Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
Fun and Fancy Free–Violence, Violence and More Violence
Fun and Fancy Free was one of those Post-WWII Disney features where they basically decided to scrap the idea of making one long film, and instead put a few different projects they were working on together into one movie – regardless of how unrelated they were.
The film opens with the Hobo-Cricket from Pinocchio inside a house (that he presumably broke into), still wearing the duds he got for the awful job he did as Pinocchio’s conscience. In song, he advises people to disregard all the bad stuff going on in the world, and be ‘fun and fancy free’.
What an arbitrary date. Stupid Hobo-Cricket.
What Disney (a.k.a. The Man) is trying to have you do is not pay attention to the cruelties and injustices of the world (unless they involve godless death machines, or getting war taxes paid), and enjoy life by spending some money on frivolous things like, seeing a sub-par Disney movie. ‘Fun and fancy free’ really just means ignorant, submissive and irresponsible.
The location is a little baffling. He either seems to have broken into another house or Geppetto’s house has been transplanted to L.A. of the mid-20th century. The thing that makes it seem like Geppetto’s house is that there is the same fish and a cat that, at very least, bears a striking resemblance to Figaro. And yet, strangely, Geppetto’s acquired a little girl…Pinocchia? Pinocchiette?
Hobo-cricket makes himself at home, talks to inanimate objects, and then settles in with a book-on-vinyl.
[Father hits child as mother and other children look on.] “I don’t want to do this, I’m doing it because I love you.”
Is this one of those Lifetime movies? Nope, it’s Bongo.
Bongo is narrated by Dinah Shore and we’re guessing you probably don’t remember that name. That’s because she sang during one of the most forgettable parts of Make Mine Music (the awful animated ballet sequence). Bongo was going to be a feature length film. Thank goodness Disney decided to spare us the torment of making it feature length.
Bongo tells the story of a bear called Bongo. Enthralled yet? He’s a circus animal who is celebrated in the big top, but is cruelly treated after the show. He is locked away and longs for his freedom. He yearns to be in the forest with the other bears. This seems alright…it looks like it’s going to be a film that highlights the indignity and cruelty perpetuated against circus animals. Awesome.
Lesson: Don’t go to the circus.
Sadly, this theme is abandoned rather quickly, as Bongo successfully escapes in the first few minutes. In contrast to the gentle nature scenes of Bambi, Bongo paints a dark picture of life in the forest. Vast gangs of thug bears roam the countryside, and domestic violence (both spousal and child abuse) run rampant.
There are even these terrifying, strange saw bugs that don’t even exist in the real world, but there they are, menacingly sawing away. [These could be in a wonderfully awful Disneyfied Saw movie. – We would love to see Disney’s Saw.]
The central story is about Bongo and his struggle to be with a female bear that he not only likes, but like-likes, in the face of opposition from the aforementioned gang of bear-thugs, led by Lockjaw (who confusingly does not actually have lockjaw). As a central part of this story, we learn–through that great conductor of cultural knowledge: song, and some vivid imagery–that bears express their love through spousal abuse. Here’s some of the song:
When the whipowill’s in love, he can whip her.
You can ask any bear, oh, there’s nothin’ to compare
With a love tap strong or weak
Grab your bears and swing ’em wide
Shake their fur and scratch their hide
Give her a slap, give her a cuff
Go ’round that floor and strut your stuff
He slapped her once and he missed her jaw
And he wound up smackin’ his mother-in-law
Now here comes grandpa gettin’ in line
And here comes baby bear behind
See? It’s fun the whole family can enjoy.
The ending is typical in that Bongo wins the girl. He achieves this by learning that domestic violence is what you need when you’re trying to win your woman. He beats her and ends up with her.
So what is the point of this story? “Hey kids, it’s okay when Daddy hits Mommy. He’s just showing his love for her.”
This is positively dangerous, and in itself makes Fun and Fancy Free not safe for the kiddies.
Bongo was created by Sinclair Lewis and first appeared in Cosmopolitan. Based upon the content of Bongo, we guess it was right next to something like “10 Sexy Ways To Cover-Up That Black Eye!” or “Which Way Do You Deserve to be Beaten – Take Our Fun Quiz!”.
There is no Heaven–Dinah Shore
While Bongo is in his mating euphoria, Dinah Shore says, “this can’t be true. It must be Heaven.” Curiously, she later says, “take me to heaven with you,” which, sexual innuendo aside, begs the question, ‘why ask to be taken somewhere that you’ve already established as not existing?’ What?
