My opinion right after watching movie
My opinion on the film right after watching that is that it is easily the weakest out of the Golden Era. I know I ripped some of the previous films for their filler, but this film literally has about 2/3 of it being filler. The plot is barely focused on and when it is, it is very well done. You can tell there was tension in the studio and they were more anticipated about Bambi instead.
The idea of the film was brought to Disney a bit before the release of Pinocchio through a book, and he immediately claimed the rights to it. It was gonna be a short (which it should have been), but he wanted it to be a feature film, but they started working it in the financial failure of 1940.
During the middle of this, the Disney Strike happened. Screen Cartoonists Guild Herbert Sorrel demanded Disney to join union, which Disney refused. WDAS had better payments and a better treatment of their workers than the other companies, but the wages were cut lower and lower, and the firings increased since they moved to full length feature films, and in May of 1941 (after the rough animation was complete), they went on a 5 week strike, and nothing was the same again. Disney threw shade by making the circus workers a replica of the animators at his studio. The remaining of the animation was done by newbies.
The plot is extremely thin, so don’t expect much of an explanation. So the film starts with Mr Stork (Sterling Holloway) delivering the animal babies to the parents. I imagine your WTF faces already. So the bird is struggling to deliver Jumbo Jr (Dumbo’s actual name), and delivers it to the train where the elephants are. All the ladies are excited about Mrs. Jumbo’s (Verna Felton) baby, until…
So we go through more filler of them setting up the circus, and the circus roaming the roads which is about 6 minutes. We also see Jumbo and his mother have fun together as he gets bathed. This is a nice wordless scene that shows how much they enjoy and care for another, and this is all through animation.
So they are performing and after a kid that looks like Pinocchio’s smoke buddy taunts Dumbo to the max, and causes Mrs. Jumbo to go crazy on everyone’s ass, and she gets locked up for being deemed as a mad elephant. The other elephants have their daily gossip session and blame Dumbo for the incident. We are introduced to Timothy Q Mouse. (Edward Brophy)
So he comes up with a plan to make Dumbo a star (which is not the main story, and will not end all of Jumbo’s issues), and comes up with a plan to make Dumbo the star of an act with the other elephants. The elephants perform their act, but Dumbo screws it up because of his big ears getting in the way. Jumbo is demoted to a clown and has to fall off a burning house and land in a pile of water.
This turns out to be a success and the animators disguised as the circus workers come up with an idea of how to get more laughs and a raise. Disney can throw some shade with how they look in the film. They accidentally spike the water and Dumbo drinks it, getting drunk leading up to the amazing but completely useless scene of the Pink Elephants. 5 more minutes of filler in the 64 minute film.
They wake up on the trees, and are introduced to the crows. I don’t find them THAT racist, since they are in a positive role. What I find a bit racist are the black men and ONLY black men that were making the entire circus from the ground up in the beginning. So the crows get Dumbo to learn how to fly; he flies, and we get an incredibly rushed ending of Dumbo being a star, his mom being freed, and everyone loving him.
The characters for the most part are enjoyable. We feel for the ones we are supposed to, and hate the others we are supposed to as well.
The animation in this film is not horrible, but not great. The backgrounds, color, and characters are a lot more simply animated, and there are a lack of details in almost all aspects. There are some blatant continuity errors (the elephants), and the characters looking a bit off, but what it does do well is to express emotions through the silent characters, and it does that brilliantly.
The music in this film, is pretty much forgettable. The score does not stand out, and songs like Casey Junior, Look Out for Mr. Stork, and Song of the Roustabouts sound very similar and is just boring. The only songs that stand out are Baby Mike and When I See Elephants Fly.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on October 23rd 1941, it was a success; the first one since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the biggest success in the 1940s. It was mostly a success because of the low-budget on $950,000, and making $1,600,000 in the box office. The reviews were positive, and they felt like it was the most charming film yet. It won an Academy Award for Best Score and was nominated for Best Song for Baby Mime. Dumbo was gonna be on Time Magazine, but it was replaced with…
Well. like all of the films released in Disney’s life, it is seen as a classic, though it is also common knowledge that it is not one of the stronger films. It is not a big film, but it is well-known and well-respected. This film is seen as the film that established the company to go with the watered down, less creative, commercially sweet films of the Silver Era and not get their hopes too high like they did in this era.
Story = 5/10
Characters = 7/10
Music = 7.5/10
Animation = 6.5/10