Who remembers the war between VHS and Betamax? Well, you may remember that the Video Home System won and brought movie entertainment into the homes of millions. And Disney wasn’t long cashing in on its extensive backlog of animation and feature films!
The Video Home System (VHS) was the standard for consumer-level use of analog recording on videotape cassettes from the 1970’s to the 1990’s. It was developed by Victor Company of Japan (JVC). When DVD discs became the standard in 2008, nothing was released on the old VHS format any longer (play ‘Taps’ here.)
But thanks to flea markets and charity shops, some old gems that are not available in modern formats can be picked up for pennies. This is especially true of many of Disney’s lesser known live-action movies.
But today I have two video tapes that show how good Disney is at making money from new technology, in this case – VHS:
Disney made a few package movies and as well as releasing these on VHS in their entirety, it was decided to break the segments up onto individual tapes and call them Mini Classics, or Cash Grabs.
Fun and Fancy Free was released on September 27, 1947 as Disney’s ninth animated feature. It included two segments: “Mickey and the Beanstalk” and of course, “Bongo”.
This segment is based on the tale “Little Bear Bongo” by Sinclair Lewis, which follows the adventures of a circus bear named Bongo who wishes he could live free in the wild. Bongo does escape the circus, but finds he is ill-equipped to survive. He meets a female bear named Lulubelle and the two fall in love but face an obstacle in the form of a romantic rival named Lumpjaw. Bongo fails to interpret Lulubelle slapping him as a sign of affection and the two are separated with Lulubelle being claimed by Lumpjaw. But Bongo returns to claim his love and win the day (cue applause!)
This story never really worked as it contained some discrepancies. Most noticeably is that in the circus Bongo is credited as being some sort of Wonder Bear. He can fight a bull, is a boxing champion, can do all sorts of high-wire acts, and can even dive hundreds of feet into a wet sponge. If a bear can do all of that, he can survive in the wild! For whatever reason, however, Bongo didn’t connect with audiences and the character quickly became a one-off player.
If you’re wondering, I would give Bongo a 2.5 out of 5 Stars. It is a basic story which was dragged out a bit and is lacking in real character development or emotion. Not one of the best animated efforts from the Disney studio.
My charity shop find was two-fold as I also found:
Here is a nice example of how Disney exploited its extensive animation library. This VHS tape contains four Shorts with a similar theme, in this case, working or Fun on the Job.
31 minutes of vintage hilarity as Disney’s Big Three tackle jobs they just aren’t qualified to handle! The tape contains Clock Cleaners (1937), Baggage Buster (1941), Mickey’s Fire Brigade (1935), and The Big Wash (1948). Mickey, Donald, and Goofy give it the old college try, but end up proving they probably didn’t graduate grade school!
Although these Shorts are available on various editions of the Walt Disney Treasures series, it was neat to find this VHS copy still in its original wrapping:
Should I open it?
Many have given up their VHS players as they have moved on to DVD and Blu-ray discs. But I keep mine around because you just never know when a blast-from-the-past is going to turn up!
Just love VHS? Then why not check out our other posts entitled Fantasia VHS Box Set and Beauty and the Beast VHS Box Set. You will see that some of the original VHS releases came with lots of cool extras!
Also, as mentioned in this post, VHS allows us to see live-action films not available in any other format. For an example, please read the post entitled Movie Review: Greyfriars Bobby.