Fun & Fancy Free (1947)
The duplex of WWII movies
Hi there, and welcome back to Oof! Right in the Childhood. I’m Jen, and each week, I discuss the history and social commentary of one of the Disney Animated feature films in order to investigate the systemic messages that were infused into our childhood. Today, I’m going to talk about 1947s Fun and Fancy Free, the duplex of World War 2 movies.
Before you tell me that World War 2 ended in 1945, I know. But if you listened to my last episode, The Three Caballeros, and my bonus episode about Walt Disney propaganda during World War 2, you’ll know that Walt Disney was hit hard by a combination of poorly performing movies (Pinocchio and Fantasia), wartime rationing, and creating propaganda and training films for the military, there was little left to make movies with.
They made five package films between Pinocchio and Cinderella with their limited funds, and Fun and Fancy Free, is one such movie. Instead of a true feature film or a compilation of 3 or more shorts, it’s two almost-movies shoved together. In fact, each of the not-quite-shorts was originally planned to be a full-length movie of its own, but the studio decided to cut them down to reduce costs and release a single movie.
During the production of Fantasia, two of the Disney animators pitched an idea of a Jack and the Beanstalk movie with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy as characters. Walt loved the idea, and they planned a full film.
However, Walt’s attitudes toward these animators soured during the strike mentioned in the Dumbo episode, and he dumped the whole plan. When the studio began to run low on money, Jack and the Beanstalk was brought out of the circular file. They cut a few scenes, and included it in Fun and Fancy Free.
In 1941, the studio started producing a movie named Bongo after a short story by Sinclair Lewis. The movie, about a bear that escaped from the circus, was intended to be the sequel to Dumbo because that was such a happy, happy fun time, why wouldn’t we want a sequel?
However, in the middle of production, the United States Army appeared and occupied the studio. They took over animation studios and “requested” that the studio create both propaganda and training videos for the war. This delayed production on Bongo, reduced the studio’s supplies, and created more work than the animators could keep up with, so they shortened Bongo and added to Happy Valley to make one feature-length film.
Fun and Fancy free was the last time Walt Disney voiced Mickey Mouse.
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In October, I investigate the role of Walt Disney Productions during World War 2 from the occupation of the studio by the U.S. Military to the hundreds of hours of training and propaganda that the studio released. I also provide synopses and commentary for the cartoon portions of eight of the propaganda pieces they released during the war.
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The thing about these "in between" features is that they have super long start ups. Once we get past the opening credits, Jiminy sings for 5 minutes about not worrying about stuff. And also to not read hard books.
He reads a newspaper and says not to worry about anything that might come in the future. Is it now that we bring up the fact that people who were raised on this attitude deny climate change and say we shouldn’t worry about it?
Ha! now he's barking at a cat.
"This is a story about a little girl and a big burly brown bear that wanted to be her boyfriend." Par-DON?
Okay, we're just going to talk about Bongo instead. We'll just skip that very weird teaser? Cool. I'm just fine with that.
Bongo’s pretty amazing though. He could do the trapeze and tightrope and kill a man — I mean wrestle them.
He loves life, people love him, but as soon as he’s out of sight, he gets shackled, manhandled, and caged.
“How can we not draw people?” asked the animators. “Just draw their hands! That's a solution!”
It's another anti-circus message from Disney. I want someone to prove to me that this man liked circuses.
As they train through the wilderness, the Wild calls to Bongo. He manages to escape! This bear can juggle, but he cannot jump. Or climb trees. This is some not-so-subtle commentary on the harm of captive animals not having any survival skills for the wild.
But in the tree, we can see Chip and Dale before Dale's drinking problem (his red nose).
These animals are jerks. They laugh at him and make fun. I mean, I guess they’ve never seen a bear that never learned to climb before.
But instead of being upset, he decides to roll in the daisies and be “Fun and Fancy Free.” I should have started counting how many times they say this movie’s name, but it’s too late now.
After all the work they put into Bambi, they really “cartooned” up the animals for this one. And now Bongo learns that nature isn’t quiet. But I have a hard time believing that the circus was super quiet to begin with, but frogs, crickets, wolves, etc are different sounds.
I’d forgotten he brought his unicycle until he tried to flee a swarm of gnats. And then the lightning came for him. He finally gets to sleep, cold and wet, but the sun rises. And there’s ice. That’s not a great time for a bear to be in the wild.
He’s hungry, but there’s a fish! Of course he can't catch it. It's hilarious to watch him try.
Oh a girl bear! We know she's a girl because she stands supes cute and has a pink flower on her head like a bow. And she has those strange anthropomorphic breasts they put on all female animals. See also: Bambi for my original mention of these. I’m going to take a moment to say that it’s pretty creepy that they do this.
Bongo can’t believe it! He must be so hungry he is hallucinating a pretty girl. Is that a thing? He’s going to pinch himself to be sure.
And she's gone. Nope! just behind a rock for no reason. Now she'll run.
