Fun And Fancy Free

Even those who aren't admirers of Disney Inc. have to sort of admire the company's possession of a cultural stranglehold so powerful that it can reissue even its failed 50-year-old projects and label them masterpieces. A masterpiece Fun And Fancy Free is not, but it is an interesting film, if occasionally only as an historical snapshot. Fun And Fancy Free joins two collapsed feature projects, Bongo and Mickey And The Beanstalk, with linking footage featuring Jiminy Cricket and ventriloquist Edgar Bergen. Of the two, only Bongo really feels like a leftover. Based on a story by Sinclair Lewis, Bongo follows a young bear as he runs away from the circus to fall in love in the wild. Unrelentingly dull, Bongo would be a total waste were it not for some unintentionally bizarre touches. A scene wherein Bongo stumbles upon an orgiastic woodland scene—in which he discovers, with the help of chirpy narrator/songstress Dinah Shore, that the secret to bruin love is good-natured assault and battery ("Let the others hug and kiss / but the bare facts are this / that a bear likes to say it with a slap")—plays like "A Child's Introduction To Aberrant Sexuality." Mickey And The Beanstalk will be familiar to anyone who grew up watching The Wonderful World Of Disney, but it's nice to see it in its original setting. Far from flawless—it stars Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy, but, perhaps due to its shortened form, seldom allows any of them to take the spotlight—Mickey And The Beanstalk is an imaginative retelling of Jack And The Beanstalk with an entertaining performance by Billy Gilbert as the giant: His famed talent for comical sneezing is put to as good a use here as in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. The linking sequences salvage a Jiminy Cricket song trimmed from Pinocchio, and display some of the charm that made Bergen a superstar in his day. Rounded out by an informative, if typically fawning, documentary short, Fun And Fancy Free is a mixed bag with more than enough interesting material to make it worth seeing, even if it falls short of Disney's shameless self-praise.

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