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Ostracized from the rest of the circus animals, poor Dumbo the elephant is separated from his mother, who is chained up in a separate cage after trying to defend her child. Only brash-but- lovable Timothy Mouse offers the hand of friendship to Dumbo, encouraging the pouty pachyderm to exploit his "different" qualities for fame and fortune.
For more about Dumbo and the Dumbo Blu-ray release, see Dumbo Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on September 20, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Directors: Samuel Armstrong, Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, Ben Sharpsteen
Writers: Otto Englander, Bill Peet, Joe Rinaldi, Aurelius Battaglia, Webb Smith, George Stallings
Starring: Sterling Holloway, Edward S. Brophy, Herman Bing, Verna Felton, Cliff Edwards, Billy Bletcher
» See full cast & crew
Dumbo Blu-ray Review
"All we gotta do is build an act. Make ya a star. A headliner! Dumbo the Great!"
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, September 20, 2011
Much has been written about Dumbo's 64-minute runtime, as if anything that clocks in under ninety minutes is either a failure or a cinematic miracle. But a simple story, told simply, can be just as powerful, if not more so, than any other so long as it isn't hurried or shortchanged in the process. Dumbo doesn't need an additional thirty minutes. It accomplishes more in an hour than most animated franchises accomplish in four films. Oh, I'm sure the master craftsmen at Pixar could vault past the hour-and-a-half mark if they were asked to flesh out Disney's fourth animated feature. And I'm sure, by some measure, it would be three tons of beautiful and brilliant. Or three tons of heartwarming fun, whatever the case may be. But would it be any better than Walt Disney's original? In all likelihood, no. Dumbo didn't just save the studio from dire financial straits when it was released in 1941, it won the hearts of children of all ages and achieved something few other animated films have: timelessness.
Succinct as it may be, Dumbo delivers a full-breadth coming-of-age adventure in life and hardship; one teeming with enough heart, soul and expressive hand-drawn animation to propel a dozen Golden Age animated classics into the 21st century. Dumbo never says a word; never chirps a quip or coos a cute, quotable question. But his childlike eyes, floppy ears and disarming uncertainty speak volumes, so much so that his encounters with a cruel, shortsighted world are all the more savage and his eventual rise to circuit-tent stardom all the more sweet and satisfying. When separated from his mother (Verna Felton), he embodies the fear and confusion every child feels, be it on their first night away from home, their first day of school or, worse, in dealing with a divorce or death in the family. The sorrow, the pure unadulterated despair that hangs from his shoulders as his sagging head sways back and forth, back and forth, is as gut-wrenching as the loss of Bambi's mother, the trampling of Mustafa or Carl Fredricksen's grief. Yet in spite of his fear and confusion, Dumbo stumbles across something every adolescent, young adult and parent longs for: a sense of purpose and, to a larger extent, a latent ability perfectly suited to overcoming life's greatest challenges. In Dumbo's case, it's his oversized ears -- a curse beneath his feet, a blessing atop the wind -- but those ears may as well be any number of things that leave children, even in the earliest years of grade school, with a perception that they're inadequate. Inferior. The less than portion of an unjust social equation.
Not that Dumbo piles on life lessons or subtext. As simple as the story is, Dumbo's journey is even simpler. He learns about love from his mother, only to be introduced to animosity the moment she leaves his side; he discovers friendship through the most unlikely of sources, self-appointed guardian and scurrying showman Timothy Q. Mouse (Edward Brophy), then quickly begins to realize how rare friends like Timothy are; he pauses and hesitates, retreats and cowers, but soon finds joy in his hardship and strength in his weakness. We aren't told these things. We see them unfold. We aren't left to ponder Dumbo's emotional journey or try to understand his tormentors' motivations. A five-year-old can comprehend Dumbo's deepest mysteries while a fifty-year-old will tear up at its subtlest truths. The best family films are those that move a child as easily as they move an adult; that cause everyone in the room, no matter how young or old, to laugh, cry and cheer in unison. And Dumbo remains one of those generation-spanning films, even some seventy years after it first left audiences... well, laughing, crying and cheering in unison. The looming threat of war didn't stifle its appeal, World War II didn't render its flights of fancy moot, and the decades haven't dulled its luster. Its animation is as lovingly crafted as it was in 1941, its characters are as endearing as they have been over the years, and its story rings as true as it did when the country was shambling out of the Great Depression.
