While the film is often credited as the last time Walt Disney voiced Mickey Mouse, this is inaccurate. It was indeed the last film to feature Disney's voice, as he recorded much of Mickey's dialogue in the spring and summer of 1941. But later, Disney recorded some lines as Mickey Mouse for the television show The Mickey Mouse Club (1955).
Both segments were being produced independently as full length features, but when wartime shortages lost the studio resources, time and animators (who were drafted), Walt Disney made the decision to combine the two.
In Mickey and the Beanstalk (1947), it is never explained where Mickey gets the beans from. One draft featured Honest John Foulfellow, the villainous fox from Pinocchio (1940) as a swindler who sold Mickey the magic beans. Another version had Mickey giving the cow to the Queen of Happy Valley (played by Minnie Mouse) in exchange for them.
This is one of the first Walt Disney films to list the voice credits for the animated characters, and the first to actually list Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy as if they were actors in a live-action film.
Edgar Bergen was one of the most popular ventriloquists of the 1940s even having his own radio show featuring Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. After seeing this film he said he was dismayed to see how much he moved his lips, blaming it on the fact that on radio he did not have to not move his lips and had become spoiled.
One of the reasons behind the creation of the "Mickey and the Beanstalk" was an effort to boost the popularity of Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mouse was Disney's most popular character from 1928 to the mid-1930s. By the late 1930s, both the studio staff and the audience were losing interest in him. He was increasingly overshadowed by Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto. To address the problem, Walt Disney ordered the production of some Mickey-centric film projects such as "Brave Little Tailor" (1938) and "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (1940).
By the time this film was released, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy starred in individual series of animated shorts and no longer appeared together. Their series had varying levels of popularity, numbers of films produced, and longevity. Several of Mickey-related films actually focused on Pluto, with Mickey in a secondary role or a cameo. The last appearance of Mickey in a classic animated short was "The Simple Things" (1953), which was also the final appearance of Pluto. Donald continued to star in his own series until the 1960s, his last regular animated short being "The Litterbug" (1961). He also appeared in two different educational films in 1965, but these never received wide release. Goofy had the most enduring series out of the three of them, since it ended in 1965 with "Goofy's Freeway Trouble".
One reason that the film was in development hell from late 1941 to 1947 was the Disney studio's relationship with the United States government and military. When the United States entered World War II, various government departments and military branches commissioned the studio to create training and propaganda films aimed at soldiers and the wider civilian audience. Several film projects had to be put on hold as the studio focused on its war-related products. By 1942, 90% of its 550 employees were working on war-related films.
When it was decided to include "Mickey and the Beanstalk" in a package film, the problem remained which one. An initial plan was to pair it with "Wind in the Willows", but the Mickey-project was ready for release before the other one was. "Wind in the Willows" was eventually part of "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad" (1949).
In releases of "Mickey and the Beanstalk" for the television market, the parts featuring Edgar Bergen were often cut and replaced with other material. The most notable variants were one where Ludwig Von Drake introduced the film and acted as a narrator and one where Sterling Holloway served in the same role.
Contrary to popular belief, this is not the first film project to star James MacDonald as the voice of Mickey Mouse. He was the voice actor for Mickey Mouse from 1948 until his retirement in 1977, when Wayne Allwine took over as the official Mickey Mouse voice.
Mickey attempts to convince Willie to turn himself into a fly so that he can be swatted. In Brave Little Tailor (1938) Mickey killed seven flies with one blow and is sent on a quest to kill a giant (as everyone thought he was talking about killing seven giants).
Whether the protagonist of the "Jack and the Beanstalk" is supposed to be seen as a hero or a villain is disputed. The story depicts Jack gaining the sympathy of a man's wife, hiding in his house, robbing, and finally killing him. While some versions of the story depict this as the justified killing of a villainous giant, others are more ambiguous.
"Mickey and the Beanstalk" is notable for reuniting the trio of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy. While they had co-starred in several animated shorts of the 1930s, the last of them was The Whalers (1938).
