Monday, January 7, 2013


Dumbo was an odd movie for me in my life. I loved many parts of it, but remembered it as being scary and kind of a downer. Specifically the "Pink Elephants on Parade" section scared the bejesus out of me as a child, but I still liked the movie. I recently put it on for my daughter (who loved it), and found myself feeling like a kid again.

It begins as storks are delivering babies to all of the animals, including the animals of a circus in Florida. Everyone seems to be getting a baby, except Mrs. Jumbo, one of the elephants. Of course, her stork is just running a little behind, and she eventually is delivered little Jumbo Jr., who is discouragingly nicknamed Dumbo by the others because of his enormous ears. Mrs. Jumbo doesn't care, and loves her little boy with all her heart. When she gets angry and lashes out at people who make fun of Dumbo, they're separated, and Dumbo finds himself having to make his own way, with only a small mouse as his friend and mentor.

Sounds like a downer of a movie, and thankfully Disney's 7 credited directors don't skimp on the emotion attached to either mother or child. We get multiple beautifully heartbreaking moments, as Dumbo does what he can to succeed, and to ultimately be reconnected with his mother. Dumbo himself doesn't really make much of an impression, even though he's exactly the kind of silent hero I usually love so much. The supporting cast steals the show, a recurring happening in Disney movies. Dumbo's mouthy mouse friend, the petty and easily hateable other elephants, and even the controversial crows steal the show. The crows, if you haven't seen the movie, are fairly offensive black stereotypes, which audiences may or may not have noticed in 1941 when the movie came out, but post Civil Rights movement, can't help but stick out like a sore thumb.

That said, what sticks out most like a sore thumb for me is the idiotic "Pink Elephants on Parade" section, as Dumbo hallucinates because he gets drunk off a part of a bottle of champagne that one of the circus clowns accidentally drops in with Dumbo's drinking water (must be better shit than I've ever shelled out money for, maybe I need to be partying with those clowns). Not only is this sequence a bit scary, and far too long, it is simply at complete odds with everything else around it. It has no place in the movie. It's terrific animation, would've been mind blowing at the time, and certainly must've influenced The Beatles and much of the imagery of psychedelia, but it doesn't belong in Dumbo. Dumbo is a powerful story of unconditional love, and this sequence is the single thing keeping it from being a truly great movie. It has no business, on a story or animation level, being here.
But still, a movie I remember liking as a kid, I love as an adult. The heartwrenchingly simple story, the splendid animation, terrific voice acting, and a very friendly 64 minute runtime, it's all there and I love it.

1 comment:

kathy said...

I was always bored by the Pink Elephants, and totally agree that they added nothing to the movie.