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Ben Sharpsteen
John McLeish, Margaret Wright, Edward Brophy, Sterling Holloway, Herman Bing, Cliff Edwards, Verna Felton
Writing Credits:
Helen Aberson (book), Otto Englander (story direction), Joe Grant, Dick Huemer, Harold Perl (book)

The One ... The Only ... The Fabulous ...

Meet Dumbo, Mrs. Jumbo's sweet little "Baby Mine" who charms all who see him ... until it's discovered that he has huge floppy ears! With the support of his very best friend, Timothy the mouse, Dumbo soon learns that his spectacular ears make him unique and special, allowing him to soar to fame as the world's only flying elephant. You'll love all the daring adventure, colorful characters, award-winning music, and a circus tent full of fun bonus features!

Box Office:
$950 thousand.

Rated G

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
English Monaural
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 64 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 9/20/2011

• “Cine-Explore” Interactive Experience
• Deleted Scenes
• “Taking Flight: The Making of Dumbo” Documentary
• “The Magic of Dumbo: A Ride of Passage” Featurette
• “Sound Design” Excerpt from The Reluctant Dragon
• “Celebrating Dumbo” Featurette
• Original Walt Disney TV Introduction
• Trailers
• Art Galleries
• “Elmer Elephant” and “The Flying Mouse” Animated Shorts
• “What Do You See?” and “What Do You Know?” Games
• Sneak Peeks
• Bonus DVD


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Dumbo [Blu-Ray] (1941)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 22, 2011)

One of Disney’s flicks from their “Golden Age”, 1941’s Dumbo holds up quite well alongside its era-mates, even though the film features easily the simplest story of the bunch.

At the start of the movie, an officious-looking but late stork (voiced by Sterling Holloway) delivers a baby elephant to circus performer Mrs. Jumbo (Verna Felton). All of the other female elephants - no males, including Mr. Jumbo, are seen - fawn over him until Jumbo Jr. sneezes, at which time his enormous ears unfold. The ladies gasp and instantly start to make snide remarks about the little fellow, cruelly renaming him “Dumbo”.

Our wee protagonist receives love from his mother but only nastiness from everyone else. This reaches a peak when a bratty boy starts to mock and abuse Dumbo. Mrs. Jumbo loses it and goes on a mild rampage. This ultimately lands her in elephant solitary confinement, and Dumbo’s left to fend for himself among the inhospitable crowd.

Happily, he eventually gains a friend and supporter through Timothy Q. Mouse (Ed Brophy). He takes the lad under his proverbial wing and tries to help Dumbo become a successful circus elephant. We follow their exploits as Dumbo tries to learn to turn his physical differences into strengths.

Dumbo stands out among the five “golden age” Disney flicks because of its simplicity. At a little less than 64 minutes, it’s the shortest of the bunch. Heck, it lasts barely half as long as the two-hour Fantasia, which appeared only a year earlier. The styles utilized also seem more basic and lack the intricacy and depth of the animation seen in the other films. In many ways, Dumbo fits in better with the animated shorts from Disney than with the other features.

However, I don’t want to slight Dumbo for it’s really a very strong movie. The plot is terribly thin, but the execution appears excellent. Packed into this short flick we find a slew of well-realized characters and situations. All of the participants are animated well, but Dumbo himself is a true marvel. Drawn primarily by Vladimir “Bill” Tytla, Dumbo offers a tremendously compelling and embraceable character despite the fact he never says a word.

Tytla imbues the role with true warmth and humanity. Cute but not cloying, Dumbo’s virtually the perfect Disney protagonist, as he lacks a strong personality but never comes across as a cipher ala Snow White or Cinderella. Dumbo couldn’t possibly be more lovable and sympathetic. Tytla’s a legend among animators, as well he should be; it’s hard to imagine that the same person created the tender and sweet Dumbo and also Fantasia’s evil Chernabog.

If I had to pick a flaw in Dumbo, it’d relate to the rapidity and abruptness of the plot. Even with such a brief running time, the story seems stretched to fill the space. Many adore the “Pink Elephants” production number, and I like it as a piece of interesting animation, but I thought it took away from the plot. The film diverts to a long musical number that has nothing to do with the story, and it feels like filler to me. Sure, it’s fun filler, but it doesn’t advance the tale at all.

