Title: Fun and Fancy Free
Release Date: September 27, 1947
Director: Animation: Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, Hamilton Luske; Live Action: William Morgan
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions
Disney’s fourth package film of the World War II features only two stories, neither long enough to make their own feature. I’d argue that these stories only had enough substance for a short film. Jiminy Cricket returns from Pinocchio as the host who links the two segments together.
The first story is Bongo, which is presented as a storybook record narrated by Dinah Shore. Bongo is a performing bear in a circus who escapes to the forest. First he’s delighted by his newfound freedom, but then he faces challenges of adapting to the wild. Then he falls in love with a sexy female bear named Lulubelle and there’s some clever animation of them floating through the clouds with Cupid bears. The song about bears slapping one another as a sign of affection has aged poorly.
The second part is much better. Mickey and the Beanstalk, features Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy as roommates who climb the beanstalk and outsmart Willie the Giant. This segment is narrated by ventriloquist Edgar Bergen with his dummies Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd and child actor Luana Patten. I’m absolutely certain that I saw this on tv and the Disney Channel as a kid with the ventriloquist dummies edited out because Disney realized that they’re nightmare fodder.
Watching this package film made me realize how the 1940s package films prepared Walt Disney productions for television. Telling stories too long for shorts and too short for feature films turns out to fit perfectly into the television format, as well as using characters like Jiminy Cricket to link them together. It’s the formula adopted by Walt Disney’s Disneyland in 1954 and all the anthology shows that followed.