This week, Scott tackles one of the lesser-known Disney flicks. To catch up, click here! —Sparkitors
I hope you guys appreciate all the trouble I go to watching these films. For this ancient production, I had to feed the VHS tape into my crusty old VCR. My VCR’s so old, I have to hold the stinkin’ batteries in with my finger, as well as rub my head, pat my stomach, tap dance, and complete a PowerPoint presentation on ethical arguments in eye-popping 3D! It's not easy, my friends.
Anyway, at the start of the film, our old friend Jiminy Cricket rides up on a leaf, and I’m happy to see him. Yeah, he’s a bit of a skank, but he’s also a fun and reassuring presence. Jiminy Cricket runs into a pair of sad-looking toys: a gloomy bear and a downer doll. He asserts his new philosophy on them, “Don’t worry, be fun and fancy free!”
As Jiminy turns on the record player, the first segment starts: Bongo, a trapeze-artist-boxer-jujitsu-practicing bear, works at a circus but dreams of the outdoors. (Fun and fancy fact: “Bongo” was written by Sinclair Lewis, the same guy who wrote “The Jungle,” an expose novel of the evils of laissez-faire capitalism.)
Bongo: But that is not all, no, that is not all.
But he is, ultimately, a circus slave; he’s “tossed around like an old shoe” in his “guilded cage." Bongo’s drawn so strongly to nature that he eventually escapes the train on a unicycle.
He rides around for a while and acts like a dog in charming, laughable form. This whole segment makes me inexplicably happy.
Bongo settles down to go to sleep, but he’s attacked by almost every force of nature imaginable, from bats to lightning.
Just rolling the groins. Ooch.
Bongo wakes up wondering if he has what it takes to be a bear. He sees a fish sleeping in the water and tries to catch it. Do fish sleep just floating in the water? I guess they kind of have to.
Bongo meets probably the only bear in any children’s film that is attractive, and his nose morphs with hers to form a heart (meaning they’re in love). During the love scene, the girl-bear, whose name is Lulubelle, has her try at the unicycle.
Bongo: Just rolling the glutes. Ouch.
The lovers are interrupted by a gargantuan bear named Lumpjaw, Smokey's bigger redneck cousin. He attacks poor Bongo. Lulubelle stops Lumpjaw and slaps Bongo in the head. He doesn’t understand the gesture, so she slaps him again. He doesn’t know that “when bears are in love, they say it with a slap,” so when she swings the third time, he ducks and she accidentally slaps Lumpjaw. He grabs the horror-struck Lulubelle, thinking she's in love with him, and spirits her away. Bongo leaves, devastated, and watches the bears dance and sing from a distance.
Bongo realizes that physical violence equals physical attraction to these bears. He hurries back to reclaim Lulubelle.
Lumpjaw tries to take Bongo out, but Bongo fights back with his circus skills and his unicycle, and eventually sends this Cyclops of bears down the river.
Bongo: Just rollin’ the everything.
And Lulubelle and Bongo climb trees and act cute forever more.
Then we meet up with Jiminy again.
Jiminy drops in on a live-action party which includes a little girl, a ventriloquist named Edgar Bergen wearing a tacky purse on his head, and two ventriloquist's dummies.
The two laugh about giving little kids cigars. Then Bergen, in his purse-hat, begins to tell a story about a place called Happy Valley.
Happy Valley used to be a wonderful place whose inhabitants seem to be four main demographic groups; 1) singing animals, 2) singing scarecrows, 3) non-singing animals, and 4) sentient magical harps.
But then, the Shadow came. It stole the sentient harp and Happy Valley turned into a wasteland. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy are impoverished farmers eating a meager dinner of beans and see-through bread. Donald finally gets so fed up with the lack of food that he rushes outside with an ax to kill the family cow. Why is Donald always the one involved with weapons?
Instead, Mickey sells the cow for some magic beans, driving Donald into a berserker rage. He throws the bean under a floorboard, but by the light of the full moon, they grow into a beanstalk. While the three sleep, the beanstalk lifts the house into the stratosphere, eventually breaking it to pieces but saving its inhabitants.
The three awake staring at a huge castle. They begin to explore the giant land, get attacked by giant dragonflies, and soon reach the giant castle. They hear the harp calling to them. The harp tells them she was captured by a giant who could change himself into any form. (Which seems like slight overkill. If you're already huge, why do you need powers? Can he also shoot bombs from his fingertips?)
Despite advanced transmography skills, the giant is deceptively simple. Soon, at the urge of the harp’s music, the giant falls asleep. Mickey and the gang escape with the harp, but Mickey, in an attempt to make good their escape by tying the giant's shoelaces together, wakes him once more. The giant gives chase, trying to destroy Mickey and the gang with a mace. (A mace, really? To kill a couple pests the size of mice? He probably does his landscaping with nukes.)
Mickey and his peoples escape, cutting down the beanstalk, killing Willy the giant. Prosperity comes once again to Happy Valley because of the harp's magic spell.
Back at the party (now winding down), Edgar Bergen the ventriloquist is trying to explain to his dummies that Willy the giant isn't real when the ceiling breaks open and Willy's head peeks through. Yay, kids! Fairytales are real!
Why Kids Should Watch This Flick: In "Fun and Fancy Free," Walt teaches kids that we can solve all our financial problems as long as we set aside greed and go organic (i.e. beans). It's a message that still rings true today. Unfortunately, this was also the last film where Walt Disney voiced Mickey Mouse, so there is also an underlying message; "Kids, you have to let your childhood fantasies go, and face up to the giants in your life. Literally."
Next week: Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
What do you think of this movie? Have you seen it?
Related Post: Blogging Disney
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