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Dumbo

  • ORIGINAL TITLE: Dumbo
  • YEAR: 1941
  • GENRE: Animation
  • DIRECTED BY: Ben Sharpsteen, Norm Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson, Bill Roberts, Jack Kinney, and Samuel Armstrong
  • SCREENWRITERS: Joe Grant, Dick Huemer, Otto Englander, Bill Peet, Aurelius Battaglia, Joe Rinaldi, George Stallings, and Webb Smith
  • DURATION: 64'

Dumbo is the protagonist of the film produced by Walt Disney in 1941, the fourth largest Classic Disney (after Snow White, Pinocchio, and Fantasia). It was firstly created as an advertising character for a new toy, but thanks to this film, it became famous worldwide. The film is produced at relatively low cost to recoup losses created by the production of Pinocchio and especially the ones by Fantasia’s production. The story is based on the novel written by Helen Aberson and illustrated by Harold Pearl: Mom Jumbo, a circus elephant, receives from the stork a puppy with huge ears and that soon becomes the laughing stock of the other elephants. His only friend is the mouse Timothy, with which it will be able to fly and to be accepted by his peers. Despite its brevity (just 64 minutes), the film manages to touch many themes: alienation, loneliness, the role of family and friends, but especially the importance of believing in themselves to transform their exceptionality in strength, a trampoline to fly high above the heads of all those who, blinded by conformism, consider diversity as a defect.

This is an important moral, represented by an colourful and anti-realistic animation; at times it seems to stand in front of an Allegra Symphony (the "Silly Symphonies", the animated short films produced by Walt Disney Productions between 1929 and 1938, but longer than usual), which is perfect for a very young audience seduced by the setting circus happily played and by the melancholy eyes of the little elephant. The expressiveness of Dumbo is in fact emphasized and, not by chance, he and his mother are the only characters in the film who never speak. Their dialogue is made exclusively of looks and gestures, and this brings these two characters even more close to the sensitivity of children, that are used to express themselves much more throughout hugs, smiles and sad looks than by words. The script cleverly alternates comedy and sadness, lingering the most poignant scenes through the research of emotions.

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The surreal and distorted images of Dumbo’s "alcoholic" dream do not scare the young public; on the contrary, they are very funny. The end of the film leave the public a little bit perplexed by the hasty conclusion of the movie right after Dumbo has learnt to fly. His figure, different from other elephant, has definitely became a legend and his enormous ears represent, since a long time and in different contexts, a metaphorical title of worship. A film that tackles difficult topics with the right gently and with an elegant style sometimes stuffed by effective irony and that succeeds very well especially in characterizing his characters, from the good on to the most cynical and evil one, between which stands out the cute and clever Timothy, the little mouse who decides to become a friend of Dumbo as soon as he realizes that Dumbo is mocked and isolated unjustly by everyone. The message of this film is extremely clear and strong. In Dumbo the reality of pain and suffering are well represented and for this reason they turn out as intense emotions for the public. The film teaches to accept diversity, to be able to see everything as a positive aspect, and not to stop at appearances and judgments of others, but to dig deeper to be able to appreciate all, despite the small flaws, because this is the only way we can win discrimination. The soundtrack plays a fundamental role in the development of history, it accompanies the story, and highlights the emotions felt by the characters. Extraordinary is also the scene with the pink elephants, a mix of colours and music that creates great effects of styles, shapes, and light. The surreal landscape, where these creatures are constantly changing shape and colours, serves to lighten the accumulated emotional tension; this is an original, surprising, and innovative scene.

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Matteo Murelli

"Dumbo the journey" is our tribute to a classic of animation that made us dream as children and still carries the charm of Disney magic. Together with Stefano Mocchetti, we imagined the little elephant who has turned now into a teenager and is eager to embark on the "Journey" that takes him back to its true home.

Abandoning the cartoon style to embrace a movie version, our interpretation underlines on one hand the growth of the character and on the other the passage from the circus world to that of a real life. Dumbo, with his friend Timothy, leaves the circus and its characteristic clothes, and goes forward wearing a helmet, goggles and an aviator foulard, typically vintage, as an homage to the original film of 1941.

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