The film also ends quite abruptly. When I watched Dumbo back in 1999, I’d not viewed it in years. When I saw the time counter on my laserdisc player indicated that only three or four minutes remained in the movie, I couldn’t believe it; there seemed to be so much more that needed to take place to properly finish the tale. However, the movie rushed through that material.

Ultimately, the ending is reasonably satisfying, but it felt hurried. Granted, Dumbo wasn’t alone during this era. As I noted in many of my reviews of Universal’s Classic Monsters films, a lot of those provided sudden conclusions with literally no denouements.

Some controversies have arisen in regard to the version of Dumbo found on this Blu-ray and prior DVDs. I’ve heard rumors that the 64-minute edition here represents an edited cut of the film. Allegedly the black crows received much more screen time in the original rendition as they acted as a form of Greek chorus and commented on events. According to this concept, they were cut because of racial considerations. The crows were viewed as negative stereotypes so most of their material was sacrificed to the gods of political correctness. These alleged edits were made decades ago, which is why virtually no one remembers the original material.

There’s no reference to any of this deleted footage anywhere on the DVD, and I looked through some Disney sources and could find no mention of this editing. The only person I could discover who made this claim was the “DVD Savant”, who stated in May 2000 that he saw the footage at a college screening back in the early Seventies.

In support of his case, the Savant mentions a number of fairly abrupt fade-outs that occur during the film. I can’t argue with those, as the movie indeed does include some awkward shifts. However, on their own these don’t prove anything.

Was Dumbo butchered from its original length? Maybe, but at this point, I consider Disney innocent until proven guilty. I’ve consulted plenty of sources that make no mention of the change, and if one considers the magnitude of the alleged alterations, this would be a bizarre oversight by all those people. Even documentation of a longer running time would indicate something, but everyone states the movie lasted 63 and a half minutes.

As such, I strongly lean to the side that feels Dumbo wasn’t edited. One claim that the film was cut that comes based on decades-old memories doesn’t do much for me since I can find no other verification of the changes. These alterations may well have occurred, but until I discover more compelling evidence, I’ll stick with the belief that the DVD presents the original, unedited film.

One area in which I disagree with the Savant relates to his interpretation of the crows. Many defenses of these characters have been made, but I find them unconvincing. Folks state that the crows aren’t black stereotypes and that their speech represents “hipster jive”, but I don’t buy it. On the affirmative side, the crows are depicted in a positive manner. They’re pleasant and helpful, and they’re shown to be accepting and fairly intelligent. However, their speech patterns do fall into stereotypes, with comments like “I done seen” and other statements of the sort.

Does this mean that the crows are offensive characters? I don’t think so. The stereotypical form of speech may seem over the top, but the personalities themselves are good ones, and they aren’t portrayed in a cruelly comic or mocking manner. Really, the manner in which the crows talk is the only area of potential complaint, and it doesn’t negate their general positivity.

On the other hand, I’m surprised I’ve heard so much ado about the crows but nothing about the circus workers shown during the "Song of the Roustabouts". The song features lyrics that tout the workers’ ignorance and irresponsibility, while the visuals clearly depict black men. If any part of Dumbo were to offend me, this’d be the one; it seems much more negative than the depiction of the crows.

However, I didn’t feel that this material harmed the essential goodness of Dumbo. The film remains a Disney classic, as it provides all of the studio’s strong points with few of its negatives. After 65 years, the movie remains charming and delightful.

Confusing note: how did the circus people know to call him “Dumbo”? That was a play on “Jumbo Jr.” concocted by the gossipy female elephants. The ringleader might have thought to refer to him as “little Jumbo” or whatever, but he wouldn’t have been aware of the altered title. Yes, I can accept flying elephants, but not this!

(Footnote: the comments I made about DVD Savant came from his original 2000 review. I can no longer find that review; apparently when the “Savant” wrote up the 2006 “Big-Top Edition”, he removed his article about the original DVD. He still discusses the alleged cuts, but he’s less sure of himself.)

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

Dumbo appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a consistently attractive presentation.

Sharpness looked solid. A little softness occasionally appeared, but those instances remained modest. Instead, the majority of the flick seemed concise and well-defined. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and source flaws were absent. No specks, marks or blemishes marred the presentation.

