Director: Ben Sharpsteen (Supervising director)
Writer: Joe Grant & Dick Huemer
Length: 64 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Colour: Colour (Technicolour)
Dumbo is the fourth animated feature film from Walt Disney Studios. It came about as an attempt to recoup the losses made from the financial failures (despite critical successes) or its previous two features Pinocchio and Fantasia. They were both rather expensive to make, Pinocchio for the lavish detail in the animation, Fantasia for its use of popular classical music. However both were made and released during the first 2 years of the Second World War and the public just weren’t interested. This bit of background information helps to understand why Dumbo (as a film) is what it is, mainly why it’s very short compared to previous Disney features, and why it’s much less detailed in its animation that the others.
The story follows the journey of Dumbo an elephant born with very large ears. When being protected by his mother results in her being sent away, he is mocked by the other elephants for being different. His friendship with a Timothy Mouse, leads him to discover that he can use the ears like wings and fly.
This is my personal favourite of all the classic Disney animated features, probably because it was the one I watched most as a child. This is probably due to the film’s length, clocking in at just over an hour, Dumbo doesn’t mess around. It’s quick and to the point, taking us from one set piece to another at an alarming rate. In fact, the pauses (normally allowing for some moments of drama) are filled in with songs. And what songs they are too! Casey Jnr, Look Out For Mr Stork, When I See An Elephant Fly plus two standout songs/moments in Pink Elephants on Parade (a fantastic bit of animation) and Baby Mine (he who does not cry during this song, surely has a heart of stone…).
The voice cast is perfectly suited to the characters, the jokes are funny, the heart wrenching moment is certainly that, the nightmareish sequence (during the song Pink Elephants on Parade) is genuinely frightening and the animation is stunning. Despite the lack of detail in the animation I mentioned before, it is beautiful to look at. The animators decided that the backgrounds should be as simple as possible to allow for more time to be spent on the ‘acting’ of the characters and the animal motions. A good decision if you ask me.
The early period of Disney animation feature films should be compulsory watching for any human.