I believe that DUMBO is definitely one of the more nostalgic films to come to life from Walt Disney’s imagination. The fact that it was the studio’s fourth animation feature (debuting in October 1941) confirms that the story is timeless.
The opening scene displays a gorgeous animated series of storks flying in the air above the circus, ready to deliver their bundles to the waiting animals below. After a few quick checks on the map, one finally locates the correct train car and delivers a precious baby to the delight of Mrs. Jumbo and her fellow elephants. To their shock, the little elephant soon reveals his enormous ears and is given the nickname Dumbo. Mrs. Jumbo works to shield her son from ridicule, but a group of wise cracking boys tests her limits. Their mocking forces her to take matters into her own…trunk. The Ring Master insists she is a danger to the public and locks her away in solitary confinement chained up in an abandoned train car.
Without the protection of his mother, Dumbo is forced to partake in a dangerous elephant stunt. When his ears get in the way and the entire pyramid tumbles, the Ring Master makes Dumbo perform with the clowns, where he’s mocked all over again. Lonely, he finds an unlikely buddy in Timothy Mouse. His tiny buddy takes him to see his Mom, gets him drunk on champagne and then introduces him to some crows who encourage Dumbo to embrace his big ears and use them for something different…like flying. Dumbo becomes a household name in the circus and is reunited with his mother.
Everyone has a memory from their childhood years where kids taunted and made fun. That’s why I love this story. It’s entirely relatable. But what makes it even more powerful is that Dumbo never speaks during the entire film. Not one word. The emotion that his animator Bill Tytla was able to convey using only drawings is unfathomable. One poignant scene that comes to mind is the “Baby Mine” exchange. Dumbo reunites with his caged mother, missing her touch terribly. Pushing her trunk through the bars on the door, she rocks her baby back and forth as he cries huge tears. I dare you to watch that clip and not be moved to some sort of emotion.
One scene that was NOT relatable to me was the famous “Pink Elephant March.” I understand that the surrealist movement was huge in the 40s, but all I could think about while watching hot pink elephants morph into various objects was, “Wow. Whoever drew this must have been tripping out on some serious stash.” Those elephants are CREEPY. I understand it’s a beloved part of the film that many love. I myself love to fast forward through it and get back to the parts that make me cry.
But I still love the movie! DUMBO harnesses all the classic Disney characteristics we all know and expect from the legendary studio. It’s a perfect balance of emotion, humor and whimsy. It has been a beloved film for decades and will be enjoyed by many more to come.
Video: MPEG-4 AVC 1080p High Definition: I love that Disney took a simple approach to this film and made it softer with watercolor backgrounds instead of oil painting. It was a delight to watch. Even the tripped out pink elephants were enchanting…with a hint of creep thrown in for good measure.
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1: Excellent audio quality. You can’t help but notice the soundtrack and score since there is very little dialog. It was beautifully woven together.
Deleted Scene (6:00): Animation Research Library…Lost sequence: After preparing for the 70th anniversary, Disney researchers found some “lost” artwork for DUMBO. It was titled, “The Mouse’s Tale.” Apparently, Timothy Mouse went into a lengthy dialog/tangent that explained why elephants are afraid of mice. There was also a deleted song titled, “Are You a Man or a Mouse?”
Backstage Disney (28:00): Taking Flight: The Making of DUMBO: I loved this extra feature. It was extremely informative, explaining why DUMBO was so simple compared to the previous Disney features (SNOW WHITE, FANTASIA and PINOCCHIO.)
Apparently, Disney Studios was in financial trouble due to the fact that the previous movies took so long and cost so much to make, yet they didn’t produce any revenue. Disney was under pressure to make something fast. They decided against animated movement and opted to explore the emotional side of the character. Everyone was able to relate. The DUMBO writers would produce a “chapter” at a time to Disney, teasing him with cliff hangers. He was sold.
The musical score received an Academy Award and “Baby Mine” received a nomination. DUMBO was a huge success at the box office. He was even going to be featured on the cover of Time Magazine but it was pulled when Pearl Harbor was bombed the same week.
The Magic of Dumbo (6:00): This feature was a bit on the lame side. It basically interviews people who have ridden the Dumbo ride at Disney World. A definite skip.
The Reluctant Dragon (6:00): This clip takes us back to the 40s on a classic film sound stage. It was extremely interesting, yet I’m not sure what it had to do with DUMBO.
Celebrating Dumbo (14:53): This was a wonderful collaboration of film critics, animators and Disney executives who talk about what a treasure DUMBO is to the Disney legacy. One of the more interesting interviews was with Walt’s nephew Roy Disney who talked about how he never remembered DUMBO being made. Since SNOW WHITE took nine years to complete, he definitely remembers that. But DUMBO was so quick, he never knew it was in the queue.
Trailers: The Blu-ray features the original DUMBO trailer, the re-release trailer and a gallery of DUMBO animation prints that you can scroll through.
Classic DVD Bonus Features (Silly Symphonies): Elmer Elephant and The Flying Mouse