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Dumbo is a American animated feature produced by Walt Disney and released on October 23, 1941, by RKO Radio Pictures.

The fourth film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, Dumbo is based upon a child's book of the same name by Helen Aberson and illustrated by Harold Pearl. The main character is Jumbo Jr., a semi-anthropomorphic elephant who is cruelly nicknamed Dumbo. He is ridiculed for his big ears, but in fact he is capable of flying by using his ears as wings. Throughout most of the film, his only true friend, aside from his mother, is the mouse, Timothy — a relationship parodying the stereotypical animosity between mice and elephants.

Dumbo was made to recoup the financial losses of Fantasia. The film has been criticized as being racist (the leader crow in the film is named "Jim Crow"), yet is also considered to be one of Disney's finest films. It was a deliberate pursuit of simplicity and economy for the Disney studio, and is now generally regarded as a classic of animation. At 64 minutes, it is one of Disney's shortest animated features.

Plot

While circus animals are being transported, Mrs. Jumbo, one of the elephants, receives her baby from a stork. The baby elephant is quickly taunted by the other elephants because of his large ears, and they nickname him "Dumbo".

Once the circus is set up, Mrs. Jumbo loses her temper at a group of children for making fun of her son, and she is locked up and deemed mad. Dumbo is shunned by the other elephants and with no mother to care for him, he is now alone, except for a self-appointed mentor and protector, Timothy Q. Mouse, who feels sympathy for Dumbo and becomes determined to make him happy again.

The circus director makes Dumbo the top of an elephant pyramid stunt, but Dumbo causes the stunt to go wrong, injuring the other elephants and bringing down the big top. Dumbo is made a clown as a result, and becomes the main role in an act that involves him falling into a vat of pie filling. Despite his newfound popularity and fame, Dumbo hates this job and is now very miserable.

To cheer Dumbo up, Timothy takes him to visit his mother. On the way back Dumbo cries and then starts to hiccup so Timothy decides to take him for a drink of water from a bucket which, unknown to him, has accidentally had a bottle of champagne knocked into it. As a result, Dumbo and Timothy both become drunk and see hallucinations of pink elephants.

The next morning, Dumbo and Timothy wake up in a tree. Timothy wonders how they got up in the tree, and concludes that Dumbo flew up there using his large ears as wings. With the help of a group of crows, Timothy is able to get Dumbo to fly again, using a psychological trick of a "magic feather" to boost his confidence.

Back at the circus, Dumbo must perform his stunt of jumping from a high building, this time from a much higher platform. On the way down, Dumbo loses the feather and Timothy tells him that the feather was never magical, and that he is still able to fly. Dumbo is able to pull out of the dive and flies around the circus.

After this performance, Dumbo becomes a media sensation, Timothy becomes his manager, and Dumbo and Mrs. Jumbo are given a private car on the circus train.

Production

The film was designed as an economical feature to help generate income for the Disney studio after the financial failures of both Pinocchio and Fantasia in 1940. Storymen Dick Huemer and Joe Grant were the primary figures in developing the plot, based upon a children's book written by Helen Aberson and illustrated by Harold Pearl (the only involvement the authors had with the cartoon industry). Their book was made of only 8 drawings and just a few lines of text. When it was published in 1939, the edition was so small and obscure that nobody knows how Disney got his hands on it. He gave it to his lead animators and told them to see what they could get out of it.

When the film went into production in early 1941, supervising director Ben Sharpsteen was given orders to keep the film simple and inexpensive. As a result, Dumbo lacks the lavish detail of the previous three Disney animated features (Fantasia, Pinocchio, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs): character designs are simpler, background paintings are less detailed, and a number of held cels (or frames) were used in the character animation.

Watercolor paint was used to render the backgrounds. Dumbo and Snow White are the only two classic Disney features to use the technique, which was regularly employed for the various Disney cartoon shorts. The other Disney features used oil paint and gouache. 2002's Lilo & Stitch, which drew influences from Dumbo, also made use of watercolor backgrounds.

