Dumbo (1941)

 

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Ben Sharpsteen directs Edward Brophy, Herman Bing and Margaret Wright in this Walt Disney animation classic about an elephant babe with massive ears struggling to find his place in the circus.

Despite being assembled as a cheapie, this is one of the Disney unit’s best. A string of shorter sequences (essentially a circus themed run of Silly Symphonies) through which pearls of the Dumbo story are threaded. Three of these pearls are brilliant. The superfluous introduction of Casey Jnr the steam train, the delirium of Pink Elephants on Parade and the jazzy triumph of When I See an Elephant Fly. The bittyness of Dumbo is really its secret strength. It is fine there are asides and distractions from the central plot. It is not just slight and mawkish, it pulls at the heartstrings unashamedly like an emotional tug ’o war. Walt is better when he is gleefully manipulating the fairytale form rather than the audience directly.

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