Disney Classics #4: Dumbo

I only watched this film all the way through when MWF put it on a couple of months back. Apparently as a kid on first viewing I was reduced to tears by the way Dumbo was bullied and refused to watch any more. And I never even attempted it again.

I didn’t miss much.

This is apparently the shortest film in the Classics series and yet it still feels like it could do with some trimming.

The plot is simple-minded the stork brings circus elephant Mrs Jumbo a baby, a mute elephant with unusually large ears who she rather cruelly names Dumbo. His ears draw ridicule from the other elephants and the circus workers, who put him in an act with the clowns, where he has to jump from a high board into a giant custard pie.

Side note- could this film, with the bullying and mean clowns be where my fear of them begins?

Anyway, Mrs Jumbo, naming abilities aside, is a good mother and angered by the bullying kicks off. For her trouble she is branded a “mad elephant” and locked up. 

Jumbo’s only friend is Timothy Q. Mouse (Edward Brophy) a wise guy like mouse who looks after him and feels bad for him. After a humiliating performance Timothy takes Dumbo to see his mum, in a rather sad sequence featuring the song “Baby Mine” where the other animals are with family, but all Mrs Jumbo can do is rock Dumbo through the bars.

I’m kinda glad Little Chris had stopped watching by this point because this would have broken him.
After this mouse and elephant get drunk. Yes, in a kid’s film. This sets off a trippy and creepy number “Pink Elephants on Parade” which is rather disorientating. Dumbo and Timothy are similarly freaked out and wake up in a tree, and Timothy reckons this is because Dumbo flew.

This is ridiculed by a passing murder of crows (awesome collective noun that) and they have a good life, until Timothy shames them for laughing at Dumbo. Feeling sorry and sending this is a self belief issue, the crows pass Timothy a “magic” feather and sure enough Mrs Jumbo’s baby boy takes to the skies.

Returning to the circus Dumbo takes flight, they get revenge on the clowns and nasty elephants, and he becomes a star. He gets his mother freed (never explained how this would have happened) and they live happily ever after.

Aside from being wild animals forced into captivity and made to perform for human amusement.

What doesn’t work with this movie is that it feels like a series of events rather than one fluid story. And at times the switches in tone are jarring, especially when the heartbreak of “Baby Mine” is followed almost immediately by the nightmarish “Pink Elephants”.

Also while he is cute having a protagonist who doesn’t talk is a bit of a drag after a while. 

Some of it works, but some of it doesn’t and the flow is off.

Disney Score: 4/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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One Comment on “Disney Classics #4: Dumbo”

  1. […] sequence as Bongo and Lulubelle fall in love, which is rather trippy. I also like that as with Dumbo the film is pretty hard on how circuses treat animals, which is quite ahead of it’s time. […]


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