Dumbo (1941)

“You all oughta be ashamed of yourselves — a bunch of big guys like you, pickin’ on a poor little orphan like him.”

Synopsis:
A baby elephant is ridiculed because of his enormous ears, and exiled to working as a clown — but with the help of his friend Timothy Q. Mouse (Edward Brophy), he soon discovers his true potential.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary accurately labels this classic animated feature about a misfit/freak who is “laughed at and rejected by the ones [he tries] to befriend” a “Disney film with heart”, noting that while it was “made on the cheap, to help recoup heavy studio losses”, it nonetheless remains one of the studio’s “finest, sweetest, least pretentious films”. He points out that “the characters are a memorable lot and are drawn expertly”, that the “action animation is exceptional” (with “excellent use… made of quick cuts and extreme angles”), and that “the story… manages to be both frightening (like, say, Oliver Twist) and charming.” He calls out in particular the famed “Pink Elephants” dance sequence — representing a “nightmare the drunk Dumbo is having” — as “one of the greatest bits of animation in all of Disney”. At just an hour long, the heartwarming story literally flies by, from its inspired opening sequence (involving a stork — Sterling Holloway — delivering Dumbo to his eagerly awaiting mother), to the infamously distressing scene in which Dumbo attempts to communicate with his wrongly caged mother, to its triumphant finale (preceded by a pivotal scene involving a quartet of helpful jivin’ crows). Dumbo deserves its celebrated spot in animation history, and merits multiple enjoyable viewings by all film fanatics.

P.S. Other than the “traumatic” mother-child separation scene cited above, Dumbo is probably the film most suitable for young children out of all of Disney’s early features.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A truly heartwarming (and at times heartbreaking) screenplay
  • Creative animation
  • The memorably infamous “pink elephants” sequence

Must See?
Yes, as one of Disney’s most justifiably acclaimed classics.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Dumbo (1941)”

  1. Yes – agreed – a must as one of Disney’s best classic films. (This is perhaps one of a handful of Disney films I would personally want to return to on occasion.)

    Here’s one that adult ffs can thoroughly enjoy with young, budding ffs. It’s made with extraordinary craft and care. Visually striking throughout, ‘Dumbo’ has the added plus of about a half-dozen catchy songs graced with thoughtful or clever lyrics.

    ‘Dumbo’ is, of course, geared toward any audience member who feels ‘different’, for whatever reason – and it progressively illustrates how those ‘out of step’ should learn to fine-tune and celebrate whatever makes them ‘unique’ in the eyes of society.

    The film does open by reinforcing one of the worst lessons in sex education: babies come from storks. (I’m joking.) And, even though I understand that the film’s title accentuates the theme, it’s odd that Dumbo’s real name is ‘Jumbo Jr.’ and his best friend (Timothy the mouse) still continues to call him by the freakish nickname the gossiping lady elephants gave him.

    But those are very small points. ‘Dumbo’ has aged well and may always be relevant. It’s a fine, satisfying piece of entertainment – and would actually go well back-to-back with Tod Browning’s ‘Freaks’ (for obvious reasons).

    P.S. I should add that the ‘pink elephants’ sequence might also be somewhat scary for young kids, depending on age. (In context of the story, this sequence goes on a little long, although it contains perhaps the film’s main visual highlights and probably allowed the animators free reign to have one heck of a creative time!)

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