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|Kevin Krock, editor|
"Fun and Fancy Free" was the follow-up to "Make Mine Music", and it continued Walt Disney's return from the devastating effects that World War II had on his studio. This "package feature" style of combining a number of short animated pieces together into a single release was Walt's way of producing high quality animated features for as little money and time as possible. Essentially, the package features had to pay the bills while the studio geared back up for single story, full length animated features, like "Cinderella," "Alice in Wonderland," and "Peter Pan".
Of the four package features released between 1946 and 1949 ("Make Mine Music" through "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad"), this one is probably my favorite. The two stories, "Bongo" and "Mickey and the Beanstalk", are both very enjoyable.
"Bongo" is narrated by Dinah Shore and follows a small circus bear as he learns what freedom from the circus and love is all about. It's a very cute and fun section. The "Mickey and the Beanstalk" section is introduced and narrated by Edgar Bergan with appearances by his dummies Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd, and it's a great little story starring Mickey, Donald and Goofy. Just like the fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk," after Mickey trades their cow for some magic beans, the three of them end up on the grounds of a castle in the clouds, and that begins the trio's adventure to retrieve the Singing Harp from Willie the Giant. This section is simply a classic and a bit more memorable than "Bongo".The Goodies...
This is one of Disney's Gold Collection titles, so don't expect a lot of goodies. The DVD Storybook and Trivia Game are the same features as those on other Disney DVDs. The Storybook is an abbreviated version of the story in a book format. The story can either be read by the viewer, or a narrate can read the story to the viewer. It's nice to have, especially for kids, but it wouldn't make or break my decision to by a DVD. The same holds true for the trivia game... Once you answer the questions correctly, there is no reason to ever try it again. As I said, kids enjoy these features, so while they won't hold an adult's attention for more than a couple of minutes, they'll probably divert kids' attention for a bit longer.
Disney also included Lou Bega's "Disney's Mambo No. 5" music video, which actually ends up being an ad for a couple of Disney music CDs. It's basically a "Disney-fied" version of his big hit - same music, different words. Nothing spectacular, but the catchy rhythm will please the little ones.
The "special" featurette that was included on the 50th anniversary VHS release was also put on the DVD. "The Story Behind 'Fun and Fancy Free'" is about 20 minutes of animated clips and interviews with Leonard Maltin (Disney film historian), Ward Kimball (Disney animator extraordinaire) and others involved with the development with the feature. It gives a nice history behind the two stories, and it helps to provide the proper historical context in which the movie was created, which explains some of the things that might be lost on younger kids.
Overall, these are pretty much the standard features for a Disney Gold Collection DVD, but including "The Story Behind 'Fun and Fancy Free'" featurette puts it slightly ahead of many of the other Gold Collection DVD's.The Video, Audio and Interface...
This is a fairly old movie, but the film was "fully restored" for the VHS release on its 50th anniversary a few years ago. That same video transfer was used for the DVD, so the video looks pretty clean and relatively free from the signs of age. However, I think on most TVs you would be hard pressed to see a significant difference between the VHS and DVD versions.
Sound-wise, there really isn't much to say. It is a simple mono soundtrack that sounds clean and clear. However, it would have been fun to have some surround or subwoofer action to emphasize a point or two.
All Gold Collection DVDs have pretty uninspiring menus - No music, no sounds, no animated menus. They are just plain functional.
Finally, the video previews warning...as with all of the Gold Collection DVDs, you'll have to slog through several force-fed Disney previews before you even get to the movie menu. Fortunately, you can skip through them one-by-one, but it's still a big annoyance.
The Final Evaluation...
The two stories in "Fun and Fancy Free" are pretty cute and fun, and the transitional sections with Jimney Cricket and Edgar Bergan and his gang are also great. You'll probably have to do a little explaining to the kids about Edgar Bergan, but the featurette does a good job of helping... It's a good rental if you are in the mood for a light and enjoyable movie. The goody package is "standard" for a Disney Gold Collection. Technically, the video and audio are adequate, and the menus are no big deal. If you already own the 50th anniversary VHS version that was released a while back, hang on to it - there just isn't enough reason to justify the purchase of the DVD at this time.
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