Dumbo (1941)

dumbo poster 1941 movie walt disney
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Classic Disney, short, sweet, to the point

Some weird race issues involving the workers and crows

Movie Info

Movie Name: Dumbo

Studio: Walt Disney Productions

Genre(s): Animated/Musical/Family

Release Date(s): October 23, 1941

MPAA Rating: G

dumbo delivered ears walt disney

So…let’s all point a the kid’s differences and laugh

Jumbo Jr. is a laughingstock. His big ears have gotten him the nickname of Dumbo. When his mother is jailed defending him from children, Dumbo finds himself virtually orphaned. Befriended by Timothy Q. Mouse, Dumbo and Timothy set out to free Dumbo’s mother and find if his unique ears have a purpose.

Directed by Ben Sharpsteen, Dumbo was Walt Disney’s fourth animated feature film and was planned to offset some of the profit loss of Fantasia. It is very short the short film is based on the story by Helen Aberson. The film faced problems during production with a strike but the film received praise and a strong box office return.  The film garnered an Oscar for Best Score with a nomination for Best Original Song (“Baby Mine”).

dumbo baby mine mother


Dumbo does a lot of things right. It is short and to the point with not many dead points to bore children. The animation is bright and clever, and in spite of the short running time, Disney does a great job making the characters likable (or despicable) in an instant. Be it the big eared kids mocking Dumbo, the blowhard ringmaster, the clowns that have no care for Dumbo’s safety, or the witch-y elephants who turn on Dumbo, all the characters seem extremely fleshed out for the short screen time they actually have.

With “Baby Mine” and “Pink Elephants on Parade” (as back to back songs), Dumbo has some of the best Disney songs. It is a very emotional scene as Dumbo goes to visit his mother in her pen and manage to reach trunks in “Baby Mine”. The image is smartly juxtaposed with the other mothers with their children and the soft short song and imagery really capture the moment. This is followed by the nightmarish (but cleverly animated) “Pink Elephants on Parade” (which features an accidentally drunk Dumbo and Timothy…something that probably couldn’t be done now). The imagery of all the elephants could even be compared to aspects of Salvador Dali just in the sheer bizarre appearance and transformations.

Nope…nothing terrifying here

Dumbo also is slightly frustrating. Disney has refused to release the live action/animated movie Song of the South due to race issues, but Dumbo is pretty racist itself. The workers putting together the tents and the crows all seem like bad stereotypes of the time…if these images are acceptable, why aren’t the images presented in Song of the South?  It is this aspect of Disney which I find a bit troublesome…some racism in their films is acknowledged but other is not because it is profitable.

Dumbo is a classic and rightly so. It was one of the first Disney movies to be shown on television and also released on video. The movie is short, sweet, and to the point and doesn’t spend a lot of time with unnecessary hi-jinx that seem to dominate other Disney features (especially the modern ones). It is just a nice mother-son story about acceptance, tolerance, and that being different can sometimes be a blessing in disguise.  As with many of Disney’s old features, try to check them out on Blu-Ray…It can be like watching a new movie with a very clean crisp images.  Disney followed Dumbo with Bambi in 1942.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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