Dumbo is the fourth installment in the Disney Animated Canon. It is based on the 1939 children’s book Dumbo the Flying Elephant by Helen Aberson-Mayer and Harold Pearl. A bit of strangeness, the book was published by Roll-a-Book but has no surviving copies. With such a small distribution it is odd that the story was sold to Disney by the publisher. But, as far as progression of Disney films is concerned, this feels like where Disney starts to become Disney.
The animation for Dumbo is significantly better than much of Fantasia and Snow White but may not quite have met the personality of Pinocchio. Again, the well-defined characters and feel of the circus is impressive but feels somewhat generic at times.
It is obvious that just a year after the release of Fantasia, Dumbo has a much greater connection to its music than previous films. Connecting the action to the music through the hitting of hammers, lightning, and a train engine give this movie a much more rounded feel than previous Disney films. The Disney ambiance that I keep mentioning is born here.
The story of Dumbo is well developed and is spread out across the whole movie much better than most. Things continue to develop until the end which is nice in an unexpected way. Some of the themes are a bit uncomfortable, but not nearly as dark as Pinocchio.
I feel that Dumbo is a strong movie that has learned all the lessons from the previous movie’s issues. It has some good gags, memorable short-term characters, and a story that may draw at least some genuine emotion.
Run Time – 64 Minutes
14th Academy Awards – 2 Nominations – 1 Win
Best Scoring of a Musical Picture – Won
Best Original Song – “Baby Mine” – Nominated
Disney Animated Canon so far in order of Quality
1. Dumbo 10-23-1941
2. Pinocchio 2-7-1940
3. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 12-21-1937
4. Fantasia 11-13-1940