1940's, Action-Adventure, adventure, animated, animated feature, animated movie, animated movie review, animated shorts, animation, beanstalk, bongo, Charlie McCarthy, Dinah Shore, Disney, disney animated, disney animated feature, disney animated movie, disney animation, disney review, Donald Duck, Edgar Bergen, Fantasy, fun and fancy free, goofy, Hollywood, Jack and the beanstalk, jiminy cricket, Luana Patten, Ludwig von drake, lulabelle, lumpjaw, magic, magic beans, magic harp, Mickey and the beanstalk, Mickey Mouse, Mortimer Snerd, movie review, musical, musical review, package feature, quest, Romance, short, shorts, singing harp, Von Drake, willie the giant
Sigh, poor package features, why does nobody like you? Why is it that internet reviewers and Disney critics and fans always seem to give you the shaft? Is it the minimized animation budget? The effort towards story and character that was forcibly driven towards wartime propaganda over actual films? The deviation of a traditional three-act structure in favor of a string of unrelated shorts woven together by a loosely connecting theme or narration? Well in a manner of speaking, it’s a combination of all three. For one thing most people I know prefer to sit down and enjoy a movie that has one uninterrupted story. And yes there are a good number of films, great ones, in fact, that play around with how the story is presented, but as of writing there’s yet to be an audience or even a filmmaker clamoring for an animated equivalent of something like Pulp Fiction.
And of course the major factor in all this is the time period in which these movies were made. I’ve already talked about this in my review of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad but for those not on the uptake, THERE WAS A FREAKING WORLD WAR WHILE THIS WAS GOING ON. Disney couldn’t afford to do something on the scale of Pinocchio or Fantasia or even Dumbo because his best animators were A, drafted out to fight, B, struggling to work with what little resources they had when the government was also pushing them to remind the public to buy bonds, or C, kicked out because of the disastrous animators’ strike of the early ’40’s. Projects with linear narratives that were considered big scale like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Lady and the Tramp were put on hold for virtually a decade. The best they could do was package a bunch of fun little shorts together because releasing them individually wouldn’t bring in as much desperately needed revenue as a full feature would.
And who says these shorts are bad? I don’t! At worst they’re fluffy little time fillers, but at their best they can hold their own with the big leagues of Disney animation. Again, going back to my Ichabod and Mr. Toad review, Disney’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow is the first thing I and a good many others think of when the story comes to mind. I also have the advantage that a lot of people today sadly don’t in that I grew up with virtually all of the package feature shorts in one way or another, either through individual VHS releases or on the Disney Channel as part of shows like Mouse Tracks, Donald’s Quack Attack, or the DTV music videos. It would be years until I saw them all as they were meant to in order as one full film, but blame Disney themselves for that. It’s a Catch-22 situation when it comes to their forgotten films; Disney sees there’s not much public interest in these old movies and so holds out on releasing them for as long as possible, while the public notices Disney never getting around to releasing these movies and think it must be because they’re not worth their time. So nobody wins and we all get smothered under another avalanche of Frozen dvds.
As of writing there’s only two – count ’em, TWO – Walt Disney Animated Classics that have yet to be released fully on Blu-Ray, and they’re, you guessed it, package features. “Make Mine Music” and “Melody Time” to be precise. You wanna know how old the dvds for them are? The advertisements that play before the main menu are for The Tigger Movie and The Little Mermaid 2. That’s THE YEAR 2000. NEARLY TWENTY YEARS AGO. And the only reason why today’s feature “Fun and Fancy Free” got on blu-ray is because the higher ups at Disney decided to combine it with Ichabod & Mr. Toad. So now we have a package blu-ray of two package features (three if you count The Reluctant Dragon which is also on there). It’s Package-ception, if you will. BWOMP.
Back to the topic at hand, World War Two was finally winding down and the country was in a state of elation from having their boys return home after tearing the Axis powers a new one. Walt Disney had ideas for two full-length features, one inspired by a short story by Sinclair Lewis (I’d say based on but it barely resembles the tale that’s printed) and the other a take on Jack and the Beanstalk starring Mickey Mouse. Neither of them were able to get the treatment he wanted due to story issues and because the first thing to go during wars and Republican administrations is money for the arts. So he compromised by bringing them both into one movie with each of them sharing a half. Looking back I would have loved to have seen what an hour-length or even 75 minute version of Mickey and the Beanstalk would have been like because for all its flaws I enjoy it that much, and I’m tired of holding my breath waiting for Disney to do SOMETHING with “Gigantic”. Bongo on the other hand, I can’t see as anything other than a short, but that’s not a jab at its quality. Yet how do both stand up as a feature? Does it live up to what its title promises? Let’s find out.