This is the second instalment in my Disney re-watch series. Unlike the first film, Peter Pan, which I watched to death as a child, my memory of Dumbo is very fuzzy. All I could remember was a train chuttering ‘I think I can’ and strange pink elephants dancing. So when I settled on the sofa this week snuggled in a blanket and smothered in a cold it was a bit like watching it for the first time. Here are my thoughts:
- Long credits with musical samples of the songs about to feature in the film. I still find these boring but this time the circus poster animation was pretty cool. I would love some stationary in this style!
- Finally the film starts with a dramatic poem and a stormy sky. I have no idea what is about to happen. Ah it’s the storks!
- The opening sequence of the storks delivering the baby animals to the various inhabitants of the circus is just beautiful and could work as a standalone short animation. In fact most of Dumbo feels like tiny ‘shorts’ that have been put in sequence rather than one consistent film. You remember the parts rather than the whole.
- First heart-breaking moment; Mrs Jumbo doesn’t get her baby. How can they make an elephant look so disappointed?
- Here is a question, where is Mr Jumbo? Dumbo’s Mum is called Mrs Jumbo, she tried to call her baby Jumbo Jr. until the other elephants christen him Dumbo. What happened to Dumbo’s dad? Was there some dark tragedy? Is that why Mrs Jumbo looks so sad?
- Another heart-breaking moment with Mrs Jumbo. She is in raging elephant mode trying to defend her baby. She really does have some good acting chops, we’ve seen her do dejected, elated and now pure terror.
- And now she is in Elephant jail and Dumbo is being rejected by the rest of the Elephants! This film is way too sad.
- Just when things can’t get worse we get some comic relief and a kind friend in the little talkative mouse. I love this guy. This is the kind of friend I want! Someone who looks out for you, comes up with crazy plans, and sees the potential in you.
- Third heart-breaking moment: Dumbo visits his incarcerated mother and their trunks intertwine through the bars whilst all the other babies in the circus can snuggle up to their mums. Between my runny nose and teary eyes I am quickly running out of tissues!
- And here come the pink elephants! Feels like we have fallen into Fantasia. Not sure if I really enjoy this sequence despite its creativity. It’s just too disconcerting, which I guess is how a young elephant might feel after accidentally getting drunk.
- The crows, that unfortunately are probably racist, have the best song in the film.
- Our happy ending comes thick and fast now. But there is a horrible second when I think Dumbo isn’t going to pull out of the horrendous plummet and hit the ground at full force. I could feel my face wincing on his behalf, but Dumbo manages to gain control at the last moment, avoids the crash and becomes a soaring sensation! Hurrah!
Dumbo is not one of my favourite Disney movies; the overall tone is too melancholy to watch it repeatedly. However, there are several beautiful and moving sequences that are delightful to watch, especially the mother and baby montages.
One thing that I do absolutely love about Dumbo is the key message that the very feature that makes you different and strange to some might be the very thing that leads you to greatness. So here is to funny quirks, zero-gravity thinking and enormous ears!