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DUMBO
1941 - Ben Sharpsteen
United States
81
Opening Shot

The film begins with shots of the sky as we see rain, snow, sleet, lightning, and thunder with a loud voice proclaiming that it can make it through it all when suddenly through the clouds and into the moonlight emerges a group of storks with the song "Look Out for Mr. Stork". They drop a bunch of babies to some animals in a circus. However left out of the mix is a single-mother elephant...

The Film

I consider myself a great admirer of the Disney animated features (especially those that come from the Walt Disney era), and 1941's Dumbo (the 4th feature from Walt Disney) might very well be my all-time favorite from the Disney canon. After the financial disappointment suffered from Pinocchio and Fantasia, Walt Disney wanted to keep the budget costs minimal with his next feature. The result is an unforgettable 64 minute film. Not only one of the most moving films of all-time, Dumbo is equally one of the most charming and perfectly constructed films Disney Studios could and probably will ever make! The films warmth takes you in from the very opening moments even in its sadness as we see a lonely single-mother elephant (Ms Jumbo) waiting for the delivery of her baby, which is delayed a day. The sadness of the film lingers throughout as Jumbo Jr./Dumbo enters a to a world of cruelty. The film is full of relevant social metaphors but (unlike some of Walt Disney's other efforts) the messages are never forced. The film is deeply relevant in its social context as Dumbo represents the definitive misfit from society. His ears (a metaphor within it self) make him different and thus unwanted or ignorantly abused. It is only when he proves an ability to fly that he earns the respect of a society which turns him into an instant celebrity. Through it all the love of family (his mother and his friend Timothy Mouse) keeps him going... and dreaming, as vividly expressed in the films standout scene- a surreal dream sequence in which Timothy and Dumbo hallucinate "Pink Elephants on Parade". Metaphorical at every turn, Dumbo's ultimate bond is that of a mother and her child. Imaginative and masterful animation design effortlessly flows with the films stylish musical score and memorable songs (the touching "Baby Mine", or the catchy "When I See an Elephant Fly"). Simply put, this is a quintessential work of animation filmmaking with the universal appeal that makes it an essential family film and the definitive film of Walt Disney. "So long glamour boy!"

The Filmmaker

From the moment he joined Disney (in 1929), Ben Sharpsteen almost immediately become Walt Disney pivotal supervising director and producer of animated shorts and features. Lets face it the early films of the Disney canon have the defining stamp of Walt no matter who is credited as producer and director. But in Sharpsteen, Walt found a right-hand man he greatly trusted and relied in. Sharpsteen was involved with over 100 animated shorts in a span of five years (1934-1938). By 1937 Disney began making feature animations, and Sharpsteen was the supervising director of Disney's second, third, and fourth features: Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), and Dumbo (1940)- all three of the finest works the studio has ever produced. Sharpsteen also collaborated on two other Disney classics of the 1950s: Cinderella (1950), and Alice in Wonderland (1951). Starting in 1948, Sharpsteen produced Disney Studios first live-action short documentary (Sea Island), which won an Academy Award. Sharpsteen then went on to produce another 12 more live-action shorts, 8 of which won Academy Awards. At the end of his career he worked with the Disneyland Television series before retiring from the studio in 1963. The classic films from Disney animation are defined by Walt Disney touch but it was Sharpsteen who he relied on most during the era.

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Resources
trailer (youtube)      
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