Classics Review: Dumbo (1941)

After “Pinocchio” came out in 1940, Walt Disney immediately developed three movies in the decade beginning with “Fantasia,” “Bambi” & “Dumbo.” I already a brief synopsis of the original animated classic from my full spoiler review of the 2019 live action version directed by Tim Burton starring Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito & Michael Keaton. If you want to check out, be my guest.

Dumbo was released in 1941. (exact same year Citizen Kane came out) It received positive reviews from critics, families and movie goers alike. In addition to good reception, it made enough money at the box office. Like many Disney films, Dumbo is labeled as a masterpiece. The late Gene Siskel selected Dumbo as his favorite movie. It made an impact on him on why he developed a passion for movies. Sounds like me when “Toy Story” made a big impact on me on why I develop a passion for cinema.

More live action Disney remakes such as Bambi, Pinocchio & Peter Pan are on the way. To prepare for the upcoming remakes, I’ve decided to look back at the original Dumbo. As a reminder, I already wrote a review on the 2019 version.

I don’t care if SPOILERS are listed. We all know the story behind Dumbo told in several parodies spanning a couple decades. Is Dumbo still a masterpiece? Let’s find out shall we?

Cute & Ugly Elements

Cute: Voice Actors all did a great job for their respective voiceover performances.

Walt Disney did a good job shepherding the movie.

Animation still holds up for a movie that came out in The 40’s bringing character models, environmental locations, fluid movements just to name a few thing yadda yadda yadda.

Chemistry between Timothy The Mouse & Dumbo felt natural.

At times, Dumbo can be adorable.

I think Dumbo’s signature scene has got to be Dumbo’s mother cradling Dumbo singing “Baby Mine.” If you have a sensitive side, you’re gonna cry big time. As for me, I didn’t cry.

Despite not part of the story. A drunk Dumbo sees Pink Elephants leading to a hallucinating musical number known as “Pink Elephants On Parade.” Too bad Tim Burton didn’t recreate their signature moment from the original.

With the help of The Crows & Timothy, Dumbo learns to fly. Reuniting with his mother felt satisfying.

Ugly: The film’s running time spans 63 minutes. Nowadays, I see this as a one hour episode of a television drama like “Game Of Thrones.” Dumbo could’ve been longer if Disney added more scenes stretching it out to 70-90 minutes like The Ringmaster’s backstory prior to becoming the main antagonist. Michael Keaton’s portrayal as The Ringmaster from the 2019 remake had more in-depth analysis.

I have to come clean. I never cried when Dumbo and mother get separated. The only animated series that me cry was Code Lyoko’s Season 2 finale.

Nothing happens until the 19 minute mark when Dumbo and his mother are separated Nearly a quarter of the movie is just Dumbo acting cute without anything happening. Natalie Portman’s mental problems from “Black Swan” managed to build up her obsession to become a dancer leading to her eventual downfall. How about giving Dumbo’s mom dialogue?

Now to share my real thoughts on The Crows. I have mixed feelings about them. They actually serve a purpose encouraging Dumbo to fly. The racist caricatures however, can upset a lot of people. Personally, I don’t feel offended. At least they’re not as racist as The Twins from “Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen.” Whoopi Goldberg defended The Crows as they should be a part of Disney merchandise thanks to their involvement helping Dumbo. Thankfully a disclaimer on Disney Plus addresses the controversial depictions of racial stereotypes. Preserving the film as a reminder it was wrong back then, it is wrong now. Tim Burton should’ve brought The Crows back without making them act like exaggerated racist caricatures. I could’ve given this flaw a pass as a sign of Disney redeeming themselves. Sorry Disney, I have to Double Down this con for not bringing The Crows back in the 2019 remake. They are forever shunned by the public. First The Crows, now Mushu not included in the “Mulan” remake.” Fellas I like Mushu.

Although Dumbo’s mother sang Baby Mine, she never utters out a word of dialogue. Caesar from “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” has more lines than her. Heck! Even Anna Paquin in “The Irishman” spoke more than Dumbo’s mother! In a three plus hour epic crime drama.

The Final Verdict: B-

Even though Dumbo is labeled as one of Disney’s best works. From my perspective, I think it’s an average movie like Bambi. Yep I also given Bambi the same grade as Dumbo. As a kid, I thought it was great. Now that I’m older, it has blemishes. I’m not saying Dumbo is a masterpiece or a stinker. Just an average short movie. Sorry longtime Disney fans as a critic, I have to give timeless movies tough love. If you want to show this to your kids be my guest. Remember to look at the content disclaimer.

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