Glasses Crow: Did you ever see an elephant fly?
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
While Fantasia was a critical and financial success, it didn’t bring in the expected results. Thus with their fourth film Dumbo, Disney returned to their traditional narrative. Dumbo, while it has a good story and interesting animation, doesn’t have anything groundbreaking in comparison to the other three films that preceded it. That does not however keep it from being unique.
The story is a mother elephant Mrs. Jumbo has just received her new elephant baby who is mocked by the other elephants due to his large ears and nicknamed Dumbo. A bunch of boys however torment Dumbo one day resulting in Mrs. Jumbo beating up one of them and getting locked away leaving Dumbo on his own. However a circus mouse named Timothy Q. Mouse, feeling bad for Dumbo, takes it upon himself to look after him.
The movie is one of Disney’s shortest clocking in at a mere 64 minutes. Despite being the title character, the movie does not focus very much on Dumbo. In fact he is the only Disney character who doesn’t speak at all. The animation on him when it comes to his expressions and movements however, works very well in portraying him as wide-eyed, inquisitive, playful, and innocent character. There’s also no real villain in all the movie. The story’s focus lies in the world and scenarios around Dumbo while he observes it. And it gives way to the much of the movie’s creativity.
The movie utilizes rather unconventional angles, colors, and tones, which are what make it unique from other Disney movies. The Pink Elephants on Parade scene in particular, while it doesn’t serve much purpose to the story, furthers the movie’s unusual identity. All the movements, colors, and surreal designs are so crazy that it’s hard not to be entranced by the whole thing.
There is however a lot of debate as to whether the black crows are racist. And while I can see how some people might interpret them as such (particularly with the lead crow being named Jim), I found the black crows cool. They had a sense of style and class. On top of that they are the ones who help Dumbo fly. Despite the fact that they find the prospect of a flying elephant ridiculous, it makes them really likable.
The songs while not groundbreaking are memorable. Baby Mine where Dumbo is with his mother in the cellar is a major tearjerker. When I see an Elephant Fly, despite some seeing the crows as racist, is still catchy. Pink Elephants on Parade is also catchy along with some very unusual visuals.
With Dumbo being separated from his mother and having no one but Timothy Mouse the world he observes is very massive and threatening allowing the happy moments to have much more weight to them. As the film and the character, Dumbo doesn’t have much of a journey but he has one heck of an experience and the viewer can immerse themselves in that experience at every turn.