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Dumbo (Special Edition) DVD

Ben Sharpsteen, 1941

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Film Details

Directed by Ben Sharpsteen

Produced in 1941

Main Language - English

Countries & Regions - American film

MovieMail's Review

One of Disney's very best, and darkest, films, which sees Dumbo the elephant team up with Timothy the mouse. Watch out for the Technicolor pachyderms, says Alex Davidson!

Disney pictures are at their best when at their darkest, and in spite of its cute reputation, Dumbo is packed with sinister scenes. The story follows Dumbo, a circus elephant with freakishly big ears, attempting to cope after his mother, when under threat, runs riot and is locked away (in a sequence as harrowing as the death of Bambi’s mother). Bullied by the other circus animals, Dumbo (the only Disney protagonist who never speaks) retreats into miserable isolation until he bonds with a circus mouse, Timothy. This friendship leads to the justly celebrated Pink Elephants sequences, in which Dumbo and Timothy get drunk (in a children’s film!) and hallucinate the ghostly “Technicolor pachyderms”. The next day they wake up and realise that Dumbo’s ears may be a blessing in disguise.

“When I See an Elephant Fly” is the film’s most famous - and controversial - number (the score won an Oscar), in which four crows coax Dumbo into revealing his hidden talent. Modern critics have seen the crows, not unfairly, as racist “negro” stereotypes, and one of the birds is named, indefensibly, Jim Crow. Yet their clever, celebratory number is one of the highlights of the movie, and the fact that the black characters empathise and encourage the development of another unjustly persecuted minority is hard to avoid.

Disney’s fourth animated feature was commissioned to recoup the financial losses of their previous venture, Fantasia, and proved to be one of their biggest critical and commercial successes. Unusually the writers did not base their story around a fairytale, creating an original portrait of a persecuted outsider, while the animators used watercolours rather than oil paints, giving the film a different texture from other Disney features. The production of the film was blighted by a strike, in which half the studio’s staff walked out - the strikers were cruelly caricatured within Dumbo’s animation, depicted as the stupid clowns who decide to “hit the big boss for a raise”. Yet in spite of the disputes going on behind the scenes, Dumbo encapsulates the best of Disney: great songs, memorable characters, a sinister undercurrent and brilliant, imaginative animation.

Alex Davidson on 25th February 2010
Author of 238 reviews

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Film Description

Baby circus elephant Dumbo is mocked by all the other animals because of his enormous ears. However, when he is befriended by Timothy Mouse, Dumbo discovers a new use for his outsized organs of hearing - they give him the ability to fly!

This experimental Disney classic features a completely silent central character, a wonderful, surreal hallucinogenic episode (with the nightmarish 'pink elephants') and a surprisingly brutal treatment of the protagonist (at least until the uplifting ending). Frank Churchill and Oliver Wallace's terrific score deservedly won an Oscar.

DVD Details

Certificate: U

Publisher: Walt Disney Home Video

Length: 61 mins

Format: DVD Colour

Region: 2

Released: 22nd March 2010

Cat No: BUA0138201

DVD Extras

  • Deleted Scene: The Mouse's Tale
  • Deleted Song: "Are You a Man or a Mouse"
  • Taking Flight: The Making of Dumbo
  • Magic of Dumbo: Ride of Passage
  • Sound Design Excerpt from "The Reluctant Dragon"
  • Original Walt Disney Television Introduction.

Film Stills

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