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Reviewed by: Justin Sallows
Genre: Animation
Video: 1:33:1 Full Screen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo Surround
Language: English, Spanish, French
Subtitle: English
Length: 1 hr 4 min
Rating: G
Release Date: October 23rd, 2001
Studio: Walt Disney
Commentary: Disney historian John Canemaker
Documentaries: "Celebrating Dumbo", "Sound Design"
Featurettes: None
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: None
Trailers/TV Spots: Original and re-release trailers plus tons of other Disney trailers
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: 3
Music Video: "Baby Mine" by Michael Crawford
Other: Animated Shorts: "Elmer Elephant" & "The Flying Mouse", Storybook Read-Along - A New Adventure About Dumbo, Sing-Alongs: "Look out for Mr. Stork," "Casey Jr.", Art Gallery, Dumbo II Sneak Peek
Cast and Crew: Sterling Holloway, Herman Bing, Verna Felton
Screenplay by: Written by: Helen Aberson, Aurie Battaglia, Otto Englander
Produced by: Walt Disney
Directed By: Ben Sharpsteen
Music: Frank Churchill, Oliver Wallace
The Review: At a brisk but engaging 64 minutes, Dumbo tells the story of a baby elephant that is delivered to his mother in a circus via stork. When his ungainly ears are discovered he is shunned by the other elephants and sheltered by his mother. Only a mouse stands up for him. In a strange, haunting and magical segment that is completely different from the rest of the film, Dumbo accidentally gets drunk and dreams of pink elephants singing and dancing. Dumbo (who's real name is Jumbo) is constantly teased and is always the but of jokes around the circus. His mother is locked up in a solitary train for defending him and the movie's sweetest moment is when Dumbo goes to visit her. You can't help but feel for the little guy as her trunk comes down through the bars to pet and rock him. Through it all he learns that his enormous ears afford him the ability of flight and he soon is the star of the circus treated to lush accoutriments for himself and his mother. Dumbo is a more simple style of animation than many Disney films, sometimes finding more kinship with Warner Brothers TV animation that the likes of Snow White or Bambi, but it retains a lot of charm. There's some good songs here, one by Casey jr. the train, the crows "When I see and Elephant Fly", the "Pink Elephants on Parade" have all become classics in their own right and are still charming on this DVD.
Image and Sound This transfer looks pretty doggone good for a 60 year old film. The care that went into the Snow White restoration was much more extensive, so occasional dust and scratches are apparent. The colors and contrast are vibrant however and make for an engaging experience. The audio was also impressive, albeit somewhat downplayed. This is not a 3D environmental piece. The surrounds are used for ambiance and some subtle directional effects. I was pleased to find very little distortion and very clear dialogue. The music comes through like a new recording.
The Extras The extras on this disc are quite fun and informative. The "Celebrating Dumbo" documentary, while a little short sheds a lot of light on the production as well as it's after affects. Just picturing Leonard Maltin sobbing to this film is entertainment enough, but seeing the original animators discuss the film is a surprising addition. The second featurette is a clip from a film called "The Reluctant Dragon" in which a character stumbles upon the recording session of the Casey jr. segment. How this fit into the film I have no idea, but it is quite fun. Obviously staged and rehearsed, the actors have a dumbfounded, overly precise manner about them that was the standard at the time. It was interesting to see the Casey jr. voice box machine and the storm effects foley. Aside from the conceptual artwork, the rest of the features are clearly geared towards children. I was surprised to see how little patience I had for the two cartoons, which simply bear no resemblance to the complexities of animated features.
Commentary More than anything else, this reminded me of the "Creature from the Black Lagoon" commentary. Not because of the subject matter, but because it's recorded by a historian of the film who knows all the ins and outs of the production. He rattles off names of animators along with their life histories, story progression so on and so forth. He clearly knows his stuff. Some will undoubtedly find this kind of exposition dry, but others will think of it as an enlightening peek behind the curtain.
Final Words:

Dumbo is a classic addition to the Disney animated library. He's a very sympathetic character in a cruel environment where man is the tormentor and exploitationist of beast. The film is well made and the minimalist style of the animation seem to help the story. The songs are Disney classics and the extras are well worth it for the animation collector. This is a good disc which bodes well for other future releases such as Peter Pan: Special Edition.

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December 5, 2001