First released in 1941, Walt Disney’s Dumbo remains a timeless classic. Through the adventures of a young elephant born with ears bigger than his body, children of all ages (and adults too!) can learn to celebrate the individual differences that make all humans and animals uniquely special. With the help of his friends, Dumbo learns how to turn his supposed handicap into something extraordinary. And now that Dumbo is being released on BluRay for its 70th anniversary, we can all experience this heartwarming story again and be reminded that we don’t need magic to do something magical.
The film begins with Mrs. Jumbo looking longingly into the sky as storks deliver little babies to all of the other animals at the circus. However, her miserable night turns into a joyous morning when an absent-minded stork shows up the next day with a special delivery for the expectant mom. Mrs. Jumbo unwraps her bundle to find a gorgeous newborn elephant calf, perfect in every way but with some rather large ears. The other circus elephants are a bunch of snarky old ladies who ridicule the poor little guy relentlessly and call him Dumbo (his real name is Jumbo, Jr.).
Dumbo and his mom do their best to avoid the ridicule but one day Mrs. Jumbo jumps to her son’s defense in a circus tent crowded with people and she is put in solitary confinement. Dumbo is inconsolable without his mother until he meets Timothy Q. Mouse who becomes a fast friend and comfort to the little elephant. With the guidance of Timothy and some friendly crows, Dumbo learns to believe in himself and how to use his ears to fly! Soon he’s reunited with his mom and becomes the envy of the circus and the entire world.
Not only is the story of Dumbo heartwarming, but it provides some of the most memorable music ever from a Disney film. There is the unbelievably touching “Baby Mine” that Mrs. Jumbo sings to her son while cradling him through the bars of her prison. In contrast to that is the outrageously psychedelic “Pink Elephants on Parade” that Dumbo sees performed in his imagination while he’s drunk! And of course, there is the indispensible “When I See An Elephant Fly”, performed by the crows.
I have to admit that I’m not quite capable of writing an unbiased review for Dumbo. Growing up, this was my brother’s favorite film and we watched it every other day for years until our old Beta videotape wore out. Before receiving my new Bluray copy for this review, I probably hadn’t seen it in 20 years but I was still able to recite the dialogue word for word. But despite my over-familiarity with the material, I feel confident in saying that this is a true classic that belongs in everyone’s collection – especially those of you with children. Even though the story is archetypal at its heart (think ugly duckling), the way Disney brings it to life is nothing short of magic. And the sights and sounds that always looked so good to me to begin with, are unbelievably radiant in this new edition. The circus comes to life like never before! So please, go out and buy Dumbo on BluRay. If your kid is going to watch one movie over and over for years, wouldn’t you rather it be Dumbo than Dora the Explorer? Yeah, that’s what I thought!
Like many Disney movies, the last thing you really need to worry about is the picture quality. Disney is just total quality usually all over the board. In this case, for this release they did a fine job. The blacks are deep and black whilst there only the very lightest instances of film grain. All in all its just amazing how Disney could take such an old film and present such an enriched look with the colors. It almost feels like its totally been redone. A fine job for such a classic, touche!
Dumbo makes it’s way on blu-ray disc with a breathtaking 7.1 DTS HD Master audio track. While most of the movie is front heavy, the rears get some good work with ambient noise. The sub gets action due to the many songs played throughout the flick. All in all, Disney did a great job with the audio transfer of this release and for the target audience this film is aimed at it will more than excel in all audio areas. I don’t see any kid complaining to Mommy or Daddy about the sound quality on this one. It more than takes care of the job!
As usual, Disney delivers with tons of content. There is so much here that I actually think it’s a bit overwhelming. Still, I would much rather have too much than not enough!
Deleted Scenes – There are two deleted scenes featured. One is a story explaining why elephants are afraid of mice and the other is a cute song performed by Timothy called “Are You A Man Or A Mouse?” I enjoyed these both quite a bit and am surprised they weren’t included in the final version of the film, considering the short running time.
Taking Flight: The Making of ‘Dumbo’ – This is a very interesting feature that includes a lot of background information. I especially liked hearing about the part Dumbo had to play in the larger history of Disney.
Disney Family Play – There are two games here. I found them both pretty lame. For kids only!
Cine-Explore – This is a commentary with Andreas Deja, Pete Docter, and Paula Sigman. None of them worked on Dumbo but they have tons of information to share about Dumbo, Disney, and animation in general. I found this incredibly entertaining!
DisneyView Presentation – This is a feature that has been included on all of the 1.33:1 aspect ratio Disney BluRays. Basically, you get some nice animation on the sides of your screen instead of the usual black bars. I prefer watching the film with this feature turned on.
About James Coleman – James Coleman created the animation used in the DisneyView feature. This is a special feature about a special feature! Only Disney would add something like this.
The Magic of ‘Dumbo’: A Ride of Passage – This is a feature about the Dumbo theme park ride. The ride (and this feature) isn’t that great.
Sound Design Excerpt from ‘The Reluctant Dragon’ – I found this to be both cute and funny. Definitely worth a watch!
Celebrating ‘Dumbo’ – This is a ‘making of’ feature that appeared on an earlier release of Dumbo. After watching the new “Taking Flight” feature, this one is disappointing and unnecessary.
Original Walt Disney TV Introduction – It doesn’t add much but I always enjoy seeing Walt. Here he admits that Dumbo is his favorite Disney film!
Trailers – Here you can watch the 1941 and 1949 trailers of the film. What’s most interesting is the huge contrast in quality between the two. Who knew that 8 years made such a difference!
Bonus Shorts – None of the short films included are good or interesting in any way. I would skip this feature.
Art Galleries – I really loved this. There are so many different galleries and each one offers something amazingly unique. If you only check out one feature, make this the one.
Dumbo is a truly special film. That much is apparent whether you watch it on a worn out Beta tape or if you’re lucky enough to enjoy it on this BluRay. But now that Disney has given us the opportunity to purchase this superb version, you’d be crazy not to take it. You don’t have to have kids to enjoy Dumbo. You don’t even need to be a kid at heart. This story appeals to all humans period, which is actually sort of funny considering it’s about an elephant. But that’s the magic of classic Disney films, they find magic where you least expect it and Dumbo excels at this. Please do yourself a favor and pick this up for your collection.