The colors seemed to be rich and vivid – though maybe a little too vivid. Disney has been known to boost color intensity for their older flicks to give them more of a “modern feel”, and I suspect that occurred here. I’m not enough of a Disney expert to compare the Blu-ray’s hues to those of the original release, but they did seem a bit bolder than I’d expect from an older animated effort.

Nonetheless, they still worked fine. The circus setting meant bright hues made sense, and these were lively and full. Black levels came across as nicely deep and dense, and shadow detail was appropriately opaque without excessive thickness. I felt pleased with this consistently appealing presentation.

Neither of the prior DVDs included the movie’s original monaural audio, so I’m happy to report the Blu-ray finally rectified that situation. The Dumbo BD also gave us a DTS-HD MA 7.1 remix. In the interest of apples/apples considerations, I opted to screen that one so I could compare this track to the DVDs’ old Dolby Digital 5.1 offerings, but I wanted to mention that we finally got the original mono, which is what I’d select if I viewed the movie for my own non-reviewing pleasure.

For the most part, the soundfield kept fairly centered, as music composed the majority of the stereo elements. The score didn’t offer particularly good stereo spread, as you’d be hard-pressed to find distinctive instrumentation from the sides. However, it allowed the music to breathe a bit, as the score’s “broad mono” worked fine.

Effects occasionally became somewhat ambitious. A thunderstorm used the back speakers in a fairly active manner, and the stork opening allowed for plane noises to zoom around the room. Most effects stayed located in the front center, though, so don’t expect a lot of theatrics.

Audio quality seemed generally good for the age of the material. Speech sounded acceptably distinct. Dialogue could be a little brittle but the lines were more than acceptable given their vintage. Effects showed minor harshness at times, but the usually appeared to be fairly clear and accurate, and they even provided some good depth on occasion; for example, the thunderstorms provided nice low-end response.

Music was fine. The score and songs didn’t demonstrate a lot of range, but they were clear and smooth enough. No source noise marred the presentation. This was a more than acceptable presentation for a 70-year-old movie.

How did the picture and sound of this Blu-Ray compare with those of the last DVD from 2006? The audio was clearer, and the surround involvement seemed smoother. The DVD’s 5.1 track tended to suffer from slightly mushy localization, whereas this one was better delineated.

Visuals showed improvements as well. The BD lacked the DVD’s minor source flaws and seemed crisper and more dynamic. This is a good upgrade.

The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras. I’ll mark Blu-ray exclusives special blue print.

First we find Cine-Explore. This offers picture-in-picture commentary from Pixar director Pete Docter, Disney historian Paula Sigman and animator Andreas Deja, all of whom sit together to chat. We also get various pieces of concept/character art as well as photos and other interviews. In the latter, we hear from writers Dick Huemer and Joe Grant, animators Ward Kimball, and Wolfgang Reitherman, sound designer Jim MacDonald, and layout artist Ken O’Conner. The piece discusses various aspects of the movie’s creation, art and animation, story and characters, and biographies of participants.

Much of this falls under the banner of “appreciation” from Deja, Sigman and Docter, though they don’t just spout banal praise. They give us a good critical look at the film; yeah, they tend toward the happier side of the street, but they still manage to dissect different elements well.

We also learn a fair amount about the production. I’d like more nuts and bolts information, but we get enough to satisfy. This becomes an enjoyable and generally educational piece.

Two Deleted Scenes appear. We get an unused song called “Are You A Man Or Are You A Mouse?” (3:56) and a cut sequence titled “The Mouse’s Tale” (5:37). In “Tale”, Timothy tells Dumbo why elephants are supposed to be afraid of mice, while “Man” offers a tune from Timothy that would’ve followed Dumbo’s clown appearance at the circus.

Neither one delivers final animation; both use art and audio to show us what they would’ve been. “Tale” comes with comments from producer Don Hahn to give us more info, while “Man” stands on its own. I can’t say I think a lot of either of them; they concentrate too much on Timothy and don’t add to the narrative. Still, they’re fun to see.

Next comes Taking Flight: The Making of Dumbo. This documentary goes for 28 minutes, eight seconds and features notes from Sigman, animator Eric Goldberg, Pixar’s Jim Capobianco and Jonas Rivera, animation historians Paul F. Anderson, Didier Ghez and John Canemaker, Joe Grant’s daughter Carol Grubb, Dick Huemer’s son Richard P. Huemer, and animation director Michael Sporn.

