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Disney Review: 'Fun and Fancy Free'

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Fun and Fancy Free

Rating:
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The next installment of the ‘40s short film compilations brings out a couple of Disney icons to showcase the feature. The first is Jiminy Cricket, looking a little bit under budget compared to when we saw him last in “Pinocchio”. The animation is cheaper for these shorts, and it’s more noticeable when we see a character from a previously stellar animated movie.

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Ever the able host, Jiminy sets up the premise which is simply feeling good and watching cartoons. It’s an idea anyone can get behind. Unfortunately, the cartoons we get aren’t all that interesting and, to make matters worse, each one is accompanied by yet more narration.

This tiresome trend of dull commentary over their cartoons was never a good idea, but Disney seemed to use it almost every time. The first short, after Jiminy sets it up, is called “Bongo” and is told by Dinah Shore. I assume they paid good money for her since she never shuts up. Aside from the musical numbers of the short, she also speaks for the characters and explains the very thing we’re watching. It’s an annoying storytelling device that was never necessary, especially for the expressive animation of the Disney cartoons.

Perhaps it’s not fair to put too much of the blame on her though, because even if “Bongo” was entirely silent, it still would’ve been a sorry display. It’s about a circus bear that’s abused and exploited in captivity. One day he escapes into the wilderness, lazes about, meets a girl, gets into misunderstandings, and so on and so on. There’s also something about how bears all desire abusive partners but it’s pretty forgettable. The songs don’t really stand out, the characters don’t really stand out, and the short itself is simply uninspired. It’s vaporous, like many of the shorts that seem to populate this period of the Disney features.

The second short is considerably better, and it features the iconic trio of Disney superstars, namely Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy. It adapts “Jack and the Beanstalk” using these characters and has all the makings of a great cartoon. As it’s presented, it’s decent, but it could have been better. There’s some spiffy animation and plenty of visual gags, the best of these being when the beanstalk grows while the heroes sleep. The three heroes are as likeable as ever, each one playing to their strengths. Mickey’s the clever hero, Goofy is the clumsy fool, and Donald is the wild one with a very short fuse.

Unfortunately this short also features a narrator to inform and comment on it, though in this case it’s an entirely separate set up. Edgar Bergen and his famous dummies Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd are telling a bedtime story to a young girl and Jiminy Cricket. These segments are shot in live action, and once again they play with the combination of live action and animation simultaneously, but to a much less blatant degree as “The Three Caballeros”. These segments would be fine if they were only a bookend to the short, but they provide commentary throughout as though Mickey, Donald, and Goofy can’t carry the story on their own (and they most definitely can).

This is pretty much the entire movie, since it sports only the two central shorts. One of them is decent, the other entirely forgettable. There are a few instances of interesting animation, mostly in the second short, and it’s nice to see the familiar faces return, but this is another mediocre entry in the compilation films for the time.

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