“My, What a Happy Day?” Indeed.
Originally Released: 1947
Fun and Fancy Free is the ninth film in the Disney canon, and while it doesn’t try to be too experimental or sophisticated, it does nail the fun and carefree spirit found in animation, and it succeeds at being highly entertaining. The film consists of two roughly half-hour cartoons, tied together by some narration and scenes involving Jiminy Cricket. First is Bongo, about a star circus bear who escapes to nature and finds true love. The second half of the film is Mickey and the Beanstalk, narrated by old Hollywood guy Edgar Bergen and his ventriloquist dummies.
This was actually a film I have been looking forward to watching. It had been years since I’d last seen it, but I have very fond memories of Mickey and the Beanstalk. I just loved it when I was young. I also remember liking Bongo, but to be honest, I did not remember it quite as well. This just added to my anticipation, though. I wanted to remember the story and I also wanted to see how it could be a half-hour long, because I had pictured it to be one of Disney’s shorter, 8-minute variety shorts (side note – I learned today that it was actually intended for both films to be feature length, but later each was shortened and they were packaged together for release).
With childhood memories of movies, there is always the chance that upon viewing the movie as an adult, it doesn’t hold up to the standards set by these childhood memories. But in this case, I am happy to say I was not disappointed. If there ever was an aptly-named film, this is it. It is fun, carefree, and memorable. And as a bonus, it is loaded with some quotable material in the Beanstalk portion, including lines from Willie the Giant, Donald, Goofy, and the ventriloquist dummies.
But beyond being fun, there were two main things that struck me as I watched the film. The first came at the very beginning, during Jiminy Cricket’s introduction song. After he startles Cleo the fish’s twin, he tells it, “you worry too much. In fact, everybody worries too much.” How true this is. As Jiminy proceeds to read some fake newspaper headlines predicting doom and gloom, he explains that we needn’t worry so much about these things. Interestingly enough, if you were to look up the headlines on your favorite news website, you will likely find some version of the very same things mentioned in this 1947 paper, such as rising oceans, inflation, and “catastrophe seen as crisis looms.”
He has a good point. Rather than worry about what terrible things could happen, all of us could try to spend more time being happy, and doing the things that will make us happy. We can focus on the good things in this life. I was pleasantly surprised to find this nugget of wisdom in the film. At least this is how I interpreted what Jiminy said. It makes sense to me.
The second thing that I noticed was just how good the animation of the characters had become at this stage of Disney history, and in particular, the facial expressions. You can see the whole spectrum of human emotion on display in this film. Below are shots of two of my favorite expressions from the movie. First, we see Bongo as he comes to the realization that “a bear likes to say it with a slap,” and that Lulubelle slapping him was her way of trying to show her affection. It simply can’t be done any better than it was done by these animators.
Next is Donald Duck in the beanstalk segment. Well, I’m not too sure what exactly Donald is thinking here, but it isn’t good. It is something about an axe and a cow. His thoughts may not be very noble at this point, but it is downright funny to watch the crazed smile slowly develop and then see his head turn in the direction of where the cow is outside. Again, this is some impressive stuff.
In the end, this film reminds me of why I love Disney, and why I love animation. Animation is the perfect escape from real-world struggles. But in the case of this film, at the same time that it is serving as an escape, it is reminding us to enjoy real life a little more and to try and have a little more fun. When a film can accomplish something like this, it is a job very well done.