Ridiculed because of his enormous ears, a young circus elephant is assisted by a mouse to achieve his full potential. (via IMDb)
During Disney’s long history of animated films, the studio has always pushed the envelope of what animated films were capable of. This is especially true during Disney’s Golden Age when they were pioneering the medium. While all of the movies from the time period are considered classics, Dumbo stands out among them as a truly unique and touching film.
Even among Disney’s early films, Dumbo‘s animation is unique. Mostly due to the budget constraints of the film, the animation is very simplistic compared to movies like Pinocchio or Bambi. The backgrounds are plain. By that I mean they are straightforward and uncomplicated. You can glean over them quickly and take in every detail with ease. Vibrant watercolors make them pop, adding a depth to the uncluttered arrangements.
Having not seen this movie for several years, I forgot how musical it is. Right from the start, it has you tapping your foot. “Casey Junior” screams classic Americana. “Baby Mine,” nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 14th Academy Awards in 1942, brings a surge of emotion, especially when combined with the affectionate animation that occurs while it’s playing. “When I See an Elephant Fly” offers some of the greatest wordplay in any early Disney film. Finally, I can’t talk about the music in Dumbo without bringing up “Pink Elephants on Parade.” Both musically and visually there is a lot going on. The song itself jumps around in temp and volume and the animation is one of the weirdest, yet most unique, pieces of animation I have ever seen. However, it is a fantastic display of what animation can do. It truly is a one-of-a-kind sequence, even all these years later.
Everyone can relate to Dumbo and his story. He is a young elephant who gets mocked for having exceptionally large ears. That struggle with dealing with getting ridiculed happens to many people. Since Dumbo never speaks throughout the entire film, it is easy for the viewer to project themselves onto Dumbo and use him as a vehicle to overcome their own hardships. Dumbo meets Timothy Mouse (Edward Brophy), who looks past his large ears and sees him as a friend, not some weirdo. With Timothy’s help, Dumbo learns to use what many made fun of him about, what made him an outcast, and learns how to channel it into his greatest strength and using it to positively set him apart from the other elephants. He also learned to believe in himself and have the confidence to embrace his differences. This message is universal, and is a particularly powerful message for kids. This message is why this film has lived on for over seven decades. Everyone has something unique about them and should be celebrated, not scorned, and they should be confident in themselves to share it.
I thought Dumbo was GREAT 😀 What makes this film such fun experience is that it has a little bit of everything. It makes you smile, it makes you cry, and it makes you sing and dance. Dumbo is classic Disney at its best. It has endured for over 70 years and I have no doubt it will endure for another 70 more.
Cast & Crew
Ben Sharpsteen – Director
Joe Grant – Writer
Dick Huemer – Writer
Frank Churchill – Composer
Oliver Wallace – Composer
Edward Brophy – Timothy Q. Mouse (voice)
Sterling Holloway – Mr. Stork (voice)
Verna Felton – The Elephant Monarch (voice)
Noreen Gammill – Catty the Elephant (voice)
Dorothy Scott – Giddy the Elephant (voice)
Sarah Selby – Prissy the Elephant (voice)
Cliff Edwards – Jim Crow (voice)
James Baskett – Fat Crow (voice)
Jim Carmichael – Straw-Hat Crow (voice)
Hall Johnson – Preacher Crow (voice)
Nick Stewart – Glasses Crow (voice)
Herman Bing – The Ringmaster (voice)