Dumbo (1941)    2 Stars

“B…Is For The 5 BLACK CROWS—Squawking, Raucous Comics Who Teach DUMBO To Fly By Flapping His Ears!”


Dumbo (1941)

Director: Ben Sharpsteen

Cast: Sterling Holloway, Edward Brophy, James Baskett

Synopsis: Ridiculed because of his enormous ears, a young circus elephant is assisted by a mouse to achieve his full potential.

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At just 64 minutes, Walt Disney’s Dumbo barely qualifies as a feature, and to be honest there’s not a great deal of storyline to fill out that hour-and-a-bit running time. There are plenty of tunes crammed in though, although only ‘When I see an Elephant Fly’ has really stood the test of time. The familiar story sees Dumbo, a baby elephant with comically oversized ears, delivered by stork to his loving mother and then receiving the scorn and ridicule of the other elephants and visitors to the zoo in which they live. Dumbo’s mum is so enraged that she goes on a mini-rampage which sees her ending up shackled by all four legs in a small caravan. With the help of Jiminy Cricket-wannabe Timothy Mouse, however, Dumbo discovers her true purpose in life and becomes a star in her own right.

The style of animation in Dumbo is very simplistic, even for the 1940s, but this is in keeping with the story. Apart from the spirited rendition of ‘When I See an Elephant Fly’ and the near-surreal ‘pink elephant’ sequence, however, there’s not that much that is memorable about the story. Dumbo looks cute, but the curious decision to make her mute prevents all but the youngest of children from really connecting with her. But then, perhaps that’s the futility of a fully-grown man attempting to review a movie quite clearly aimed at young kids. Even watching it as an adult, though, it’s pleasing enough entertainment, and boasts the typically high production values we’ve come to expect from the Disney studios.

(Reviewed 23rd June 2013)