Disney is the world leader in family movies, beginning with the classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937 to the present. And throughout the years he has produced many which stand out among fans and critics alike, but the one animated classic that most consider his “Zenith” is Dumbo, the story of a child (Baby Elephant) who is teased and mocked at because of a physical abnormality (His huge ears) and how he eventually achieved success because of this characteristic, not in spite of it. He had only his mother, Mrs. Jumbo and a sympathetic mouse named Timothy for support. One of the many reasons for the film’s success is how many people could relate to the plight of poor Dumbo, being made sport of because of he was “Different” from the rest. Another classic in the genre is Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer being laughed at because of his Shiny red nose.
The story of Dumbo was taken from the child’s book “Dumbo” written by Helen Aberson and published in 1939. This book was the only well-known cartoon work by her. When Walt Disney ran across it, he liked it right away. In fact this was one of the fasted produced animated movies by the Disney Company. Walt liked the way the movie was progressing, so there was less of the second-guessing and re-drawing of the work, although this is what made the Company’s movies quality tops in the industry. In a year and a half, the movie was released on October 23, 1941. This is also the shortest movies in total length, just 64 minutes long. It was because of the length that RKO Radio Pictures, Disney’s distributer at the time, balked at releasing it as an “A” film unless Disney extended to at least 70 minutes. Disney refused to touch his masterpiece, and it was released as an unaltered “A” film.
The story is very simple. The night before all the animals from the zoo were to be transported to the circus, the mother of each species receives a baby to care for and raise. The Zoo elephant Mrs. Jumbo is given a baby elephant by the stork. The baby is well-liked until everyone notices his huge oversized ears. One of the other female elephants calls him “Dumbo” and the name sticks. Poor Dumbo is always slipping on his big ears and falling down, even the human kids make fun of him. One day because of an incident of Mrs. Jumbo protecting Dumbo from some cruel kids, the circus guards thinks she has gone mad and locked up.
The rest of the story goes on about how Dumbo is befriended by a little mouse named Timothy (Breaking the stereotype that Elephants are afraid of mice) who helps Dumbo rise above all the insults and mishaps. When Dumbo is laughed at by a flock of crows, Timothy tells them Dumbo’s story and they instead start crying for Dumbo. One of the Crows, Jim Crow says that Dumbo would be happy if he could fly, and they present Dumbo with a feather that is claimed to be magical. Dumbo believing the feather has magic in it, now can fly, using his large ears. Eventually Timothy tells Dumbo that the feather never had any magic and that he flew on his own accord, thus giving him confidence and eventually he wins the respect of all the other animals.
Dumbo won the 1941 Academy Award for Original Music Score and nominated for the Academy Award for Best song for “Baby Mine”. It was also won Best Animation Design at the 1947 Cannes Film Festival. And even though Dumbo was released during the start of World War Two, was the most financially successfully films for Disney during the ‘40’s.