Since Bongo is a circus character, initial drafts for his segment of the film included a minor crossover with fellow circus character Dumbo and his supporting cast. The idea was scrapped when it was decided to shorten the duration of the film and minimize the size of its cast.
The designs for the Bongo segment of the film and its characters changed much during its production. The initial plan was a more realistic depiction of the bears. In the end the designs were simplified and became more cartoony.
Edgar Bergen and Dinah Shore were cast in the film to increase its audience appeal. Bergen had become famous for regularly being featured in the popular radio show "The Chase and Sanborn Hour" from 1937 to its end in 1948. Shore also owed part of her fame to radio, since she was a featured singer in several radio shows. By the time the film was released, Shore was expanding her activities to performing for the record market and already had some significant hits.
"Fun and Fancy Free" was released on VHS for the first time in the summer of 1997 to commemorate its 50th anniversary. None of the ads for its release featured any clips from the "Bongo" segment and only showed clips from the "Mickey and the Beanstalk" segment. The box art doesn't feature Bongo either. The most likely reason for this is because Mickey, Donald and Goody are far more recognizable characters than Bongo, so this would help increase sales of the video. Later home media releases of the movie also excluded Bongo from the cover art.
The Disney version of Bongo was adapted to the Disney Comics in 1947. While never a major star, he has starred in a few stories of the 1950s and 1960s, and has appeared in crossovers. For example he made a 1950 guest appearance in the long-running Li'l Bad Wolf series, which stars the son of the Big Bad Wolf. His last major story appeared in 1979.
Lumpjaw, Bongo's enemy, was adapted to the Disney Comics in the 1940s. Besides Bongo-related stories, Lumpjaw has appeared as a villain is stories starring Chip and Dale. He was a regular in their series until 1986.
The original "Jack and the Beanstalk" story is only one in a circle of Jack stories. Another notable one is "Jack the Giant Killer". While not necessarily supposed to be about the same character, they all have very similar elements. All feature youthful protagonists with trickster elements called Jack.
The concept of "Mickey and the Beanstalk" was conceived by animators Bill Cottrell and T. Hee in 1940. They had some trouble convincing Walt Disney to approve of their idea. He reportedly found their concepts for the film project hilariously funny, but unsuitable to the characters.
Various drafts for "Mickey and the Beanstalk" had scenes explaining how Mickey got the magic beans. Because these scenes were scrapped to shorten the duration of the film segment, the film never explains where they came from.
The initial plan for "Mickey and the Beanstalk" was for it to be the second low-budget animated feature film of the studio, following "Dumbo" (1941). It was to involve most of the same staff members and cast as the previous film. The long period of the film in development hell required Disney to change plans.
While the film employs the talents of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummies, it was a somewhat atypical performance for him. One reason for Bergen's success as a performer was that he incorporated double entendres and risky humor in his dialogue, elements that were considered daring and innovative for his time. This material could not be used in a Disney film.
Willie the Giant was adapted into the Disney Comics in the 1940s. While never a major star, he has had several appearances over the years. He has been featured in stories starring Chip and Dale, Dumbo, Santa Claus, and the Seven Dwarfs. He also appears in crowd scenes in crossover stories with massive casts.
"Mickey and the Beanstalk" is an adaptation of the English fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk". The earliest version of the story in print was a 1807 one by Benjamin Tabart (1767-1833). However, his version was overshadowed by two later and more popular versions, a 1842 one by Henry Cole (1808-1882) and a 1890 one by Joseph Jacobs (1854-1916). Most of the 20th century adaptations were based on Jacobs' version.
The famous phrase "Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman" from the "Jack and the Beanstalk" story seems to be much older than the known versions of the story. Variations of it appear in earlier works such as "Have with You to Saffron-Walden" (1596) by Thomas Nashe (1567-c. 1601), "King Lear" (1605) by William Shakespeare (1564-1616), and "Jack the Giant Killer" (1711).