Film Review: Fun and Fancy Free (1947)

Also known as: Fun and Fancy Free, Featuring Mickey and the Beanstalk (VHS title)
Release Date: September 27th, 1947 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, Hamilton Luske, William Morgan (live-action)
Written by: Homer Brightman, Eldon Dedini, Lance Nolley, Tom Oreb, Harry Reeves, Ted Sears
Based on: Little Bear Bongo by Sinclair Lewis, Jack and the Beanstalk
Music by: Oliver Wallace, Paul Smith, Eliot Daniel, Charles Wolcott
Cast: Cliff Edwards, Edgar Bergen, Luana Patten, Walt Disney, Clarence Nash, Pinto Colvig, Billy Gilbert, Anita Gordon

Walt Disney Animation Studios, RKO Radio Pictures, 73 Minutes

Review:

“Once upon a time, long long ago…” – Edgar Bergen, “Funny, nothing ever happens nowadays.” – Charlie McCarthy

The fourth of six films in Disney’s 1940s package/anthology series is a return to form of what the first two were. It actually plays very similarly to Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros, except it’s not pushing Latin American tourism as its main objective.

This one is an anthology film that features a few short animation tales that come together with a series of live-action bits featuring a guy and his ventriloquist dummy telling the tales to kids. The guy and his dummy also narrate the short films.

Honestly, my only real issue with Fun and Fancy Free was the narration. It’s not bad but the guy talking to his dummy gets tiresome after awhile and it felt like more of a distraction by the time you reach the great Mickey and the Beanstalk story.

That Beanstalk cartoon is the most memorable bit to come out of this film and it has lived on beyond this movie as a whole. I think most kids, even today, have seen or at least heard of Mickey and the Beanstalk but not a lot of people would know what Fun and Fancy Free is. That’s probably due to that short film appearing on its own over the years in a variety of places.

In the end, this is mostly okay but it’s not up to the level of what Walt Disney Studios was capable of at their best.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Disney’s other 1940s package/anthology films.

Film Review: Fantasia (1940)

Also known as: The Concert Feature, Highbrowski by Stokowski, Bach to Stravinsky and Bach, The Musical Feature (working titles)
Release Date: November 13th, 1940 (New York City – original roadshow version premiere)
Directed by: Samuel Armstrong, James Algar, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Ben Sharpsteen, David D. Hand, Hamilton Luske, Jim Handley, Ford Beebe, T. Hee, Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson
Written by: Joe Grant, Dick Huemer
Music by: various
Cast: Leopold Stokowski, Deems Taylor (host, narrator)

Walt Disney Animation Studios, RKO Radio Pictures, 125 Minutes, 124 Minutes (2000 roadshow restoration), 80 Minutes (1942 cut), 120 Minutes (1991 VHS cut), 115 Minutes (1946 cut)

Review:

With only their third animated feature film, Walt Disney Animation Studios achieved true perfection and describing Fantasia as anything less than a masterpiece should be criminal.

Okay, hyperbolic speech aside, this is still an amazing motion picture that was, hands down, the best use of the animation medium up to its existence. Frankly, it’s still a hard movie to top and it has aged tremendously well, still being one of the greatest works of motion picture art in history, regardless of its genre or style.

Now I can see why this wouldn’t be some people’s cup of tea. But we can’t all appreciate greatness or understand the artistic and historical significance of something so old in a time where people barely have the attention span to read just a tweet.

Fantasia is an incredible motion picture, regardless of how you may feel about it, as it showcased how versatile the animation medium is while also taking it to a level that people couldn’t have fathomed in 1940.

It’s a beautiful looking film that’s meticulously crafted and executed on every level. It showcases the best animation of its time with some of the greatest musical creations in human history and it all comes together in a perfect, visually stunning, audibly pleasing and fluid composition.

