Ranking Disney: #19 – Dumbo (1941)
Ahh — Dumbo.
I went through while compiling a list and figured out what I’d consider to be the 17 Disney movies that I’d say, about 90% of normal, rational people would put in their top 20 best Disney movies. (Trust me — 17.) They’re films where, if you didn’t put them in the top 20 — it would seem weird. This is the first of those films.
Ideally most people would put this higher, but remember, I’m ranking how I love the films. And while I love Dumbo — there’s not much here to make me want to watch it more than the other 18 films on this countdown. But again — it’s one of those 17, and because of that, it has to go here. The animation, the classic nature of it — and it just being amazing — put it here without question.
The one thing I really want to say about Dumbo is: I can stand the sight of worms. And look at microscopic germs. But Technicolor pachyderms — is really too much for me.
Dumbo‘s a very simple film. Very simple.
The film begins with the storks arriving with babies for all the animals of the circus. Because that’s how it works.
They drop babies from little parachutes into all the animals’ enclosures.
Only, Mrs. Jumbo, an elephant, doesn’t get a package. And she’s expecting one. (Miscarriage!)
And the next day, the circus packs up and moves on to their next town.
Only, as they travel, Mr. Stork shows up with a package for Mrs. Jumbo.
It’s a little baby boy. Mrs. Jumbo wants to call him “Jumbo Jr.” (What happened to his father? Stork accident?)
Only — he’s got giant fucking ears. The cunty old female elephants call him Dumbo.
But Mrs. Jumbo doesn’t care. She loves her son anyway.
The circus then arrives in town and all the animals (for some reason), help set everything up.
Meanwhile, during one of the shows, some children throw peanuts at Dumbo and make fun of him, pulling on his ears and shit. And Mrs. Jumbo, naturally, don’t like that, so she freaks the fuck out, and everyone flees, and she’s locked up as a “mad elephant.”
Meanwhile, Timothy Q. Mouse sees Dumbo and tries to lift his spirits. He tries to make him the star attraction of the circus. It doesn’t really work so well the first time.
Then he takes Dumbo to see Mrs. Jumbo, and they have a tender moment together as she sings “Baby Mine.”
Then Dumbo and Timothy accidentally drink a bunch of champagne and get wasted. This leads to “Pink Elephants on Parade,” the best sequence in the film. (Lots of screenshots from that.)
They then wake up (as most people do after a bender), in a tree.
With some racist crows. Or rather — stereotyped crows. That are racist.
Timothy realizes that Dumbo can probably fly, and teaches him to fly.
Then Dumbo returns to the circus and flies and becomes a huge star.
And everything ends happily.
Not much of a story, but a great movie.
The thing about Dumbo is – it’s reputation, to me, outweighs its enjoyment. I like the film – because, let’s be serious, just about any Disney movie is better than almost any other animated movie (and many movies in general) out there – it’s just that it’s not a movie I enjoy watching as much. Bambi is kind of the same way for me. Only, with Bambi, there’s more to look at. Sure, there’s not really a plot there, but it looks gorgeous.
Dumbo isn’t really a film you can just look at. A lot of the shots are close ups. Again, though, that only drops it so much. It’s a great film, and better than most of Disney’s works, and in terms of pure quality, it’s definitely a top 20. I just don’t enjoy it as a top 20. I reasoned it this way – in terms of my enjoyment of it, it’s mid to low 20s. But, because that “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence is so good, and the fact that it’s Dumbo – that bumps it up to here. It’s still a great movie.
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Official Disney Number: #4
Run Time: 64 minutes
Release Date: October 23, 1941
Budget: About $950,000 according to Box Office Mojo
Box Office: According to Wikipedia (it’s so hard to find numbers for these early ones), about $1.6 million
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- “Look Out for Mr. Stork,” performed by Chorus
- “Baby Mine,” performed by Betty Noyes
- “Pink Elephants on Parade,” performed by The Sportsmen
- “When I See an Elephant Fly,” performed by Cliff Edwards, Jim Carmichael and the Hall Johnson Choir
- “Song of the Roustabouts,” performed by Chorus
- “We’re Gonna Hit the Big Boss for a Raise,” performed by the Clowns
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- This film won the Oscar Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture. It was also nominated for Best Original Song for “Baby Mine,” but lost to “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” from Lady Be Good.
- The film was entered into Cannes, and won for Best Animation.
- This is the only Disney movie where the title character doesn’t speak. (Ever. I know what you were about to do, assholes. Pulling out some Little Mermaid shit. I’m not fooled.)
- The film was very tightly-scripted and budgeted, because they needed to make money after the failures of Fantasia and Pinocchio. The cost of the film was $813,000, the cheapest of all Disney films, and it made over $2.5 million in its original release.
- This and Snow White are the only classic Disney films to use watercolor backgrounds (and they wouldn’t be used again until Fantasia 2000).
- Walt originally didn’t want to make the film, but two of his story writers wrote the film as installments and left the installments on his desk every morning. Finally, one day, he ran into their department office and said, “This is great! What happens next?”
- Apparently this was also Walt’s favorite of the Disney movies.
- This is the first movie in which Sterling Holloway and Verna Felton provided voiceover work. (If you’ve noticed, they pop up a lot in the Disney movies.)
- RKO didn’t like that the film was only 64 minutes. They either told Walt to cut it and release it as a short, or extend it to 70 minutes. He held his ground, and the film was released as it was.
- This film has never gone out of print. It’s been available on DVD and VHS and such at all times since it came out.
- Betty Noyes, who sings “Baby Mine,” also dubbed Debbie Reynolds in two numbers in Singin’ in the Rain.
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1. I just love the look of these credits — circus programs. Had to put a screenshot of them.
2. Love this train — “I think I can, I think I can.”
3. Negative coloring. Lots of it. And this first one was used again in Fantasia 2000.
4. Look at these drunk fucks.
5. Just like Pinocchio.
6. Characters reflected in the water as they walk along. Classic Disney shot. Especially early Disney.
7. I love this angle.