The stork delivers a baby elephant to Mrs. Jumbo, veteran of the circus, but the newborn is ridiculed because of his truly enormous ears and dubbed "Dumbo". After being separated from his mother, Dumbo is relegated to the circus' clown acts; it is up to his only friend, a mouse, to assist Dumbo to achieve his full potential.Written by
Tim Pickett <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The top film that has been re-released on DVD and VHS in movie history. See more »
During the elephant pyramid scene, the runway and springboard that Dumbo was supposed to take off from do not appear until just before the ringmaster introduces him. See more »
Through the snow, and sleet, and hail / Through the blizzard, through the gale / Through the wind and through the rain / Over mountain, over plain / Through the blinding lightning flash / And the mighty thunder crash / Ever faithful, ever true / Nothing stops him, he'll get through.
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The RKO logo is in gold on a blue background within a stylish gold border; all of this is on a red background. See more »
To secure a "FSK 0" rating, four seconds were cut from the German video version: when the elephant tower collapses, you don't see how a crying elephant splashes on the ground with a pain distorted face. See more »
Pathos and liberation with a little help...and pink elephants
There's nothing new to say about this movie, I suppose, but I saw it for the first time last night at the age of 55. I've always loved the classic Disney cartoons ("Snow White" in particular) and have not loved the more recent Disney cartoon movies (though I appreciate the animation and Robin Williams in "Aladdin"). So I'm struggling with why this movie didn't bowl me over.
It was supposed to! It's made in the middle of many American cinema masterworks—the same year as "Citizen Kane" after all—and it's just a few short years since "Snow White" and one year after the amazing (if long) "Fantasia." (That film lost so much money, Disney made "Dumbo" short and on the cheap, which explains a little.)
What gives? I think the movie ended up simply being "cute" and "for children," I put these in quotes because these are good things. But they didn't work for me, sitting up alone watching it as a movie. It's great on many levels of course, including "Elephants on Parade" where the animation takes a spin into fantasy. But the story line is as thin as it is cloying, sad as it is obvious. It's perfect for kids of all ages, as long as they don't mind getting their heads messed up. (Kids handle it well in general, but many comment on how it deeply affects them.)
One interesting thing to notice: there is a hint (that I can tell) of World War II affairs in the telling. The Ringmaster's voice is by German-born actor Herman Bing, a Nazi sympathizer who later committed suicide. His accent, famously pan- European, is toned down, but it's here.
This is no social protest film, of course. Charles Chaplin, being a concerned artist type, made "The Dictator" the previous year. Disney, a famous patriot in the old sense (and Republican), later went on (after Pearl Harbor in late 1941) to be extremely active and generous making wartime films (propaganda films, mostly) for the government. The most famous, of Donald Duck having a nightmare about Hitler in 1943, shows what is not here to an extreme.
In fact, "Dumbo" has become more famous for the crows being voiced by African-American actors, and a debate, easily discovered on-line, goes into how racist this may or may not be. The voices are certainly typecast in a way very common in Hollywood movies of the time. They have a huge role in the film, however, and an interesting one to dissect. It's also been pointed out that poor Dumbo is never empowered—he never speaks, for example, but he does get drunk, poor child. Of course, he also flies. For real. And he doesn't have peanut allergies, thank goodness. That's power.
So "Dumbo" is a brilliant trifle, a compact flexing of some great animation muscle. It is not a brilliant story but it's a very sad one for children who love their mothers (or miss them very much, as I do). It's not a very imaginative telling of the story, for the most part, or even a groundbreaking bit of animation, for the most part.
But it is enjoyable—yes, endlessly. It's delightful and fun and whimsical and even at times very touching, heartbreaking. Which is all it needs to be.
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