They fall in love and fly through pink heart clouds. This might be a hunger hallucination, actually.
A crowd gathers and now there’s a huge bear after Bongo. Aw this little bear cub showing his qualifications as "awesome" to mean ol' angry bear is kind of cute if it wasn't going to lead to his death.
Trigger warning from here to the end of the Bongo segment: Comedic representation of Domestic Violence. Why?
Lulabelle stops the giant bear and then she hit bong! How dare she?!? And again. Oh. So this was supposed to be desire signalling? I understand why so many men are confused about mating rituals now. Oof! Right in the childhood.
In the middle of this, she hits Bruno by accident and he hugs and kisses her. What?
Goofy yell, randomly. Okay.
Then there’s a song about how when a bear falls in love, they say it with a slap. And a lot of bears hitting each other to show their love. Is there like a scientific source for bears slapping each other to say they're in love? Or is this just a fun song that celebrates Domestic Violence?
Bongo overhears the song, y’know because that was in the script and he goes after Lulabelle to — um slap her.
Can we talk about how the big bear has a Cro-Magnon jaw? Because That's definitely intentional.
Bongo's smarter than Bruno! An epic fight ensues! They go off a waterfall.
Bruno can't swim, apparently, but Bongo's hat has the strongest elastic known to man that doesn't kill him, so he's okay!
And then Bongo hit Lulabelle. Gah. In the original song and everything up til now, it was just the female bears hitting the male bears, and though that was cringey, a man slapping a woman to say “I love you” is so much worse. But now we’re in love and we don't have to think too hard about Domestic Violence. Yay.
We return to Jiminy and he reads someone’s mail to get to a party at the house across the way.
The movie has progressed to live action for reasons? And we have creepy ventriloquist dummies that are the same size as children. Nope.
We’ll talk about a place called “Happy Valley” because — everyone there is happy. There’s a harp that sings about it.
Someone stole the harp and now everyone’s depressed and everything dies. Has anyone checked for, um the harp that someone stole for 2020? Is that a thing?
Ah we're at Mickey and the Beanstalk. They’re staring and sharing and sharing and staring. I remember the see through food here. It’s the saddest sandwich.
And here we are at Donald's anger. He’s hangry. He ate a plate. And Goofy spanked him. The 1940s, everyone!
Gonna say that, if the cow doesn't give milk, it's probably worth some food. I'm pretty sure that it's their friend, but it is meat.
And back to creepy puppets. Could we not?
How much money do they think this cow is worth if they're going to get lobster and pancakes up to the sky? And if they weren't willing to kill the non-milkable cow, what do they think is going to happen to their "best friend" when they sell her?
Mickey sold the cow for beans! In the full-length movie, he was going to get them from Honest John in Pinocchio. And we're at Donald's temper again. Someone needs to get Donald into anger management group.
“Do you know what happens if we plant these beans by the light of a full moon?”
“Yes, we get more beans!”
Okay, but like, that’s more food than you had!
Sure, throw them away instead.
Snake charming music as the vines grow.
"Who made these footprints?"
"Well, it wasn't Cinderella!"
Guess what the first real movie made after the war was? I think this is back to early Disney Easter Eggs. "Come back in 3 years for Cinderella” wink. wink.
Would knocking on a door when you're the equivalent of an ant mean anything? Do bugs knock on our doors and we can't hear them? Questions for the ages.
There's food for days. I’d be excited too. Goofy's trying to eat giant peas with a knife.
Even giants made Jell-o moulds in the 40s.
What's that behind the Jell-o? Is that a coconut cake? It- it looks fuzzy.
A box is talking to them. It's a lady! The lady is a harp! It’s the lady harp that made it a valley happy.
The giant could turn itself into anything, man or beast. Is that foreshadowing or a red herring?
Why would the giant steal the harp? Because he’s a jerk. That’s why.
Okay, so he can shrink and grow, and fly and disappear. But he doesn't actually change into anything, so, he can't just turn into anything. Since when are “Fe-fi-fo-fum” magic words?
Chocolate pot roast with pistachio gravy? What weird 40s dish is this? His sandwich has a bone in it.
Tricky Mickey trying to get the giant to turn into a fly. But also he failed. “Fe-fi-fo-fum I’m the most amazing guy.” Sounds like every mediocre white guy I know.
So, he can turn into a pink bunny-like-creature.
The harp gets him to go to sleep, Mickey steals the key, frees Donald and Goofy. They kill the giant, and everyone lives happily ever after. The end.
And we go back to live actions where they’re going to discuss metaphysics now? This seems a little beyond most young children.
Haha, and the giant showed up!
And he's wearing the Brown Derby as he walks away through Los Angles.
The end. I liked this more than the Three Caballeros, but it was basically just 2 cartoons smooshed into a feature film.
But I’d like to know what you think. Is this something you watched when you were a kid, or like me, did you just catch the individual cartoons when they were around? Because they’re only about 30 minutes.
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So, until next time, keep the magic alive.