With Disney remaking some of their most popular animated classics, and Tim Burton’s live-action version of Dumbo hitting theaters, I’d say it’s time to revisit the original Dumbo. I’ve always felt that out of Disney’s classic animated library, Dumbo kind of gets forgotten, and it really shouldn’t. It has iconic music, detailed 1941’s animation, and a wonderful message for young children. Although some parts don’t stand the test of time — Dumbo is worth revisiting.
1941s’ animation is truly something special and unique to the time — way before 3-D animation, hand-drawn animation was an art all on its own — everything is exaggerated and colourful, starting with the wonderful circus train and reaching its peak with the pink elephants on parade, as Dumbo and Timothy the Mouse hallucinate after drinking the clowns’ alcohol. Another great thing provided by these legendary animators was the amount of visual storytelling provided, and it works so well with the highly expressive faces and use of music to go along with it. There isn’t a lot of voice-acting in this movie, so to tell your story in a different way, using different methods, was smart and made sense. Whenever they showed people from the circus getting changed in their tents, it’s like seeing a new layer of those people that you don’t always get to see, or when Jumbo’s eyes change colour when she’s defending Dumbo. It’s sad to see hand-drawn animation go the way of the Dodo, and it’s nice to see a movie like this as it makes you really appreciate the art form.
The music is incredibly catchy and heartwarming; the song “Baby Mine” is particularly touching and heartbreaking, with Dumbo being abandoned by the other elephants and treated as a joke, he tries to reach back to his mother who was taken away for protecting him. “Pink Elephants on Parade” has the best animated sequence in the movie, and is so damn catchy, it overwhelms poor Dumbo as he’s forced to take on the greater world on his own, scaring him and most of the young viewers who first watch that sequence. And finally — “When I See an Elephant Fly” is another iconic and catchy song that is still playing in my head. Although the songs here may never be as popular as ones found in later Disney movies, they truly deserve to be remembered.
The story is really quite genius, if not a little short in some aspects. Dumbo’s story of learning to accept his differences, instead of letting them drag him down, lets him fly higher. It’s a great message for children, as it teaches them not to let the things that make them different and unique hurt them, but instead to use it as armor (or wings) and it will never hurt you again. Now, the story does suffer in some points due to a short run-time, so Dumbo’s arc moves along a little quickly and ends rather abruptly. The crows are also an element that is very dated and quite racist, but I feel it’s not the worst thing Disney has done.
Dumbo is a classic with beautiful animation, catchy songs, and holds a great message for kids. It’ll be interesting to see what Tim Burton does with his remake, as there is so much room to expand this story, like what Jon Favreau did with The Jungle Book. The movie may not completely stand the test of time, but it’s a fun enough time that you’ll enjoy revisiting this gem.
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With Disney remaking loads of their animated classics, it’s time to revisit the original Dumbo that has beautiful animation, great songs and a wonderful message for children. Although the movie doesn’t completely stand the test of time, it will be interesting to see how this compares to Tim Burton’s remake.