In commemoration of the upcoming remake, DUMBO (2019), I’m taking a trip down memory lane to visit the animated Disney classic.
Voice Talent: the legendary Mel Blanc (if you don’t know who he is, SHAME!!!), Edward Brophy (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), and Verna Felton (ALICE IN WONDERLAND  and CINDERELLA )
Sequences Directors: too many to list
Writers: Joe Grant and Dick Huemer (story credits)
Producer: Walt Disney
Composer: Frank Churchill (BAMBI ) and Oliver Wallace (LADY AND THE TRAMP  and PETER PAN )
This is my honest opinion of: DUMBO
Jumbo Jr. is a tiny, baby elephant born into the circus, loved and cared for by his mother Mrs. Jumbo. However, he’s got one abnormality. He’s got enormous ears and is ridiculed by the the other elephants for it, and given the name Dumbo instead. And not just them, but also unruly children who practically attack him, causing Mrs. Jumbo to attack in a fit of rage and gets locked up in solitary confinement as a “mad elephant.” With no one to turn to for help, only the brave and sympathetic Timothy Q. Mouse (voiced by Edward Brophy) steps up to help him find some way to be the greatest elephant in the circus.
Well it’s certainly been a few years since I’ve seen this. And… yeah, I suppose it holds up pretty well, minus the blatant racism. But… I don’t know, is it really deserving of being a “classic?”
Okay, let me be clear, I don’t dislike this film. At all. I think it serves its purpose as this cute movie about a cute baby elephant. You can also call it a good story about friendship and the acceptance of those that are different from you. Timothy is certainly one of the highlights of the film who isn’t afraid to stand up to those who have made fun of him and is basically Dumbo’s most dedicated friend, trying to help him find his place in the circus and gain respect while helping spring his mom from confinement. By the way, that scene with Dumbo and his mom still locked up? Holy… that’s an emotional highlight.
And it’s impossible to talk about this movie without talking about pretty much the only reason you’d ever watch this movie, the Pink Elephants sequence. This is actually the only real aspect of the movie that has aged beautifully. While I’ve always had a respect for animation, I’ve only been truly turned on to it and really focus on what makes great animated movies just within the last few years. Having developed that level of eye for creative animation now and revisiting this movie, and specifically that sequence, is beyond bonkers. I know that the sequence is pure fluff to make the already pretty short runtime even longer, I honestly don’t care. This animation is unbelievably trippy and puts your brain in a blender. It’s like Wonderland suddenly taking over the visuals and going full force into it. I absolutely love the madness and adore it to no end.
But I have to really ask… is this really anyone’s favorite Disney film? Like… really? Other films of theirs have tackled both friendship and acceptance in much more powerful ways. Maybe those films felt bigger and this is a much smaller story? Not that this is meant to be a gigantic story, but I just don’t think it’s got a strong narrative on any level. I have an ex-girlfriend who didn’t like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2 because she thought the only reason it was made was to make Groot cute for all the girls to go “aww” at, even though that is CLEARLY not true. With that said, I feel that way about this movie. The focus is Dumbo being cute. When Timothy is talking and planning a way to get Dumbo some respect, are you really paying attention to what he’s saying? Or are you gawking and scrunching up your face when Dumbo holds his tail like he did with his mother? Any time he does something cute, Dumbo doesn’t just chew the scenery, but the entire movie. It’s weird to say, but I think he’s just too cute.
What’s the alternative, you may ask? What would I do to change things? I don’t think there is anything to change. Like I said, aside from the Jive talking crows voiced by white actors, as well as a better reason for Jumbo Jr’s name to be completely abandoned in favor of the derogatory name given to him, but other than those… I don’t know. It’s just a cute movie that does cute things. There’s better movies that can be made, and that’s probably why Disney is remaking this into the future live-action flick. An update is certainly needed in some fashion and I’m interested in seeing where they take it.
Overall, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy myself for the most part. It’s got some great sequences, and has a fine enough message to it, but I don’t think I’ll ever really see this movie again. It was fine for now, but that’s enough for me. So many other Disney films are worth a revisit. Not so much this one.
My honest rating for DUMBO: a strong 3/5