Dumbo

Director: Ben Sharpsteen

1941

One of Walt Disney’s early films (the 4th in what now numbers 50 animated feature films) it is the only film where the protagonist doesn’t speak.

Dumbo is not one of my favourite Disney films but it does still have that magic that ensures its longevity – I know that when I eventually have kids I m going to make sure they watch all the Disney classics. There is a timeless feel to all Disney films and Dumbo is no exception.

I love that the states of America have their names on them identifying them. It’s a simple thing but one that I think adds to the charm of the film.

There is something beautifully sad about Mrs Jumbo, she is a gentle giant, and they have managed to capture how cruel people can be to those who are different (despite the fact that the ‘people’ in question are actually elephants!)  the other elephants are such shallow, snobby gossips with no regards for others feelings.

Dumbo is adorable much in the same way Disney’s other mute character, Dopey, is. You can’t help but feel for them both. Watching Dumbo play with his mother, in their brief time together, is wonderfully touching and makes his removal all the more distressing. Despite being human I found myself sympathizing with Mrs Jumbo rather than the humans.

Although this is a children’s film there are actually a couple of important messages contained within the story – namely, anyone can overcome adversity if they refuse to give up, and don’t judge someone on how they look.

Joshua Klein says “Dumbo is still awash in sentimentality, but the anthropomorphized leads – Dumbo, the outcast baby circus elephant whose giant ears and clumsiness make him the object of ridicule, and Timothy, his worldly rodent companion – lend themselves to some joyfully chaotic action as well as some creatively rendered circus sequences.” (172, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) the circus scenes are beautifully created, especially the first time we see Dumbo as a clown, which is equally beautifully chaotic as only a troop of clowns can be.

The pink elephants sequence is psychedelic and actually borders on frightening at times yet you can’t help but admire the skill of both the artwork and the animation. The gang of birds are brilliant – a group of black Southerners this time around instead of Liverpudlian like the vultures in The Jungle Book (1967, Wolfgang Reitherman). They add to the already eclectic mix of music with (undoubtedly) the most famous song in the film – “When I see an elephant fly”. Timothy is as loyal a friend as you could have, standing by and protecting Dumbo and even shaming the crows for making fun of him. Everyone deserves a friend like Timothy!!

I started by saying it’s not on of my favourites but I do find it an endearing film and one that surprises me with the level of emotion every time I watch it.

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