Dumbo (1941) Review — When I See An Elephant Fly

I’d personally move on to something else, but not before I show amazement of course.

  • Dumbo is basically the product of Disney recuperating their losses after the disappointing financial returns of Fantasia, resulting in a standard children’s tale taking place in a world of surreal imagery and crazy circus people. Nothing complex. No real point to the visuals – especially that Pink Elephants song – other than to be crazy. Just pure “let’s ease up on the audience a bit whilst still making things visually interesting” storytelling.
  • As such, there’s not really much I can say about the film, but I’ll try my best anyways. The plot centers around a baby circus elephant who’s shunned because of his enormous ears by everyone but his mother. Thanks to the trouble caused by them, Dumbo’s mother ends up locked in a cage whilst Dumbo himself can’t perform circus acts without causing a mess of things, resulting in him being put in a humiliating clown act where the only bright spot is a friendly mouse named Timothy.
  • After getting drunk on what I originally thought was soda pop as a kid, Dumbo inadvertently learns that his big ears allow him to fly, so after impressing the world with his new ability, he becomes a sensation and the movie ends. Obviously I’m excluding a bunch of other details, but that’s basically the gist of the film and you could watch it yourself if you’re really curious.

Seriously, who thought this would work?

  • As you can see from that description, Dumbo isn’t really an elitist’s wet dream given how every conflict that Dumbo goes through is due to circumstance, along with just being a baby in general. He can’t talk, and he’s not even on-screen half the time.
  • A lot of the movie is spent on world-building the actual circus with regards to the performers, the tents, that train named Casey Junior, and all that stuff to the point that our title character is mostly just another cog in the machine. In fact, even though he’s known for his flying, you won’t see Dumbo doing any of that until the last ten minutes of the film.
  • So really, there’s not a whole lot to say about the film other than that fans of animation will generally get past the basic substance so that they appreciate the creatively weird angles and scary images. We’re all just here to see Dumbo and his world for an hour and that’s pretty much all that most people need to be entertained. “Not nearly as expensive as our last film, but we need that money, men” said a Disney employee with a really racist voice.

I can’t believe they actually showed these weirdos to kids

  • Speaking of those scary images, I’m seriously surprised at what Disney fed to us growing up and how we continue to see them as this wholesome company despite instilling a fear of clowns into us. It just goes to show that while this company never really strived for exemplary storytelling, they at least understood the difference between “kiddy” and “fun for all the family”. Well…mostly.
  • I could talk about those crows, but I feel like I’d just be poking a hornet’s nest by doing so, so I won’t. Skipping any discussion on Pink Elephants on Parade, although that’s mostly because everyone else has talked about it to death.
  • Dumbo is one of those films that does everything required of it given the short time span it has, and while that’s true for most of the Disney Animated Canon, this film stands out all the more given how it’s barely an hour long and has no aspirations in regards to making its narrative stand out from Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer apart from its weird visuals. It was one of my favorites as a kid just for the imagery, but obviously that doesn’t stand out to me as much anymore.

Less said about these guys, the better

  • Still a nice watch of course, but it’s nothing I need to see again, nor does it really set the standard for anything particularly Disney-related the way the other Golden Age films did. And that’s both a strength and weakness of Dumbo existing for nothing more than pure fun.

Minor Quips

  • Kinda weird how we and all the characters – including his friends – say Dumbo’s name so casually given it’s a derogatory nickname that quickly replaced his real name to the point that most people don’t remember it.
  • I guess you could say my review of Dumbo is in of itself an easily digestible post that my readers can go through quickly.
  • What the fuck Will Smith sees in Tim Burton’s upcoming live-action Dumbo remake is beyond me.

2 responses to “Dumbo (1941) Review — When I See An Elephant Fly

  1. Not sure how I feel about the news of Tom Hanks been offered on a villain role in Tim Burton’s upcoming live action Dumbo.

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