#9 – Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
Before World War II began, Walt Disney was working on two new feature films: Bongo and Mickey and the Beanstalk. However, the war essentially halted feature film development at the studio. Many of his artists were being drafted, and most of his studio’s resources were pioneered by the US government to make training films and patriotic propaganda shorts throughout the war.
Those two films got condensed down to the two shorts that make up Fun and Fancy Free.
I think some of the most interesting things about this package feature come from knowing a bit about the behind-the-scenes stuff. For example, Jiminy’s song “I’m a Happy Go Lucky Fellow” was originally written for Pinocchio.
Also borrowing a bit from Pinocchio, the original story treatments for Fun and Fancy Free included the idea that Foulfellow and Gideon from Pinocchio would be the swindlers that give Mickey the magic beans. The next batch of storyboards included Queen Minnie fulfilling that role. In the actual film, it is never revealed who gives Mickey the beans.
The narration of these shorts is still killing me. I guess it made it easier to tell the stories quickly…because they could tell us about things that happen instead of taking the time to show us? I don’t know…but I’m really ready for Disney to return to pure storytelling.
One thing I particularly took note of in Fun and Fancy Free was the quality of the background art. I feel like they had gone pretty minimalist for the previous few films, and I thought they returned to more detailed, interesting background art here. It was nice to see.
As another fun side note, the child actress in the film, Luana Patten, was in Song of the South the year before. Disney has never released this film on video or DVD in the United States because they feel it is too racist and therefore too controversial. She later starred in several Disney films. People complain so much about Disney over-exposing their child stars today, but I guess it has been going on for decades.
I felt like the film featured several clever gags. The bit at the end of the film with Willie the Giant looking for Mickey in Hollywood was fun and put a good button on the ending. In general, I liked that they gave Willie such a fun personality, instead of just making him a villain or a boring oaf. I’ve always enjoyed his appearance in Mickey’s A Christmas Carol.
As I’m still going through the package features, an interesting question has occurred to me. Although it was probably more relevant for the Make Mine Music post, I’ll go ahead and pose it now.
Would a package feature, such as Make Mine Music work today? The thing about that movie that worked in the 40s was the popularity and prominence of the musicians involved. Could you imagine such a thing today? Could there be a package feature of short films with music written by Lady Gaga and Beyonce? It would be interesting. I think it would have to be super conceptual and artistic…but even still I feel like it would be a stretch. What do you think?