12 Facts About Fun and Fancy Free
You may not know Disney’s compilation movie package Fun and Fancy Free by name, but there’s a good chance you’re familiar with at least half of it. Released on September 27, 1947, Fun and Fancy Free was made up of two separate stories: “Mickey and the Beanstalk” and “Bongo.” The former is the one everyone seems to remember, in part because of Willie, the memorable giant:
If you’re not familiar with “Bongo,” the other half of the movie, well, you’re probably not alone. Here are a few other things you might not have known about Fun and Fancy Free.
1. BOTH SHORTS WERE SLATED TO BE FEATURE-LENGTH FILMS.
After WWII, Disney Studios was running low on funds. Walt assessed the array of half-completed movies he had in his lineup and decided to splice some of them into package films as a fairly quick way to get movies out that would generate some money for the studio. Fun and Fancy Free was the result of those mashups; 1946's Make Mine Music was another.
2. THE PROJECTS WERE PUT ON HOLD SO DISNEY COULD PRODUCE WAR MATERIALS FOR THE U.S.
A partially completed script for “Bongo” was turned in on December 8, 1941—the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed. Predictably, everything changed quickly, and the movies were shelved for a while so that Disney employees could produce war-related films for the U.S. "Bongo," specifically, was delayed so that Disney could make a short for the Treasury Department called The New Spirit.
3. FUN AND FANCY FREE HELPED FINANCE CINDERELLA.
Disney's scheme to get more money into the studio's pipeline worked. Because of the success of Fun and Fancy Free, the studio was able to scrape together enough money to make Cinderella—but there was a lot riding on that glass slipper. “Boys, if Cinderella doesn’t make it, we’re through!” Walt told his employees.
4. "BONGO” IS BASED ON A STORY BY SINCLAIR LEWIS.
Despite the fact that it’s the lesser-known part of the story now, “Bongo” was a big deal at the time of its release because it was based on a short story by Sinclair Lewis. The author, known for his more serious fare such as the political novel It Can’t Happen Here, wrote the lighthearted piece “Little Bear Bongo” for Cosmopolitan Magazine in 1930.
5. ”MICKEY AND THE BEANSTALK” ORIGINALLY HAD A DIFFERENT TITLE.
The working title for “Mickey and the Beanstalk” was “The Legend of Happy Valley.” Presumably, the title was changed to make it clear that Disney’s big star was part of the production.
6. THERE WERE SEVERAL DELETED SCENES.
When the feature-length films were chopped down so that both could fit into the span of a single movie, some of the original scenes had to go. That included a scene where our trio of heroes accidentally awaken Willie the Giant’s toddler son, who thinks that Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are the perfect little toys. Additionally, the “Fi-Fie-Fo-Fum” song was longer, featuring Willie changing into a three-headed dragon and walrus, among other things.
7. IT WAS THE LAST FILM IN WHICH WALT VOICED MICKEY.
Disney himself was the first voice of Mickey, and he recorded the script for “Mickey and the Beanstalk” during the spring and summer of 1941. Eventually, his other duties with the company became so great that he couldn’t dedicate time to regularly voice his most famous character. He asked his sound effects guy, Jimmy MacDonald, to take over the role; MacDonald agreed, and voiced Mickey for three decades.
Though it was the last film in which Walt provided Mickey's voice, it wasn't the last time he spoke for Mickey; he reprised the role on his TV show on occasion.
8. OTHER FAMILIAR FACES WERE SUPPOSED TO HAVE CAMEOS.
The tricksters from Pinocchio, Honest John and Gideon Foulfellow, were going to be the con artists who traded Mickey the beans for his cow. Another version, which was even storyboarded, had Queen Minnie present Mickey with a gift of the magic beans.
9. ONE OF THE SONGS WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR PINOCCHIO.
“I’m a Happy Go Lucky Fellow,” the ditty Jiminy Cricket sings at the beginning of the movie, was a discarded song from Pinocchio.
10. THE VOICE OF THE GIANT ALSO VOICED ANOTHER FAMOUS DISNEY CHARACTER.
Billy Gilbert, the voice of Willie the Giant, was a well-known comedian whose famous schtick was a comic sneeze—which is why he was cast in the role of Sneezy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In fact, it's said that Gilbert got the part by simply walking into Disney's office and sneezing five times.
11. CANDICE BERGEN HELPED CELEBRATE THE RELEASE.
As part of the promotional blitz surrounding the movie’s release, birthday parties for Mickey Mouse, who was turning 20, were held across the nation. One of them, held at Disney Studios, was attended by Candice Bergen—the daughter of narrator Edgar Bergen.
12. IF YOU REMEMBER A DIFFERENT NARRATOR, YOU’RE NOT WRONG.
Although Edgar Bergen originally narrated the “Mickey and the Beanstalk” half, telling it to child actress Luana Patten at her “birthday party,” he wasn’t the only one to tell the tale. When the movie aired on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color TV program in 1963, Bergen was replaced with an animated character named Ludwig Von Drake.
Another version had Sterling Holloway—the voice of Winnie the Pooh, among others—as narrator. And in the early 1970s, Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop took over storytelling duties.