Dumbo (1941)

DUMBO (1941)
Article #1487 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-10-2005
Posting Date: 9-7-2005
Directed by Ben Sharpsteen
Featuring the voices of Herman Bing, Billy Bletcher, Edward Brophy

An elephant’s new-born son has huge ears, and when his mother is locked up after defending him from the jibes of onlookers, he becomes ostracized from the other elephants.

Disney lavished big budgets on his first three animated features, but when returns weren’t quite what he hoped they would be for PINOCCHIO or FANTASIA, he made this one rather cheaply. Still, I don’t think this one really suffers for its lower budget; there are scenes here that are as good as any to be found in a Disney feature, and I find two of them to be absolute classics (the scene where Dumbo visits his incarcerated mother, and the jaw-dropping “Pink Elephants on Parade” number). In fact, in terms of its individual scenes, I have no problem with the movie at all. Unfortunately, once the movie is over, I feel somehow let down. For a long time, I thought it was because the movie was geared to the discovery of Dumbo’s special gift rather than his use of it, and since I’d already known what that gift was (which I haven’t revealed here, for those who don’t know, though it does provide the greatest degree of fantastic content to the story) the movie lost its ability to surprise. However, I no longer feel that’s the problem. Instead, I think it has something to do with my dissatisfaction with the ending’s failure to resolve the emotional elements of the story. I’m really less interested in seeing Dumbo’s acts of harmless slapstick revenge on his detractors (the clowns, the ringmaster and the other elephants) than I would be in seeing these detractors won over by him, an incident you’re asked to take for granted in the final scene. In particular, I would love to have a happy reunion scene with Mrs. Jumbo and her son. It is the lack of this element that leaves me feeling disappointed, and keeps me from placing this one on the same level of Disney’s finest work.

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