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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Children > Dumbo - Big Top Edition

Dumbo – Big Top Edition


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Film: B+



After the huge success of Pinocchio and groundbreaking Fantasia, Walt Disney turned to the story of a baby elephant outcast and the result was another classic.  Dumbo runs only 63 minutes, but it is one of the most remarkable works of Disney’s career.  The stork is having a heavy season, but at first, has no bundle of joy for Mrs. Jumbo.  Later after his next mapping out, the stork finally makes a delivery to a previously disappointed Mrs. Jumbo.  Among a bunch of snobby fellow female elephants, “Jumbo Jr.” arrives, but with his big ears, one of the ignorant snobs dubs him “Dumbo” and the name sticks.


Being stigmatized is not enough, however, as the mother becomes increasingly overprotective and when this crosses over into the human world, disaster strikes.  This is one of the most intelligent, emotionally involving animated features in the history of the artform, with a brilliant combination of character development, storytelling and use of animation in color and design that keeps the film timeless and then some.  This is the second time the film has been issued on DVD and is one of the films that remains a key part of the bedrock foundation that makes Disney as a company even possible today.  The film is worth revisiting again and again.


The 1.33 X 1 image is the same as the 60th Anniversary DVD version with much-needed restoration still needed.  Where Snow White is nice and clean, there are more than a few cases of cel dust throughout, and though color is usually consistent, this is far from the vibrant, brilliant dye-transfer three-strip Technicolor the film was originally issued in.  Maybe when the Blu-ray comes out, they will have fixed this up fully, but the transfer is still good and better than the two older bonus theatrical cartoon shorts in the extras section.  The film was released in 1941 and not with the kind of experimental sound Fantasia offered a year before, so the Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes (in 3 languages) all have limits.  A newer version could yield better results and DTS would help.


Besides the theatrical animated shorts Elmer Elephant and The Flying Moose, you get Look Out For Mr. Stork and Casey Junior sing-alongs, Baby Mine Music Video, cyber storybook, games, art stills, original TV intro by Walt Disney himself, featurette (14:50) about the popularity of the film and audio commentaries.  A card game is inside the DVD case and a nice slipcase is included in complete copies.  The 60th Anniversary DVD version had extras missing here, though neither have theatrical trailers or theatrical poster art, so there is something for them to hunt down and add in a later version.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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