Dumbo (Sharpsteen, 1941)

I was born and raised a Disney child and I never have grown out of it. Despite this, it has been a while since I’ve seen almost all of the classic animated Disney movies I grew up with. So I have decided I want to watch them all again – in order of release. When I finish, I will rank them all, and hand out my number scores from there.

Dumbo (Ben Sharpsteen, 1941)

The quest continues, and I do have to say that I’m finding it more difficult to review these movies than almost any of the others I have done, though I’m not really sure why. Anyway, Dumbo is the shortest of the ones I’ve re-watched, and I have to say that is kind of a strength. Everyone knows Dumbo can fly; I’m pretty sure that’s what he’s famous for. But I didn’t remember until I re-watched this that he doesn’t do any flying until the very end of the film. Most of the film is spent with Dumbo’s mom in a cage and Dumbo being picked on by everyone. (In fact, it’s a little disturbing that those who should have been closest to him are actually the first to be so cruel to him.)

Dumbo captures absolutely no breaks throughout most of this film. In fact, it’s not until he stumbles upon a booze-filled barrel which he gulps down thinking it’s water that things really start to look up for him. He has drunken hallucinations of pink elephants on parade, and when he wakes up, he discovers he can fly. And, of course, this is probably how it happens. But the events that take up the last 15 minutes of the film are so lightning fast, and so strange, I couldn’t help but think the entire thing ended in a world Dumbo creates for himself to help deal with his harsh environment.

Think about it: After he discovers he can fly, he finds himself part of the clown show jumping from a height that could only be imagined (no way a burning building set that tall could have fit in the circus tent). After jumping and narrowly escaping death by using his newfound ability to fly, he proceeds to embarrass everyone who has ridiculed him. He then becomes world famous but, strangely, stays a part of the circus. Only in his child’s mind would he not know there are other opportunities out there. He makes the best of the world he knows in his head, which ends with his mother being freed and in her own luxury boxcar, of course. Now, am I overanalyzing this a bit? Yes. But I think there is enough evidence to support this darker conclusion, and to me it actually makes a lot of sense.  8/10


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