The simplicity freed the animators from being overly concerned with detail, and allowed them to focus on the most important element of character animation: acting. Bill Tytla's animation of Dumbo is today considered one of the greatest accomplishments in American traditional animation. The critical reactions were positive, as many critics of the day felt that Dumbo was a return to roots for Disney after growing increasingly "arty" with its predecessors.

On May 29, 1941, during production of Dumbo, much of the Disney studio staff went on the Disney animators' strike. A number of strikers are caricatured in the feature as clowns who go to "hit the big boss for a raise." The strike lasted five weeks, and ended the "family" atmosphere and camaraderie at the studio.

None of the voice actors for Dumbo received screen credit, but Timothy Mouse, who befriended Dumbo even in his darkest days and was instrumental in helping him find greatness within himself, was voiced by Edward Brophy, a character actor known for portraying gangsters. He has no other known animation voice credits. The pompous matriarch of the elephants was voiced by Verna Felton, who also played the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, and Flora of the Three Good Fairies in Sleeping Beauty. Other voice actors include the perennial Sterling Holloway in a cameo role as Mr. Stork, and Cliff Edwards, better known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket, as Jim Crow, the leader of the crows.

Completed in fall 1941, Disney's distributor RKO Radio Pictures initially balked at the film's 64 minute length and wanted Disney to either make it longer, edit it down to a short subject length, or allow them to release it as a b-movie. Disney refused all three options, and RKO reluctantly issued Dumbo, unaltered, as an A-film.

Music

  • Baby Mine (Betty Noyes)
  • Casey Junior (The Sportsmen)
  • Look Out for Mr. Stork (The Sportsmen)
  • Song of the Roustabouts (The King's Men)
  • The Clown Song (A.K.A."We're gonna hit the big boss for a rise") (Billy Bletcher,Eddie Holden,and Billy Sheets)
  • Pink Elephants on Parade (The Sportsmen)
  • When I See an Elephant Fly (Cliff Edwards and the Hall Johnson Choir)
  • When I See an Elephant Fly (Reprise)


On Classic Disney: 60 Years of Musical Magic, Pink Elephants on Parade is included on the green disc, Baby Mine is on the purple disc, and When I See an Elephant Fly is on the orange disc. On Disney's Greatest Hits, Pink Elephants on Parade is on the red disc.

Cast



Release

Despite the advent of World War II, Dumbo was still the most financially successful Disney film of the 1940s. This was one of the first of Disney's animated films to be broadcast, albeit severely edited, on television, as part of Disney's anthology series. The film then received another distinction of note in 1981, when it was the first of Disney's canon of animated films to be released on home video.

Reception

After its October 23 release, Dumbo proved to be a financial miracle compared to other Disney films. The simple film only cost $813,000 to produce, half the cost of Snow White, less than a third of the cost of Pinocchio, and certainly less than the expensive Fantasia. Dumbo eventually grossed $1.6 million during its original release; it and Snow White were the only two pre-1943 Disney features to turn a profit . It was intended for Dumbo to be on the cover of the December 1941 issue of Time, but the idea was dropped when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, resulting in the United Statesmarker entering World War II and reducing the box office draw of the film.

Dumbo won the 1941 Academy Award for Original Music Score, awarded to musical directors Frank Churchill and Oliver Wallace. Churchill and lyricist Ned Washington were also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song for "Baby Mine" (the song that plays during Dumbo's visit to his mother's cell), but did not win for this category. The film also won Best Animation Design at the 1947 Cannes Film Festival. Reviews for the film were generally positive and the film did well at the box office despite being released less than two months before the US entered World War II.

Now considered a Disney classic (Leonard Maltin described it as "One of Walt Disney's most charming animated films"), it has received a Special Edition 60th Anniversary Disney DVD on October 23, 2001, exactly 60 years after its first release. That release featured a sneak peek of a direct-to-video sequel, Dumbo II. The preview showed sketches and storyboard ideas. The main story has to do with Dumbo and his new friends getting separated from the rest of the circus as they wander into the big city. Dumbo's new friends are Claude and Lolly the twin bears who leave chaos everywhere they go, Dot the curious zebra, Godfrey the hippo who is older and wants to do things for himself, and Penny the adventurous ostrich. Timothy returns as well. The story was supposed to be as if the first Dumbo ended and this one started the next day. However, no further announcements have been made since. The project seems to have been canceled, as the The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning, Tinker Bell, and its sequels were the last projects for DisneyToon Studios. However, some of the backgrounds for the canceled sequel were recycled for The Fox and the Hound 2.