A segue is required to tie the two shorts together (because then it makes total sense) and thus, at the conclusion of the Bongo story, Hobo-Cricket continues to snoop about the child’s room where he finds an invitation to a party addressed to a little girl.
Hobo-Cricket has no compunction about showing up to a party uninvited and makes himself at home at the neighbor’s soiree. It’s a curious party. In attendance are the little girl, the host – a middle aged Edgar Bergen, Mortimer Snerd and Charlie McCarthy; the last two being dummies of the ventriloquist Bergen. So, a man invites a lone little girl to his house for a party (which doesn’t end until after dark). What? Nothing weird about that.
The evenings festivities, or as we referred to it, Creepy Bergen’s Party, included a story that just happened to be the second short. No. Way.
Mickey and the Beanstalk
Bergen tells a story about a prosperous agrarian community nestled in Happy Valley, so named as we’re told, because “everyone there is happy”. What a steaming bowl of rice and bullshit. Ricktopher used to live in Happy Valley and it’s wasn’t always happy. The prosperity of Happy Valley is due to a magical singing harp.
One day, the harp disappears and the valley becomes a wasteland. Crops fail, people are starving and this is where we meet Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Goofy, three dudes sharing a pad and trying to stay alive. They also have a cow whom Bergen explains is their bosom friend, but who’s milk has unfortunately gone dry.
Mickey, Donald and Goofy are shown in abject poverty; slicing a bean to share three ways, eating bread and bean sandwiches that are transparent. Poverty can push people to do desperate things–things they wouldn’t do under more moderate circumstances.
Donald is driven to a mental breakdown. In a disturbing turn of events Mickey and Goofy take advantage of the situation, restraining him and doing some inappropriate touching.
Back at the party, one of the dummies posits, “why don’t they just kill the cow?”; an option to which the little girl resolutely objects. An interesting discourse follows on whether or not the cow should be killed. Do you like beef, little girl?
In the cartoon, Mickey notices that Donald is missing, along with the ax that usually hangs on the wall. What are they? Vikings? He and Goofy look out the window in horror as Donald, eyes wild with hunger and despair, sneaks up to the cow, ax wielded high in the air. They stop him just in time and, again taking advantage of the situation, this happens:
Rather than kill it, Mick, Don and Goo decide to sell their bosom friend and udder failure, the cow. Mickey is charged with selling the cow but comes back having traded the cow for some “magic beans”. (When Mickey and the BS was still being developed as a feature-length film, Minnie Mouse was cast as a royal personage whom Mickey swooned over, making it easy for Minnie to con him into taking the beans. Basically.) Rightfully, Donald and Goofy are a little miffed. But what can they do? Not much, so they go to bed, having tossed the beans.
Through the night, the beans grow and grow, and they awaken as tiny players on a stage far too big for them (and for once, Mickey is actually mouse size.) They find their way into a castle, complete with a huge table covered in over-sized food, bounce around on some Jell-o, then get caught by a giant. Upon hearing of the giant, Hobo-Cricket exclaims, “that calls for a drink!”, and proceeds to drink from a suspiciously adult-looking drink (complete with drunken hiccup) three times his size. Who serves alcoholic drinks at a kids party?
The giant tries to detain them for future destruction, but they get out of this scrape with the help of the magical singing harp. (Why a harp needs to sing rather than just playing harp music is beyond us–maybe that’s why she’s magic. And of course, it’s a she and not a he.)
Bergen: There’s the Magic Harp, she knows the giant’s weakness [her ‘singing’].
Charlie McCarthy: She could be my weakness. Ew.
[We suspect Magical Singing Harp is a euphemism for v****a.]
Of course, there’s a happy ending for Happy Valley. With the return of the Magical Singing Harp, Happy Valley was once again prosperous and happy.
This story makes an excellent allegory for the destructive behaviors of big-business. The giant had stolen the Magic Harp because he wanted her to sing him to sleep every night. This selfish behavior for a frivolous purpose came at a great cost to the inhabitants of Happy Valley; devastating the environment and their community. However, the depiction of the giant as oafish and easily defeated is unrealistic. Perhaps the giant should have been depicted as more clever and manipulative.
However, instead of a clever allegory we’re left with a rather forgettable and somewhat disturbing story. Added to Bongo, together with the offensive behavior of Hobo-Cricket, Fun and Fancy Free leaves you wanting to repress the awful, awful imagery and ideas it has seared into your mind. Or maybe that’s just us.
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs down.
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs down.