Dumbo is a 1941 American animated film produced by Walt Disney and released on October 23, 1941, by RKO Radio Pictures.
The stork delivers a baby elephant to Mrs Jumbo, veteran of the circus, but the newborn is ridiculed because of his truly enormous ears and dubbed “Dumbo”. Dumbo is relegated to the circus’ clown acts; it is up to his only friend, a mouse, to assist Dumbo to achieve his full potential. Written by Tim Pickett
- The only Walt Disney animated feature film that has a title character who doesn’t speak.
- A very tightly budgeted, scripted, and produced film, because Walt Disney needed the film to bring in much-needed revenue after the expensive failures of Pinocchio and Fantasia. Final negative cost of Dumbo was $813,000 (making it the least expensive of all Disney’s animated features), and it grossed over $2.5 million in its original release (more than Pinocchio’s and Fantasia’s original grosses combined).
- Dumbo and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs are the only classic Walt Disney films to use watercolored backgrounds (they were used in this film because they were cheaper than the gouache and oils used for Pinocchio and Bambi) and the last time they were used until Fantasia/2000.
- In December 1941, Time magazine planned to have Dumbo on its cover to commemorate its success, but it was dropped due to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
- Initially Walt Disney was uninterested in making this movie. To get him interested, story men Joe Grant and Dick Huemer wrote up the film as installments which they left on Walt’s desk every morning. Finally, he ran into the story department saying, “This is great! What happens next?”
- The first Walt Disney movie for Sterling Holloway (the Stork) and Verna Felton (the Elephant Matriarch). Both would become regulars in Disney animated films for the next thirty-five years.
- This was Walt Disney’s favorite film made by his studios (source: DVD extras).
- During production there was a long and bitter animators strike, in which half of the studio’s staff walked out. Some of the strikers are caricatured as the clowns who go to “hit the big boss for a raise”.
- While trying to comfort Dumbo, Timothy says, “Lots of people with big ears are famous!” According to animation historian John Canemaker on the 2001 DVD release commentary, the line was recognized by audiences of 1941 as a reference to Clark Gable. The line was also featured in the original theatrical trailer.
- Mrs. Jumbo (Dumbo’s mother) only speaks once when she says Dumbo’s original name.
- The name of the circus (seen on a sign as the train leaves the winter headquarters) is WDP Circus (Walt Disney Productions).
- Cels for Dumbo are the rarest in the industry. The animators, after the scene was safely “in the can”, would strew the used cels in the corridors and go sliding on them. In addition the gray paint (used for so many of the elephant skins) would “pop” when the cel was flexed. Many irreplaceable cels were destroyed this way.
- Walt Disney’s distributor, RKO Radio Pictures, had qualms about releasing this 64-minute feature as a major motion picture. They tried to persuade Disney to either cut it to short-subject length, extend it to at least 70 minutes, or have it released as a B picture. Disney stood his ground, and the film was released as an A picture as Disney intended.
- HIDDEN MICKEY: When the drunken Timothy is sliding down the staircase-shaped bubble Dumbo has blown, his laugh is actually that of Mickey Mouse. Also, when Timothy coughs on Jim Crow’s cigar smoke, that cough is also that of Mickey (it was specifically heard in both Giantland and Two-Gun Mickey).
- Dumbo was the first Walt Disney Animated Classic to be released on videocassette. Its first video release was in 1981 for rental only, and put on sale in the summer of 1982. It was then repackaged in 1985 and 1989 and again in 1994. Then it was first released on DVD in 2001 and again in 2006, and the newest release in 2011. Dumbo has never gone out of print, thus considered the longest Disney animated feature on video to be in print since it came out.
- The film was originally planned as a 30-minute featurette before Walt Disney assigned one of his producers, Ben Sharpsteen, to expand the idea into a feature.
- There’s a reference to “The Little Engine That Could”. While Casey Jr. is trying to get up a hill, the train sounds like it’s talking. It says “I think I can, I think I can.” Then when the train gets up the hill and starts going faster, it changes to, “I thought I could, I thought I could.”
- The vocals for the song “Baby Mine” were performed by Betty Noyes, the same singer who dubbed Debbie Reynolds’ singing in two numbers in Singin’ in the Rain.
- The first Walt Disney animated feature (and still one of the very few) to be set in America.
- Entered into the 1947 Cannes Film Festival.
- A sequel direct to video/DVD titled Dumbo 2 was announced back in the early 2000s. With a story that takes place after the original involving Dumbo and a group of young circus animals to get separated from the WDP Circus and try to find their way back to the circus. This proposed idea appeared to have been canceled with no more than storyboards and animated drawing sheets being made during preproduction.
- Joe Grant and Dick Huemer changed Dumbo’s mother’s name from “Mother Ella” to “Mrs. Jumbo” as a reference to the famed Barnum & Bailey circus pachyderm.
- Timothy Mouse is a replacement for the robin from the original novel. He was used because elephants are supposed to be afraid of mice.
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