Controversy

The crow characters in the film are seen as African-American stereotypes. The leader crow was originally named "Jim Crow" for script purposes, and the name stuck. The other crows are all voiced by African-American actors, all members of the Hall Johnson Choir. Despite suggestions of racism by critics such as Richard Schickel, many historians such as Zoe Pritchard reject these claims. For instance, the crows are noted as forming the majority of the characters in the movie who are sympathetic to Dumbo's plight (the others are Timothy Q. Mouse and Mrs. Jumbo), are free spirits who serve nobody, and intelligent characters aware of the power of self-confidence, unlike the Stepin Fetchit stereotype common at that time. Furthermore, their song "When I See An Elephant Fly," which uses intricate wordplay in the lyrics, is more oriented to mocking Timothy Mouse than Dumbo's large ears.

Home video release

Dumbo was the first of Disney's canon of animated films to be released on home video and also was released in the Walt Disney Classics Video Collection in 1985. That release was followed by remastered versions in: 1986, 1989, 1991 (Classics), and 1994 (Masterpiece). In 2001, a 60th Anniversary Special Edition was released. In 2006, a "Big Top Edition" of the film was released on DVD. A UK Special Edition was released in May 2007.



Media and merchandise

Dumbo's Circus

Dumbo's Circus was a live-action/puppet television series for preschool audiences that aired on The Disney Channel in the 1980s. Unlike in the film, Dumbo spoke on the show. Each character would perform a special act, which ranged from dancing and singing to telling knock knock jokes.

Books

  • Walt Disney's Dumbo: Happy to Help: (ISBN 0-7364-1129-1) A picture book Disney Press by Random House Disney, written by Liane Onish, illustrated by Peter Emslie. It was published January 23, 2001, this paperback is for children age 4-8. Twenty-four pages long, its 0.08 inches thick, and with cover dimensions of 7.88 x 7.88 inches.
  • Walt Disney's Dumbo Book of Opposites: (ISBN 0-307-06149-3) A book published in August 1997 by Golden Books under the Golden Board Book brand. It was written by Alan Benjamin, illustrated by Peter Emslie, and edited by Heather Lowenberg. Twelve pages long and a quarter of an inch thick, this board edition book had dimensions of 7.25 x 6.00 inches.
  • Walt Disney's Dumbo the Circus Baby: (ISBN 0-307-12397-9) A book published in September 1993 by Golden Press under the A Golden Sturdy Shape Book brand. Illustrated by Peter Emslie and written by Diane Muldrow, this book is meant for babies and preschoolers. Twelve pages long and half an inch thick, this book's cover size is 9.75 x 6.25 inches.


Theme parks

Dumbo the Flying Elephant is a popular ride that appears in Walt Disney Worldmarker’s Magic Kingdommarker, Disneylandmarker, Tokyo Disneylandmarker, Disneyland Park marker, and Hong Kong Disneylandmarker.

In June 2009, Disneyland introduced a flying Dumbo to their nighttime fireworks show, in which the elephant flies around Cinderella's castle while fireworks synched to music go off.

Video games

Dumbo appears in the popular Playstation 2 game Kingdom Hearts in the form of a summon that the player can call upon in battle for aid. Sora, the protagonist, flies on him and Dumbo splashes enemies with water from his trunk.

See also



References

  1. Obituary: Helen Aberson Mayer. www.independent.co.uk. April 12, 1999. Retrieved September 30, 2009.
  2. Voice actors listed as uncredited on IMDB
  3. Barrier, 318
  4. Maltin, Leonard. (2008). "Leonard Maltin's 2009 Movie Guide", p390. Plume.
  5. "Flying Dumbo to star in new Disneyland fireworks show". Los Angeles Times. June 3, 2009.


External links




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