"Dumbo", many of us remember it from our childhood, it probably helped shape our opinion of what a Disney movie should be; replete with charming characters, singable music and a gripping story line. It's about to come out now in a 70th Anniversary Edition DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, replete with the fascinating back stories that make you appreciate what a uniquely sensitive film this is. It is called the most emotionally potent Disney animated feature, and it deserves the title.
Take another look at this film, as a parent, and you will be moved in ways you haven't anticipated. There is serious moral theme running throughout the film, a lesson in not allowing the negativity of others destroy your life. In a time when kids are facing bullies both in person and online, they can learn from the example of a courageous little fellow who faced up to the bullies and won.
Dumbo is a baby elephant, who, from his delivery by the stork, faces rejection because of his enormous ears. In the circus which moves from city to city by train, where everyone has an 'act', Dumbo's means of proving his worth is first to risk his life in a dangerous stunt, and ends up the laughingstock of the circus, as a clown, with a smile painted on his tearful face. His mother is jailed for trying to save her baby from the cruelty of the mockery he endures, his fellow elephants turn their backs on him, and his only ally is a compassionate little mouse, Timothy, who takes it upon himself to give Dumbo a reason to smile.
Few mothers forget the heartbreaking scene where Dumbo's mother is in chains and can only rock her little baby through prison bars, as the haunting "Baby Mine" is crooned. What mother hasn't felt the agony of seeing her child in pain over what happened at school, or on the playground, and feels helpless to remedy it?
I am not a fan of surrealism, so the pink elephant drunk scene is one I skip by on the DVD, however the scene where Timothy and Dumbo are awakened by the crows in the tree is hilarious.So are the crows, who were modeled on the stage acts of black band leaders of the thirties, like Cab Calloway. An interesting cultural note, the crows were depicted as blacks for a reason which goes deeper than stereotypes of the time, they represent a marginalized group who understand what rejection feels like, and how great it feels to overcome prejudice. The scene where Timothy preaches to the crows about having compassion for Dumbo is one of the most powerful religion-insprired scenes you'll see in Disney animation.
So, give the little elephant with the big ears a chance to recapture your heart, and that of your children.
Leave a comment below for a chance to win your own Dumbo DVD. Appropriate for all ages, scenes of cruelty may be hard on sensitive little ones.