Disney Classics Challenge: Dumbo

So what have we learned? I am BAD at keeping schedules. I have a reason though. I was under the assumption that I would have a lot of free time when I graduated, so I took way to many responsibilities and I ended up more stressed than I was when I was still in university. In the last two months, I worked 3-4 days a week, gave sex-ed at schools in my free time, helped my grandmother clean her house every other week, went to Dutch Comic Con, finished my first scanlation project, started following voice acting classes, and organized two birthday parties. Yes, there is fun stuff between the mandatory stuff, but it takes time nonetheless.

Anyway: Dumbo. Dumbo was released in 1941 and was solely made to make up for the financial loss that Fantasia created. Surprisingly, Dumbo turned most financially successful movies of the 1940’s. By purposefully keeping the animations simple and with a length of only 67 minutes, the production costs of Dumbo were half of Snow White’s and 1/3 of Pinocchio’s.  Dumbo got re-released in theaters in 1949, 1959, 1972, and 1976. Dumbo, along with Alice in Wonderland, was the first of Disney’s canon of animated films to be released on home video. The film was originally released in 1981 on VHS and Betamax, followed by a Laserdisc release in 1982 and then once again on VHS and Betamax in 1985. The film was then remastered in 1986 and 1989 and released on VHS and Laserdisc as a 50th Anniversary Edition of Dumbo in 1991, followed by a 1994 VHS and Laserdisc release. In 2001, a 60th Anniversary Special Edition was released in VHS and DVD formats. In 2006 the film was released on DVD,followed by a UK Special Edition release in May 2007. A 70th Anniversary Edition of the film was released in the United States in 2011 on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Dumbo-1941-poster.jpg

I had Dumbo on VHS as a kid and I remember watching it many times. I watched it again a few years ago for nostalgia reasons, but I didn’t mind watching it again! It’s not on Netflix yet (at least in the Netherlands) but I have this one on DVD.

Like with Snow White and Pinocchio, we start with a part of the staff roll on slides. No opening of a story book though. The movie starts out with an adorable scene of storks delivering baby animals to the zoo. Every expecting mother seems to get her baby, except for Mrs. Jumbo. We then see that the animals get loaded into the circus train and we see the train riding across the US. I don’t know why, but I just love this animation style! It’s so adorable.

We then see a stork searching for Mrs. Jumbo and finally delivering her baby. She calls him Jumbo Junior, but when the other elephants find out about his abnormally big ears, they nickname in Dumbo. We cut to a scene were the train arrives and the circus people and the elephants build the circus tent in the storm. I found this scene extremely intriguing as a kid. Probably because it’s a very dark scene and you constantly have a sense of upcoming danger

Turns out that sense is absolutely wrong, because the weather the next day is perfect and the circus opens! However, the local kids make fun of Dumbo, and of course his mother is going to do something about that. She punishes the kids but because of her aggressiveness she gets locked up. The other elephants think this is a big shame and blame it on poor little Dumbo.

So this is when the movie gets a serious and maybe even a dark turn. Dumbo’s mother is in prison and Dumbo himself gets shut out of the society for something he can’t do anything about. What fascinates me even more is that these kinds of things are actually happening in the real world. Disney managed to put a very tragic story (a mother who’s in prison and a kid that gets rejected by society) into a freaking kid’s movie! Whereas Snow White and Pinocchio are mainly fantasy stories, Dumbo has an unsettling air of realism. It touches me.

This is when Dumbo meets Timothy Q. Mouse (what does the Q stand for?). Timothy feels sorry for Dumbo so he decides to help him. He figures out that if Dumbo manages to pull a great act at the circus show, the other elephants will accept him again. At night, he sneaks into the tent of the circus director and tricks him into using Dumbo as the ‘climax’ of the elephant pyramid the director is planning.

At the big show, we see the elephants forming the pyramid, and this is another scene I love, because the atmosphere is so tense! When it’s time for Dumbo’s big moment, he tramples over his ears and causes the pyramid to collapse, which destroys the entire circus tent. As a result, Dumbo is made a clown and the elephants no longer recognize Dumbo as an elephant. Again, the realism. When you try to meet expectations that you realistically just can’t meet, society will hate you even more, even though you tried your best and they basically made you do it.

At Dumbo’s first performance as a clown, you can see the poor boy is going to great emotional stress. Even though the show’s a succes, Dumbo couldn’t be more unhappy. Timothy tries to think up a plan and takes Dumbo to meet his mother in prison. AND THIS IS THE MOST HEARTBREAKING SCENE YOU WILL EVER SEE. Just look at this image. No words needed.

Just like Timothy’s last plan, this plan also backfires and Dumbo is only more sad than before. Timothy advises Dumbo to drink some water, but what he doesn’t know is that some kind of liquor got spilled in the water before. Dumbo and Timothy both get drunk and what follows is one of my favorite scenes of all time. Maybe Disney still had some Fantasia after-effects? Who knows. Just enjoy this:

After a night of… who knows what, Dumbo and Timothy wake up… in a tree! How did they get there? A group of crows (who are apparently African-American stereotypes. Please! This is nothing compared to the stereotypes we’ve seen in the previous movies!) they befriend suggest that maybe they flew there. Could it be possible? The crows and Timothy give Dumbo a ‘magic feather’ to give him some confidence, and… Well! Look at that! DUMBO CAN FLY! You didn’t see that coming (except that it’s on the box art).

Dumbo plans to dazzle the audience (and the other elephants!) with his new trick! But, at the most crucial point during the show, he looses his magic feather! But Dumbo manages to fly anyway! There was no magic feather, he could do it himself all along! The movie ends with some newspapers, showing us that Dumbo gets immensely successful, Timothy becomes his manager and he his mom get’s a private train wagon. THE END.

As you might have guessed by now. I LOVE THIS MOVIE. Both Snow White and Pinocchio (lets not count Fantasia, since that one is… incomparable) had it’s good but also bad points, and they both didn’t age very well. But Dumbo… Wow. Maybe the themes are a bit too dark for little kids nowadays, but apart from that, I’d say it aged perfectly well (or not at all)! I like the animation, the songs, the music, the story… Everything! 10/10!

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About Tekira

24 year old psychologist, on the quest of finding a job, loves anime and games.

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