1 The Mickey Mindset: Disney Animation Reviews #4 - Dumbo

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Disney Animation Reviews #4 - Dumbo

Disney Animation Reviews 4/53 - Dumbo

Ryan Dosier - Dumbo (1941) is one of the shortest Disney animated features, and also one of the most undeniably charming. This small movie about a little elephant who could lacks the flash and the big budget of the more popular Disney classics, but Dumbo is a beautiful tale of friendship and being yourself despite the odds.

The biggest thing that strikes me about Dumbo is the story. As an aspiring screenwriter, story is what I look to first, and Dumbo has story by the ton. The film takes Dumbo, a silent character (the only silent lead character in Disney animated history), and gives him an optimistic and triumphant victory. Dumbo is pure cute and goes through an amazing cycle in 63 minutes. He starts off a purely innocent babe, suffers total heartbreak when his mother is taken from him, finds a friend in Timothy Mouse, gets drunk (yup), and finally finds triumph when he soars through the sky.

Timothy Q. Mouse, Dumbo’s loyal (and only) friend, is the film’s Jiminy Cricket. Timothy is Dumbo’s conscience, promoter, manager, ardent supporter, and undying friend. Without Timothy, Dumbo’s tale is tragic. Timothy cares about Dumbo so much that he takes the brokenhearted pachyderm to see his mother. Timothy even sheds a tear for him. Their friendship is beautiful and doesn’t get as much attention as it should.

My other favorite characters are the wisecracking crows Dumbo and Timothy encounter near the end. Yes, these characters get pinned as racist portrayals, but I disagree with that. The crows are in no way oppressed and they fly free, answering to no one. The song “When I See an Elephant Fly” is a major highlight of the film and a great entry in the Disney songbook. The song is actually led by Cliff Edwards, who previously voiced Jiminy Cricket (trivia!), with the other crows performed by the fantastic Hall Johnson Choir. Sure, they could’ve chosen a better name for the lead crow than Jim… but the characters are still a ton of fun and don’t deserve the bad rap they get.

The animation in Dumbo is stellar. Even though Disney made the film as a way to bounce back from the financially woeful Fantasia, the Disney animators still brought their A-game. Bill Tytlla (whose name I had to look up) animated Dumbo in such a lifelike and adorable way and it is by far one of my favorite pieces of character animation. The backgrounds are done with watercolor and have a soft touch to them. Dumbo is such a simple film that it’s almost elegant.

Of course the whole film isn’t simple, you can’t forget the stellar, trippy, amazing “Pink Elephants on Parade” segment midway through that comes after Dumbo and Timothy accidentally get drunk. If this is what getting drunk was really like, I would never drink again. The animation is unbelievable and the neon colors jolt and jump and dance across the screen. It’s one of Disney’s craziest scenes and inspired quite a few acid trips, I’m sure.

What Disney did with Dumbo is incredibly impressive. It takes a simple story about a baby elephant with big ears and turned him into a hero who flies higher than anyone who insults him. Dumbo is one of my favorite Disney films for its simplicity, its colors, and its unending fun. Although it is small and simple, Dumbo soars.

5/5 Flying Elephants

The Mickey Mindset, mickeymindset@gmail.com

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