When You Wish Upon a Star: Dumbo

While being self-quarantined, we are all looking for different ways to occupy ourselves. I have decided to watch all the theatrically released Disney animated films offered to me on Disney+, in order. Of course I can’t just let that be it, so I will be writing a little something about each of them

I went to the circus once as a child. What I remember most was this fiber optic flashlight thing I got. I think I looked at that more than anything that was going on in any of the the three rings. I was informed by my mother later in life that I was hopped full of cough medicine. My parents were not the type to let a little head cold stop a trip to the circus. What I’m getting at is I never understood the appeal of the circus, and Disney’s Dumbo is not doing anything to change my mind.

I may not be keen on the circus from this movie, but I did enjoy the film. I thought it was pretty wise to not have Dumbo do any talking. Relying on his facial expressions, and use of the ears and trunk to convey what we need to know from the small elephant.

I was going to comment on the amount of songs in this movie, but there aren’t more than most Disney movies, it’s just that several of them come right after each other and in the first 15 minutes. Though the whole film is only about an hour long. It is paced really well so even if it was longer we may not have even noticed. Which is consistent about these older Disney movies, so far.

There are a few things in this movie that have become standard cartoon tropes, or even just some ideas many have accepted as the norm. I don’t know if they began here with Dumbo or if they previously existed and the wide release of this movie kept these things alive.

The first of which is the notion of storks delivering babies. I understand in a cartoon, aimed at children, you don’t want to show the disgusting birthing habits of the animal kingdom. But why did storks get this gig? I assume it had to be a bird on account of their ability to fly and that they lay eggs, so they don’t have to worry about delivering to other storks and having to be bombarded with questions about when are they going to stop delivering and have babies of their own.

Next we have the elephants afraid of mice trope. Are elephants actually afraid of mice? Why would they be? I assumed this one is in place because there is a humorous idea about something the size of an elephant being so afraid of some tiny little mouse. It’s also a pretty good sight gag to see usual stoic elephants all freaked out and trying to cower from a mouse. A teacher I work with is super afraid of mice and it is pretty funny to see her jump on a chair and shriek at a mouse.

The last trope I want to talk about is the pink elephants. Dumbo and that little mouse. I don’t think I paid enough attention to what his name was. I want to say Timothy J. Mouse. I suppose I could and should look that up. Timothy Q. Mouse. Why was he dressed as a ring master? It seems no one but elephants and crows see him. Anyway, Dumbo and Timothy get drunk from a bucket of hooch they found. We’ve all been there, right? No? Just me? I have a problem?

Once they have properly downed some of this left over booze, they start to hallucinate pink elephants. I know for awhile this was a go-to gag for what happens when people are drunk. Often blaming their poor choices on the fact they were following or trying to get away from pachyderms of a pink persuasion. In all my many years of alcohol consumption I have never once experienced such creatures.

The other thing I noticed about this film is how the story in 8 Mile is very similar. Dumbo and B-Rabbit are both made fun of for being different. They have a confident friend that encourages them. They both stumble on their first performance sending them back a few steps. They bust out the big move at the last second and make it count, winning the adoration of everyone who witnessed and couldn’t believe it could be done. Oh and they both have that dumb friend that shot himself in the balls.

Other Thoughts:

  • Probably because of my TMNT fandom I always thought that train was called Casey Jones and not Casey Jr.
  • Why is there a song about the train? Or is it about the conductor? Who is Casey Jr.? Why does he get a song?
  • Disney+ gives the warning “Contains Tobacco Depictions.” Pinocchio probably had this too and I just didn’t notice. I found it to be an interesting warning to have.
  • If you make a mistake in this circus you are demoted to be a clown.
  • When the elephants are climbing each other one is called a clumsy ox. Something about an elephant calling another elephant the name of a different animal I find amusing.

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