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April 4, 2019

Dumbo (1941) --- "The One...The Only...The FABULOUS..."

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Hello, Movie Buffs!
            Directed and written by a slew of filmmakers and based of the children’s story by Helen Aberson, Dumbo (1941) tells the unforgettable tale about a young circus elephant who flies above the ridicule and soars towards his full potential. Mrs. Jumbo is a veteran circus elephant who longs for a baby of her own when one day the stork finally delivers a most cumbersome package. However, her beloved baby elephant soon becomes the laughing stock of the herd and the circus due to his more than jumbo size ears and as such is named Dumbo. Soon the taunted Dumbo finds himself all alone, after his mother gets locked up for being a “mad elephant,” and is now being relegated to the circus’ clown acts. It is now up to his only friend, a mouse, to help Dumbo learn how to be brave and to reach his full potential. Can Dumbo do this without his mother? Will they ever be reunited again? Watch the film to find out.
            After sustaining financial losses due to the commercially unsuccessful films Pinocchio (1940) and Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941) is one of Disney’s shortest and most simplistic films that turned into one of their finest films of the year. This simple film only cost $813,000 to produce – 1/2 the cost of Snow White (1937) and 1/3 of the cost of Pinocchio – and grossed $1.6 million upon its release. As a result, Dumbo is one of only two pre-1943 Disney films – the other being Snow White – that made a profit despite WW2 reducing box office draw overall. In addition to its financial success, Dumbo also won the 1941 Academy Award for Original Music Score by Frank Churchill and Oliver Wallace, while lyricist Ned Washington and Churchill were nominated for Academy Award for Best Song, “Baby Mine.
            Clearly, the statistics show how successful this film was but what made it so successful. Well, while Disney’s main guys were working on other projects in order to hopefully increase their financial prospects, Dumbo was developed by two of Disney’s founding fathers, Dick Huemer (Alice in Wonderland) and Joe Grant (Pocahontas and much more). Huemer and Grant took an unconventional approach when it came to adapting this film from Aberson's book, meaning that they adapted the film like a book with charm, appeal, and no frills. Interestingly Dumbo establishes a sort of “dark” attitude, which not many people understand due to having one of the most optimistic endings on record. However,  judging by the amount human cowardice that is represented, the “dark” theme actually compliments the film; with the dark being a representation of the obstacles that Dumbo faces, therefore, making the light aspects even more beautiful and moving.
    It is shocking that Dumbo is rarely mentioned as one of Disney’s finest but this is perhaps due to its lack of musical numbers and silent-era facial humor as opposed to the highly expressive and overly exuberant humor we see today. Nevertheless, Dumbo carries a powerful message about love, acceptance, courage, and friendship; universal truths that make this film charming and unique. Now, this does not mean what you think it does because Dumbo is by no means a passive character. Much like a chrysalis turning into a magnificent butterfly or the ugly duckling who became a beautiful swan, Dumbo learns how to turn his jumbo ears into wings thus giving him the ability to fly. This teaches us that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, that what you might see as a hindrance or weakness might actually be your biggest strength.  The question is, do you have the strength to face your challenge head on and learn how to fly? This message more than justifies Dumbo’s place in the American Film Institute Top 100 Cheers, alongside Pinocchio which also features a child (of sorts) overcoming obstacles by themselves.
    Now visually, this film is an unforgettable technicolor world. The unforgettable and nightmarish "Pink Elephants on Parade" sequence is something you will most likely never forget. Secondly, while this film is considerably lacking in the department of musical numbers but what music we do get is fitting and perfect. The most noteworthy being the “Baby Mine,” which is a sad and touching song, while“Pink Elephants on Parade” is a crazy song that is not easily forgotten. Thirdly, the voice acting - Cliff Edwards, and Jim Crow,Billy Bletcher, Jim Carmichael, Noreen Gammill, Eddie Holden, Malcolm Hutton, Harold Manley, Tony Neill, Dorothy Scott, Sarah Selby, Billy Sheets, Chuck Stubbs, Margaret Wright, with Hall Johnson & The Hall Johnson Choir;and featuring the Narration of John McLeish - was solid as they gave the characters life and personality, which is a substantially important aspect in getting the message across. 
    Overall, while Dumbo (1941) might be one of Disney’s simplest and shortest films, it is also their finest and one of their most successful pre-1943 films to-date. The film’s message about love, acceptance, courage, and friendship is powerful, relatable, and universal. This is a film that the audience of all ages can understand and feel inspired to overcome their own challenges and weaknesses. The visuals, casting, and what little music was unique, unforgettable, solid, and fitting. At first, this film seemed like it would be boring but after watching it, I knew that like Dumbo’s tormentors I was too quick to judge this film based on it cover alone. I highly recommend this film to all.

Final Vote --- 9 of 10 stars

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