Did you also know that Dumbo is the ONLY main character of a Disney feature film that does not speak. At all. Ever. Not even once. The only thing that his mother says is Dumbo’s real name. That’s it. One line.
“You know, lots of people with big ears are famous!” ~ Timothy Q. Mouse, Dumbo
It is only 64 minutes long. Dumbo was meant to recoup costs for Pinocchio’s and Fantasia’s financial flops in the theatres, so it was the only other film (aside from Snow White) to have watercolour backgrounds rather than oil (cheaper!). One does not need to understand, appreciate, or be interested in the complexities of art, animation, or the technology of movie-making to marvel at the beauty of this film. It is vibrant, colourful, and warm. And it was completed, all by hand, in 1941. NINETEEN FORTY-ONE. The first full-length animated feature film was only released in 1937 (Snow White, to be precise). It’s mind-bottling (as Will Ferrell’s Blades of Glory character would say) to consider that such an impressive feat of visual – and musical - story-telling was created so long ago.
Yes, musical. The score is soooo closely tied to the actions, events, mood of the film from start to finish. When Mrs. Jumbo is first locked away and Dumbo left alone, the simple music drives right to the heart of their despair and yearning for each other. It, in fact, won the 1941 Oscar for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture. (The below song was also nominated for an award.)
As for the theme of the movie. Holy smokes, does it cut right to the chase about rejecting anything “different.” Disney doesn’t pull any punches in how harshly the other lady elephants treat Mrs. Jumbo and BRAND new baby Dumbo. They straight out call him a freak! Despite seemingly ALL the odds against him, one tiny little being- Timothy, the mouse – supports him. It turns out, one single friend in your corner can be all one needs to get through the toughest of times.
Ultimately, what I am trying to say, is give Dumbo another try. It seems like a silly circus, elephant story, but it really is just wonderful. Watch it this week!
This song is pretty fantastic also. Gotta love Jim Crow and his brothers!