Dumbo Review
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When Walt Disney started making feature films, he made animated movies that were unlike anything that anyone had seen before. They were magical and musical and colorful, with unforgettable characters. They were animated art films like 1940’s Fantasia. But, then, as the country found itself facing another world war, Disney returned to his roots to give audiences just what they needed: a simple little cartoon about a lovable little guy who becomes something great.

Dumbo tells a short-and-sweet little story about a baby elephant who’s delivered via stork to the circus, where his mother, Mrs. Jumbo, has been anxiously awaiting his arrival. The other circus elephants are thrilled to welcome little Jumbo, Jr.—until they get a good look at his unnaturally huge ears. They call him a freak, renaming him “Dumbo.”

Mrs. Jumbo fiercely defends her little one, as any good mother would. But when she lashes out, she’s locked away, leaving poor little Dumbo to fend for himself.

The other elephants want nothing to do with the big-eared little elephant—but, fortunately, he’s not alone. He’s befriended by Timothy Q. Mouse, a resourceful little guy who has big plans to help Dumbo rescue his mother and become a star.

On the surface, there isn’t anything especially remarkable about Dumbo. It didn’t introduce any ground-breaking effects—and the animation doesn’t look like something out of an art gallery. In fact, the style is much simpler—and more cartoonish—than Disney’s previous films. Yet it’s that simplicity that makes Dumbo stand out.

At just over an hour long, Dumbo doesn’t have time for a whole lot of fluff—well, aside from the random, hallucinatory “Pink Elephants on Parade” musical number, which nevertheless marks a major (albeit strangely—and perhaps somewhat inappropriately—booze-fueled) turning point in Dumbo’s story. This relaxed and heartfelt film has its share of highs and lows—its whimsical moments and its dramatic moments—but they all fit snugly into a 64-mintue package.

The story, meanwhile, is the kind that anyone can appreciate: the inspiring tale of a lonely outsider who literally learns to fly. The characters—from sweet and innocent Dumbo to bold and determined Timothy—are adorable. And while you’ll chuckle at the elephants’ ill-advised attempt at a pachyderm pyramid and sing along with toe-tapping music of the dubious crows, the focus of the story is on the drama that plays out as Dumbo and his mother are separated. It’s a heartbreaking story—which, admittedly, sometimes makes it a bit of a downer—but that just makes the triumphant ending feel all the more uplifting.

It may be a simple (and super-short) little animated film, but the emotional story and lovably cartoony characters make Dumbo a beloved classic—one that’s remained an unforgettable Disney favorite for 70 years. If it’s been a while since you last enjoyed this little cartoon that could, be sure to fly on out and pick up a copy.

Blu-ray Review:
Disney’s Dumbo may be a short animated feature, but the extras on the film’s 70th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release more than make up for it. In fact, you can easily spend more time making your way through the disc’s special features menu than watching the movie itself.

Even if you just want to watch the vibrant digital restoration of this 70-year-old classic, you have a number of options, including the Disney View (which adds colorful images to the sides of the film—to offer a wide-screen experience) and Disney’s Cine-Explore (which includes pop-up video commentary, sketches, and more).

The disc also includes a plethora of extras: a long-lost deleted scene (involving giant prehistoric rodents), a deleted song, an art gallery, a pair of shorts, a couple of fun games, and a number of features from the film’s original DVD release. There’s also a feature on the beloved Disneyland ride.

For a fascinating, in-depth look at the film, though, don’t miss Taking Flight, a making-of feature that takes a look at the film’s historical context to explain how Dumbo saved Disney. It also offers a look at some of the filmmakers, the film’s surprisingly ground-breaking animation techniques, and more.

Fans of Dumbo are sure to find plenty to love on this Blu-ray release—so, once you finish revisiting the film, take some time to visit the special features menu, too.

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