The show looks at the evolution of Disney animation, the original Dumbo story and its adaptation, character design and animation, the film’s visual style, cast and performances, music, and the film’s reception/legacy. “Flight” delivers a brisk, tight take on the production and offers a good overview.

Another new piece, The Magic of Dumbo: A Ride of Passage fills three minutes, nine seconds and looks at the Disney parks Dumbo attraction. We get some notes from Imagineering Senior VP Tony Baxter and some other unnamed riders as they discuss the origins of the ride and its enduring appeal. Baxter throws out a few decent notes but this mostly feels like an ad for the parks.

Celebrating Dumbo definitely lives up to its title. In this 14-minute and 53-second piece, we hear from a slew of Dumbo fans as they tell us how much they love the film. This roster includes critics and historians such as Canemaker, Leonard Maltin, and Rudy Behlmer plus Roy Disney and modern Disney staff like Andreas Deja, Don Hahn, and Ron Clements.

They relate why they think Dumbo is such a special movie, and we also see some clips from the flick. The tone seems too heavy on praise and too light on details. A few tidbits about the production emerge, and it’s nice to hear a professional perspective from the Disney personnel, but these don’t constitute much of the program. Ultimately, the show is moderately entertaining, mostly because the participants demonstrate such enthusiasm for the movie, but the program lacks much informational value; it doesn’t substitute for a true documentary.

Much more entertaining is Sound Design, a five-minute and 57-second clip that actually comes from a minor 1941 feature called The Reluctant Dragon. The premise of the film showed writer Robert Benchley as he toured the Disney studios; fans demonstrated a lot of interest in the making of cartoons, so Dragon was created to disseminate the experience.

One unusual piece shows an Original Walt Disney TV Introduction. In this 65-second snippet, Disney briefly discusses Dumbo as he leads into… I don’t know. It looks like a TV broadcast of the movie, but I find it hard to imagine that he showed the whole thing on the tube at that early date. In any case, this little snippet was modestly interesting.

More entertaining are the two Bonus Shorts found on Dumbo. We get 1934’s The Flying Mouse (9:20) and 1936’s Elmer Elephant (8:31). The latter’s the more compelling of the two, and it offers a clear precursor to Dumbo. “Mouse” connects in a more tangential way and it seems excessively cutesy, but it’s fun to see as well.

Under Art Galleries, we get eight subdomains. These cover “Visual Development” (188 images), “Character Design” (60), “Layouts and Backgrounds” (24), “Storyboard Art” (266), “Production Pictures” (63), “Research Pictures” (45), “Publicity” (21) and “Original Dumbo Storybook” (18). The prior Dumbo DVDs included some good stills, but they weren’t nearly as extensive as this set. We find a true treasure trove of images here.

Two new games appear. We get “What Do You See?” and “What Do You Know?” The first shows blurred images and forces you to pick the depicted character, while the second provides various trivia questions. “See” is moderate fun, but “Know” is annoying. It throws out items like “what’s the biggest-ever gathering of clowns?” and requires you to enter a specific number. If the game was multiple choice, it’d give you a fair chance, but how would someone know the exact figure?

The disc comes with ads for The Lion King, DisneyNature: Chimpanzee and SpookyBuddies. These also appear under Sneak Peeks along with promos for Lady and the Tramp, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, Tinker Bell and Mysterious Winter Woods and Treasure Buddies. We also get two trailers. One accompanied the 1941 theatrical release, while the other came with the film’s 1949 reissue.

The package tosses in a bonus DVD. This is the standard retail DVD you’d find, which makes it more useful than some of the barebones efforts other studios release.

Unfortunately, the Dumbo Blu-ray drops a few supplements from prior editions. Most are pretty inconsequential – such as read-along storybooks or music videos – but unfortunately, we lose one major component: an audio commentary from film historian John Canemaker. This was a strong chat; the “Cine-Explore” is a nice option, too, but I’d like to have both. I’m disappointed the Canemaker commentary didn’t reappear here.

After 70 years, Dumbo still offers one of the studio’s strongest offerings. It tells a cute tale and does so in an endearing manner. The Blu-ray offers excellent visuals along with good audio and supplements. Dumbo remains a lovable movie and it comes across well on this fine Blu-ray.

To rate this film visit the 60th Anniversary Edition review of DUMBO

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main