Animation: Jack Kinney/Bill Roberts/Hamilton Luske
Live-Action: William Morgan
Written by: Homer Brightman/Eldon Dedini/Lance Nolley/Tom Oreb/Harry Reeves/Ted Sears
Bongo based on story by: Sinclair Lewis
Another post-war year, another package film. (Are you tired of them, yet?)
This one is a bit different because it’s only two short films stuck together. And it’s not all based around music. Well…maybe a bit. It starts off with Jiminy Cricket bouncing around, singing a song. He finds a record player and starts playing a Dinah Shore record called “Bongo.” Of course, that’s the first short.
Bongo is about a little bear who was raised in a circus. He can do all the tricks, but he’s really nothing more than a slave to the ringmaster. So, one day, he sees his out. He jumps off the slow-moving train and heads into the forest where he finds a new life. He’s ecstatic! Then night hits. All the new noises and sights scare the hell out of him! He doesn’t get a moment of sleep…but that’s all forgotten the next morning when he meets Lulubelle. They fall in love, but she suddenly slaps him for no reason. Then she accidentally slaps a bigger bear called Lumpjaw. The rest of the bears go crazy and rush them off to get married, but she’s still in love with Bongo!
Turns out that slapping is a way of showing affection in their world. Bongo and Lumpjaw get in a fight. Bongo outwits him and slaps Lulubelle. All is right in the world.
So…yeah. This adorable little short took a turn for the weird. I have a feeling that it introduced a lot of children to the world of S&M…or domestic abuse. I mean, this was all consensual, but it wasn’t at first. And…I just don’t know. This was a really weird film.
At this point (with Bongo and Lulubelle slapping each other silly), Jiminy hops on over to the next house and sees Edgar Bergen telling a story to some kiddos at a birthday party.
For those of you who don’t know who Edgar Bergen is, he was one of the biggest stars of the radio era. And he was a ventriloquist. I’ll repeat: A ventriloquist. On the radio.
To be fair, he was on stage for years before his radio show. He watched this movie after it was finished and thought that his performance was terrible because he had gotten lazy after so many years on the radio. I agree. If this movie is all you have to go by, Bergen is a pretty terrible ventriloquist.
He was also the father of Candice Bergen. But his first child was Charlie Mcarthy, his most famous dummy. He was actually more famous then Edgar. And, in fact, he was so famous that Edgar treated him better than he treated his own daughter.
Edgar, Charlie and Mortimer Snerd (one of Edgar’s other dummies), tell the story of Mickey & The Beanstalk. Mickey, Donald and Goofy live in Happy Valley, a land where everything is available due to the magic of a singing harp. When the harp is stolen by an evil giant, everything goes to hell. The three of them end up with one slice of bread and one bean to share between them.
Mickey goes to town with their cow and brings home…of course…magic beans. Donald goes crazy and throws them out. They grow a giant beanstalk that takes them directly to the giant’s house and the singing harp.
The rest of pretty much what you would expect of these three dudes interacting with a giant. It’s a lot of fun! For me, it was the better of the two shorts.
The only issue was Edgar Bergen and his buddies. They were kind of annoying. There’s another version of this short floating around with a different pair of narrators. Maybe they’re better? I’m not sure. It’s still available out there somewhere. Apparently, Netflix has a Disney animation collection that includes this version.
No matter which version you see, Mickey’s voice is the same. It’s the last time that Walt did the iconic voice. (He would actually do it one more time on The Mickey Mouse Club years later. But this was his last real Mickey gig.)
Both of these shorts had started production as features before America was drawn into WWII. Mickey was made the star of his because he was waning in popularity and Walt wanted him back on top. Bongo, on the other hand, was originally conceived of as a sequel to Dumbo. Because of the war, strikes and the animation quality (it wasn’t up to Walt’s standards for features), production stopped and they reduced them to shorts, sticking them together in a package film.
Fun And Fancy Free is absolutely worth a watch. It’s available on blu-ray as a double feature with The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr Toad, which we’ll get to in a bit.