Friday, April 18, 2014

Learning to Fly

Director(s): Samuel Armstrong, Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, Ben Sharpsteen
Voice Talent: Edward Brophy, Verna Felton, Cliff Edwards, Herman Bing, Sterling Holloway
Released: October 23, 1941

Oscar nominations:
Best Score - Frank Churchill and Oliver Wallace (won)
Best Original Song - "Baby Mine" by Frank Churchill and Ned Washington (lost to "The Last Time I Saw Paris" from Lady Be Good)

This movie is so old that I wasn't even born yet when it was re-released (in the United States) the first time (1972) OR the second time (1976). Dumbo is the cutest thing ever and very endearing. I remember the "cameo" he had in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I found out that TIME magazine was to feature a cover story on Dumbo in its December 1941 issue, but had to scrap it when the events of Pearl Harbor rightfully became the top priority.

The movie starts out with the stork delivering baby animals to their mothers and it's all very cute. We see a mother tiger bonding with her two cubs, a mother giraffe delighted by her new baby, and many others. Dumbo's mother, Mrs. Jumbo, is expecting her own little one, but whenever a wrapped-up bundle of joy floats near her, it always diverts and goes another direction. She doesn't receive her baby until the next day when she's on a train with a traveling circus. The stork gives this whole production where he reads a poem and sings a song and it's like, c'mon, get on with it! It always begs the question why did he do this whole show for Mrs. Jumbo, but all the other animals just got their babies dropped in front of them?

Before Dumbo is delivered to his mother, the stork is sitting in a cloud trying to locate Mrs. Jumbo. He knows he's in the right location because when he looks down, he sees an outline of the state of Florida (complete with the word FLORIDA written across it). And he's only sitting in a cloud, so it was pretty amazing that he could see the entire state of Florida! At first I thought, well, Disney World is located in Florida and this is a Disney film, then I remembered that Disney World didn't even exist when this movie was released (it wouldn't open for another 30 years) and even Disneyland didn't open until 1955.  So I think it's just pure coincidence that the movie takes place in Florida and Disney World would eventually find its home there.

You're no prize either, kid! 
Mrs. Jumbo names her baby Jumbo Jr. and the other female elephants coo over how cute he is, but once it is revealed he has huge ears, they all laugh and recoil and give him the nickname "Dumbo" (because big ears apparently make you dumb?). It's a bit mean-spirited that the title of the movie is the cruel nickname those repugnant elephants gave him! The animation is very pretty, although the drawings were very simple at times. I did take some issue that Dumbo's ears were huge in some scenes, while in others they weren't as big. And I wanted to smack those kids for making fun of Dumbo's ears, especially the main one who had huge ears himself AND an overbite AND buck teeth.
At least Dumbo is cute...can't say the same for that ugly kid! And did nobody see this jerk kid go into the elephant's territory and GRAB Dumbo and assault him? Well, gee, no wonder Mama Dumbo went crazy on that kid's ass!

Being that the other elephants shunned him and his mother is now in solitary confinement, Dumbo is all alone until he meets Timothy the Mouse, who has a very grating accent. It was amusing when he scares all the female elephants and they all try to escape from him. One is holding on to a pole, one is perched on a stool, and another is hanging upside down from a clothes line...try to explain the logistics of that one!

"Baby Mine" and "When I See an Elephant Fly" are two songs I remember quite well and fondly from my own childhood. I'm sure I must have seen Dumbo when I was a kid, even though I have no memory of it, but I'm quite sure I had a Disney songbook and tape with all the classic Disney songs. The start of the song when Dumbo is nuzzling his head and trunk against his mother's trunk and being cradled and rocked by it and tears start pouring out of his eyes...awwww.  And then you see that cute montage with all the baby animals and their mothers. I loved that the hyenas laughed while they slept and the mama kangaroo was acting like a rocking chair to rock her baby to sleep. I didn't know that hippos slept underwater, though! I always thought "When I See an Elephant Fly" was a clever song and enjoy the puns..."I've seen a horse fly", "I saw a peanut stand", "I saw a front porch swing" .... just very clever with its use of words. I had never known that the main crow was named Jim Crow...that's uh, interesting! And I don't think that was a coincidence! "Pink Elephants on Parade" is just frightening and goes on way too long. I had completely forgotten about that song, so I must have blocked it from my mind!

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