Who would like to see an elephant fly? I know I surely would, and there is no other elephant that could take that particular role from Dumbo.
This short, classic feature film is enveloped in nothing but heart and strength. It is the film that teaches us to continue flying high when people put us down, that there is more to us than people believe, that prejudice shouldn’t stop us achieving what we want.
I love the simplicity of Dumbo, how the film takes this important message and packages it within a short 64 minute time frame. The simplicity is also there in the animation, focusing on the main story instead of minor details. Usually, with a Disney film, we look for the subtle details, showing that the animators went that extra mile to make the film special but they couldn’t do that with Dumbo. Why?
Because the film was made to recoup financial losses brought about by Pinocchio and Fantasia. It was intended to be a low budget film, and it ended up being exactly that – produced for between $813 – 950,000, considerably less than all of the other previous films.
The story was first brought to Walt Disney’s attention in 1939 by Kay Kamen (current Head of Merchandise) and it was based on a story that was to be used for the prototype of a novelty toy called Roll-a-Book. It was written by Helen Aberson and Disney thought it would be a great story for a short film. However, it ended up being a shorter feature length film as it was the only way Walt and his animators could do justice to the original story. When it came time for Dumbo to be released, RKO Radio Pictures wanted to demote it to a ‘B picture’ as they didn’t consider it to be worthy of a motion-picture. They also asked Disney to cut it down to a short film or extend it to 70 minutes long. Walt, however, said no and RKO eventually relented.
Released in October 1941, the production of Dumbo was fraught with challenges due to the rise in unionism and many animators participating in the Animator’s Strike.
Whilst that was a huge challenge for Walt Disney and the studios, it ended up being caricatured in Dumbo – the clowns deciding that they were going to hit the big boss for a raise.
There were many reasons for the strike, but one was that none of the animators and voice actors ever received a screen credit for the films. Dumbo was the first film to feature legendary Disney actors such as Verna Felton, Sterling Holloway and James Baskett (who’d later go onto play Uncle Remus in Song of the South), and it was the second for Cliff Edwards, yet all remained uncredited.
Nonetheless, despite the war and challenging factors, Dumbo was still Disney’s most successful film of the 1940s.
One of the very first films to be released on VHS
It is the only classic besides Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to use watercolour backgrounds.
The “pink elephants on parade” sequence was considered to be years ahead of its time in colour, form and surreal imagery.
Bill Tytla’s animation is considered to be one of the greatest accomplishments in American Animation.
What interesting facts do you know about Dumbo?
Thanks for reading and have a brazzle dazzle day!