Movie Review: Dumbo
Quick Take: Kids will cheer for Dumbo as he learns to laugh -- and fly.
The touching relationship between Mrs. Jumbo and Dumbo, mother and child, is warm and fuzzy, even though they're separated through most of the movie (but not at the happy end, of course). But at the heart of the story is the triumph of the underdog, taking the one thing that makes Dumbo different – those big ears – and seeing that become the thing that makes him truly special.
Kids Will Like:
On top of the colorful spectacle of the circus and all its splendor and curiosities, young viewers will like Dumbo's innocence and his discovery of the world around him. And they'll love the clever and heroic circus mouse who understands and sticks up for Dumbo. ("What's the matter with those ears. I don't see nothin' wrong with 'em. I think they're cute.") Kids will appreciate the two buddies, their friendship, and how Timothy helps his little big-eared friend learn to fly and make a name for himself.
Parents Will Like:
The tightly scripted action is filled with clever bits. Take the circus elephant who gossips to her friends, "Girls, girls, listen, have I got a trunkful of dirt." Then there's the animation, beautifully enhanced and pristinely presented 65 years after the film's original release. In one scene, the clowns celebrate after a show and toast Dumbo. But what were they drinking? Thinking it's water, Dumbo takes a taste of the bubbly concoction and, along with Timothy, gets unusually happy… and sleepy. The ensuing surreal "Pink Elephants on Parade" sequence, with worms and Technicolor pachyderms, is one of the weirdest, most colorful dream sequences ever. When Dumbo and Timothy wake up, they find themselves in a tree. How did they get there? Could they have flown, thanks to Dumbo's ears? The accompanying song, "When I See an Elephant Fly," sung by the black crows (no, not those ones!), and Timothy's soliloquy scolding the birds for poking fun at innocent Dumbo, are timeless.
Sweet Mrs. Jumbo get chained up for protecting her son, and is locked up in a cage with signs saying, "Mad Elephant" and "Danger." Kids will feel for Jumbo and Dumbo, who sheds tears as he misses his helpless mom. Then, after hapless Dumbo causes the circus tent to collapse, he's punished and made to be a clown. As part of an act, he's trapped but then rescued from a burning structure. Late in the film, once Dumbo realizes his gift of flying, he performs the same stunt and stuns the crowd with his remarkable feat.
This is an animation milestone, featuring the work of some of Disney's best, groundbreaking artists. And Walt was a big fan of this movie. 'Nuff said.