminy pops across the street to another animated house, only to discover inside, a live action living room, the little girl that lives in the previous house, and an actual ventriloquist, who was popular in real life at the time. Edgar Bergen and his puppets (Charlie & Mortimer) were entertaining Luana Patten (also playing herself), the way strange men who live next door often did back in those days, when Jiminy sneaks in to listen to the second story of the movie: ‘Mickey and the Beanstalk’ (obviously based on Jack and the Beanstalk).
I should point out, my main reason for watching the film is that I vividly remembered a scene in which a famished Mickey cuts transparently thin slices of bread for him and his friends to eat, because they were so poor. Something about that exaggerated imagery always stuck with me. I had no idea before putting it on, just how clearly it would all come back to me, even down to predicting very distinct mannerisms, but there was plenty I didn't remember, like the comical design of the giant.
I found the framing device for this film really interesting, particularly the scene where famous (at the time) ventriloquist Edgar Bergen had Luana, Charlie, and Mortimer imagine the story in their mind's eye, and it manifested as a thought bubble above them. It would be like if Tangled began with Jeff Dunham - who actually based his puppet Bubba J. on Mortimer - explaining the plot of Rapunzel to like, Justin Bieber or whoever was a famous kid ten years ago, when that film came out (can you believe it's been that long since Tangled?). When you write down an updated example like that, it sounds awful, but I found it mostly quite charming in Fun and Fancy Free; I even liked the idea of two stories for the price of one.
So do I recommend Fun and Fancy Free? I can honestly say I do. Whether you saw it as a child and might have some deeply ingrained Pavlovian response, or you're completely new to it, but appreciate a beautifully animated classic, I think this is worth two hours of your time, in or out of lockdown.
Written by Kyle J.