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Toon Talk: Dumbo 60th Anniversary Edition DVD
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by Kirby C. Holt (archives)
October 26, 2001
Kirby reviews Disney's newest DVD: The Dumbo 60th Anniversary Edition

Toon Talk
Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt

DVD.jpg (16944 bytes)
(c) Disney

60th Anniversary Edition DVD
"Gilding the Elephant"

Dumbo was the first movie I saw as a child, or at least the first that had a lasting impact on me. I was five- or six-years old, and my father's company showed a 35 mm print of the film at the annual summer picnic.

I remember sitting there enthralled by the candy-colored landscapes and the calliope of music. I was sad when Mrs. Jumbo was taken away, frightened when the oddly-shaped Pink Elephants made their appearance, and thrilled by Dumbo's fateful first flight and subsequent triumph under the big top.

I had no idea at the time that this charming little film, bigger then life in my own little world, was actually made almost thirty years before. Of course, it didn't matter then, and it doesn't matter now, another thirty years later.

Such is the enduring timelessness of this pure and simple story of how a little guy, without a lot of luck on his side, turns what others have ostracized him for into the very thing that makes him so very, very special.

Now, in honor of the 60th anniversary of it's debut, Dumbo returns in this beautifully restored edition, the first time on DVD, to celebrate one of the most beloved animated features of all time.

Bonus Features:

Audio Commentary:
As with the recent Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs DVD, animation historian John Canemaker provides an insightful commentary on the history of the film. But considering Dumbo's humble origins, it at times feels a bit padded. You know he's stretching it by the time he begins ruminating on such off-topic tidbits as Ward Kimball's railroad train hobby.

Canemaker is refreshingly candid when it comes to the infamous animator's strike that hit the studio soon after Dumbo's animation was completed. Several of the key animators of this film saw their Disney careers cut short in the aftermath of those unfortunate events.

Unlike say, Snow White, where such examination is expected, Canemaker is prone to reading a lot into the symbolism of Dumbo, an exercise a bit heavy-handed for a little "elephant-who-could-fly" tale such as this one.

And I must disagree with his misguided view that the crows are the "true father figures" of Dumbo. I would have to say that that title belongs solely to one Timothy Q. Mouse, thank you very much.

The Top Ten Things We Learn From This Commentary:

  1. Based on a children's book by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl, Dumbo was originally intended as a short.
  2. The name of the circus is WDP Circus ... WDP, as in Walt Disney Productions.
  3. The film was told from the point of view of the title character, using low camera angles and forced perspective.
  4. The name of the bratty kid who torments Dumbo is Skinny. His attack scene, which also included him actually riding the poor little elephant, was thankfully shortened.
  5. The pairing of a mouse with an elephant is a standard comedic conceit, banding two proverbial "natural enemies" together.
  6. Timothy's line "You know, lots of people with big ears are famous" refers to Clark Gable, king of the silver screen at that time, who was well known for his prominent lobes.
  7. Two of the circus clowns are named Frank and Ollie, after future Nine Old Men Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson.
  8. Herman Bing, the voice of the Ringmaster, was a former clown himself.
  9. Walt was so impressed with Howard Swift's initial pencil tests for the Pink Elephants scene, he gave him a $25 a week raise right on the spot.
  10. Well-known African-American movie hoofers Freddy and Eugene Jackson provided the live action dance reference for the "When I See An Elephant Fly" number.
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