Dumbo (1941)

Simple Classic


04 July 2019| No Comments on Dumbo (1941)     by Sean Chavel


The 1941 Dumbo was the fourth Walt Disney film and a rush job for the studio, it is lean in the storytelling department running at a nimble 64-minutes. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first feature from Disney’s studio, in 1937, released to high acclaim and healthy box office. But the over-produced Fantasia and the tepid reception for Pinocchio (unlucky timing as WWII woes kept people from going to the movies that month) prompted Walt Disney to browse closer on the teaser drawings on his desk and push ahead quickly on the elephant at the circus tale in hopes to turn a fast buck, and it did turn fortuitous artistically and commercially.

Scored to some rah-rah music and accompanied with a few sparse songs (“Look Out for Mr. Stork,” “Casey Jr.,” “Baby Mine”), it strings along starting simply with a traveling circus by train that’s right out of Watty Piper’s children’s book “The Little Engine That Could,” then the arrival of Dumbo to Mrs. Jumbo by Stork, some lack of self-confidence by the titular pachyderm whose long face and oversized ears makes for some easy pathos, some hapless circus incidents, some heartrending mother and child separation enforced by the capitalist clueless, a team-up with Timothy the Mouse and later some gabby African-American crows, and a six-minute champagne-high “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence that is the most avante-garde animating of its kind until 1968’s “Yellow Submarine” went full experimental. Dumbo acquires a singular talent by the end to wreak revenge on his tormentors by virtue of his big ears, and as far as emotional powerhouses go, this early Disney favorite of mine just crushes it.

The 2019 remake has Tim Burton flourishes, is regrettably over-produced, diluted by too many cutaways to human characters.

64 Minutes. Rated G.


Film Cousins: “Pinocchio” (1940); “The Jungle Book” (1967); “Larger Than Life” (1996); “Dumbo” (2019).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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