The film is a series of different small films within the larger tapestry. Each one features classical music tunes played with incredible animated visuals that are cued up to the music. It’s a unique and really cool experiment that more than paid off for the studio and it’s gone on to inspire countless other films and animated releases in various formats from film, television, video, live shows and modern concerts that use animation and cued lighting techniques to respond to the music being performed.

Out of all the old school animated Disney pictures, this is the one that I’ve always wanted to see on the big screen. It’s eluded me over the years but hopefully, if we’re ever in a post-pandemic world, I’ll be able to eventually see it how it was truly intended.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Disney’s other early animated feature films.

Video Game Review: Mickey Mousecapade (NES)

I used to play this a lot, as a kid. However, it’s not as good as I remembered it being, especially when compared to the other games Capcom made for Disney properties in this era. This is one of the earlier ones though and I guess it paved the way for the better games that followed.

This is a decent platformer for the most part. It’s just kind of short and overly difficult not because it was meant to be hard but because it had some shoddy design and mechanics.

Some of the boss battles are made to overwhelm you and there really isn’t a way to block or dodge a constant barrage of attacks. You just kind of need to have full life, take damage and hope for the best.

Also, some levels are overly complicated. I remember having problems with the woods level, as there are hidden doors you have no idea are there and you have to access them to advance. When I was a kid, after hours of frustration, I found one of the doors by mistake. I remembered that and that’s the main reason I was able to beat the game this time.

None of the bosses are particularly interesting or fun to fight but you do get to fight Pete from the classic Steamboat Willie cartoon, as well as Maleficent, even though she has an incredibly oversized head and looks more like a Funko Pop than a badass sorceress.

Mickey Mousecapade hasn’t aged well but it’s kind of fun, even if it is frustrating.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other Capcom made Disney games for the original Nintendo: the DuckTales series, the Chip & Dale series, Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin, etc.

Film Review: Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Release Date: June 22nd, 1988
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman
Based on: Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Charles Fleischer, Stubby Kaye, Joanna Cassidy, Kathleen Turner, Mel Blanc, Joel Silver

Touchstone Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, Buena Vista Pictures, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Is he always this funny, or only on days when he’s wanted for murder?” – Dolores

Back in 1988, I saw this movie in the theater. It was a pretty memorable experience, as this was an incredibly unique and enjoyable motion picture. I used to watch this a lot as a kid but I hadn’t seen it in a long time. Watching it again, I realized how much I missed this film. I mean, what’s not to like?

The film uses animated characters in a live action world. When I was young, this was a really cool experience, as I hadn’t seen anything like it before, at least not an entire movie like this. After Roger Rabbit, this would become a technique that was fairly common but this was the first movie to do it on such a large scale.

The really cool thing about the use of animated characters, is that everyone was in on the movie. For the first time, we got to see Disney characters mingle with Warner Bros. characters. One scene, in particular, has both Bugsy Bunny and Mickey Mouse on screen together. The film really is a cool crossover before crossovers even really became a thing.

Roger Rabbit stars Bob Hoskins and Christopher Lloyd, as the main human components of the movie. The film provided iconic roles for both men and they hit it out of the park. Hoskins was tailor made to play a noir type private dick while Lloyd had the perfect balance of being sinister, chilling and completely insane when the reveal of his true identity came out.

Charles Fleischer was perfect as the voice of Roger and he instantly made this character a megastar and worthy of a place alongside the great animated stars of the Disney and Looney Tunes characters he shares the screen with. Roger truly felt like he belonged, which wasn’t an easy feat but Fleischer gave the character real life and comedic charm.

Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman wrote a great script that had elements of film-noir, comedy, fantasy and lightheartedness mixed in with some really dark material. The scene where a character gets steamrollered was pretty harsh stuff for a kid but it is counterbalanced by the fantastic absurdity of how that moment plays out. This is truly a living cartoon.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a real classic. It still hits the right notes and being a period piece makes it a pretty timeless motion picture that still works just as well today, as it did in 1988.

Rating: 8.75/10