Friday, September 30, 2011

Dumbo - 70th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray / DVD Combo - Review

One of the reasons I adore Disney's animated movies is because so many of the films are based on children's books and stories. In 1941, the Disney studio released their fourth animated classic -- Dumbo, an emotion stirring film about a little elephant with big ears. The simple and short movie, with its main focus on one memorable, loveable character is, in my mind, the most picture book-like animated film ever released by Disney. The story unfolds just as one would expect in a children's book, a combination of efficient storytelling and fantastic artwork that advances the storyline.

"But I think I will have seen ev'rything, when I see an elephant fly." - "When I See An Elephant Fly", song by Ned Washington and Oliver Wallace

This year marks Dumbo's 70th anniversary. Dumbo has always been an emotional film for me to watch. I remember viewing it as a child and feeling terribly sad when Dumbo was separated from his mother and ostracized by his fellow elephants. I'm pretty sure the film helped shape my mental image of a circus as it was one of my earliest exposures to circuses. The bright images of the circus portrayed in the animation, the elephants and all the animals, the clowns -- they certainly made an impression on my young mind. Even though the plot is relatively simple, the movie is so powerful and presents an important life message. Almost everyone can find some way to identify with the main character. Dumbo, though handicapped by his big ears, finds a way to fly high, to soar above those who taunted him and he eventually adapts and overcomes the obstacle of his large ears. We all have obstacles we face in life, we all endeavor to fly and achieve success in our own way. With a magic feather, a little confidence boost (and good friends like Timothy Q. Mouse) anything is possible.

Unlike the first three animated classic films to come out of the studio, Dumbo was produced on a limited budget. The pictures look a little more cartoon-like and are less elaborate than other films. But this style fits the film perfectly. After all, a circus is a rather cartoon like place. There's a definite emphasis on the animals in this film and many of them talk, with the exception of Dumbo. His feelings are clearly expressed in the creative animation. Speaking of creativity, while most of the film is the normal animation, there's an unusual pink elephant dream sequence, a completely surreal and unforgettable scene! I like many parts of this film, but I think my favorite scene is the one where Dumbo's mom rocks him in her trunk while the "Baby Mine" song plays. That scene pulls at my heartstrings and effectively shows the strong bond of love between Mrs. Jumbo and Dumbo, between a mother and her child. Both my kids watched the movie with me and seemed to enjoy it, despite the heartbreaking moments.

My son is particularly fond of all the Dumbo scenes in which the Casey Jr. Circus Train appears. In fact, the Blu-Ray menu shows a version of the train and you scroll through the menu choices, left and right in a way similar to train cars moving on a track. I learned a lot about the history behind the Dumbo movie by watching the Blu-Ray features:
- audio commentary (Cine-Explore version of the film)
- "Taking Flight: The Making of Dumbo"
- Celebrating Dumbo featurette

The Blu-Ray also includes a deleted scene, deleted song, a short film on the Dumbo ride at Disneyland, some games and a couple of animated shorts (The Flying Mouse and Elmer Elephant).

Was Dumbo originally a children's book before it was made into a Disney movie? Yes, well sort of. The story, written by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl wasn't really a published work when Disney bought the rights. While a brief mention of these authors is made in the advanced features included on the DVD, the informative pieces don't really go into details. According to "The Mysterious Dumbo Roll-A-Book" article by Michael Barrier, the story was copyrighted in 1939 as a "Roll-A-Book," a special book on rolls with pages that you could turn by rolling knobs on the side of the device. Sadly there are no surviving Dumbo "Roll-A-Book" copies, and it is unclear if any were released at all. Read Barrier's in-depth article to learn more about the original authors and the Disney acquisition. Interestingly enough, the original story features a robin instead of a mouse as Dumbo's friend and confidant.

If your family hasn't seen Dumbo or it's been awhile since you watched the film, you might want to consider giving it a play on a family movie night sometime, especially if your kids are a little older. It doesn't take much time to watch at only 63 minutes long. I'm certainly glad we had the chance to review this 70th anniversary edition. It's a great Disney classic to own.

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(DVD Source: 2-Disc Combo Pack provided for review purposes by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. All opinions expressed are my own. I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)