Snow White hasn't aged as gracefully. Pinocchio hasn't weathered the storms quite as well. And Fantasia has never been the stuff of rainy night with the family memories. But Dumbo has aged wonderfully. It's weathered the storms incredibly. And it's very much the stuff that childhood memories are made of. Before I veer too far into hyperbolic skies, though, Dumbo doesn't feel as if it were cranked off the line yesterday. Nostalgia surely has a hand in its timelessness, he film's music shows its age, and some of its cultural references may cause ice-veined critics pause. (The crows have drawn fire over the years, but it requires a level of hypersensitivity and a degree of misinterpretation to come to the sort of conclusions that have haunted Dumbo over the years.) That said, the magic and whimsy of early Disney animation is arguably at its finest here, and only Bambi's quasi-realism and coming-of-age trials resonate more. Of course, comparing the two is rather fruitless; it's possible to love both equally for completely different reasons. Pinocchio, Bambi and Dumbo form the holy trinity of Disney classics. Without them, animation as we know it would be something else entirely. Dumbo may be simpler than Pinocchio, it may owe more to Disney's cartoon roots than Bambi, but it's a sweet, touching, funny, lovely and, yes, timeless classic all the same. If your children haven't had the pleasure of watching Dumbo, the 70th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray should be at the top of your must-have list. Pick it up and share it with your family today.
Dumbo Blu-ray, Video Quality
If you were among those who imported Dumbo, you already know what to expect from Disney's terrific 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer which, to my eyes, is identical to the one that's been making the rounds overseas for the better part of a year-and-a-half. Rather than tamper with the endearing qualities of Golden Age animation, Disney has meticulously restored the film to its former glory and, in the process, rendered previous home video releases wholly unnecessary. Colors aren't overbearing; they're delicate, painterly and, above all, beautiful. Black levels aren't overwhelming; instead they're rich but not unyielding, inky but naturally so. Contrast isn't stark; it's perfectly balanced, consistent and wonderfully filmic. And detail? Every crisp line, brush stroke, wind-swept leaf, frighteningly fluid pink elephant, and expressive eye, ear and mouth have been preserved, restored and given the studio's patented, frame-by-gorgeous-frame high definition polish. Grain has been removed, yes, but unlike other, more insidious uses of DNR, Disney's has simply restored the film's original cel-painted purity without diminishing the artists and animators' intentions in any way. Moreover, there isn't any significant artifacting, banding, aliasing or, really, any other eyesore that isn't inherent to the source or animation. Ever-so-slight ringing caught my eye on occasion, but whether or not it was a product of judicious edge enhancement was never entirely clear. Even then, it's such a minor anomaly that it hardly qualifies as an issue. Dumbo takes its place beside Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia and Bambi and stands as a testament to Disney's ongoing devotion to its most treasured classics.
Dumbo Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Disney's domestic Blu-ray release features the same solid DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track as its 2010 Latin America and United Kingdom counterparts. However, it also features a restored 320kbps Original Mono track, which is sure to delight purists with all but its lossy nature. Not that the 7.1 remix drastically alters the Dumbo soundscape. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout while retaining the tone and tenor of the various actors' voicework, and effects haven't been pumped up, inflated or given anything other than the lossless support they deserve. The rear speakers are rather passive -- save a raging storm here, a flurry of horns there -- but they expand the soundfield with ease and deliver a reasonably immersive catalog experience. The LFE channel doesn't lumber across the floor either, even though it exudes authority and confidence when called upon. If anything, the music and songs have the unmistakably thin presence and pinched personality of a '40s soundtrack and score, not that anything short of time travel and a modern recording studio could change that. All in all, I seriously doubt Dumbo could sound much better than it does here. Adjust your expectations accordingly and enjoy.
Dumbo Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The 70th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray isn't overflowing with hours and hours of extras, but what it does bring to the table -- a picture-in-picture Cine-Explore experience, a half-hour documentary and more -- goes a long, long way.
Dumbo Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
With the Blu-ray release of Dumbo, Disney's first five animated features are at long last available in gorgeous high definition. And while the film is only 64-minutes long, it has just as much heart and spirit as its brethren. Better still, Dumbo isn't flying alone. Its video transfer is magnificent, its DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track and 320kbps original mono mix are notable additions to an already impressive disc, and its supplemental package boasts a picture-in-picture Cine-Explore experience and other must-see extras. It isn't Disney's best Blu-ray release, but it comes close. It also comes highly recommended.
Dumbo: Other Editions
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Dumbo Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Tim Burton to Direct a Remake of Dumbo - March 10, 2015
Acclaimed filmmaker Tim Burton will direct a remake of the classic animated film Dumbo. The live-action remake will be distributed by Disney.
• Live-Action Dumbo Film Coming Up - July 8, 2014
Disney will produce a live-action version of the beloved animated classic Dumbo. The script for the upcoming film will be written by Ehren Kruger (Transformers franchise), while Justin Springer (Oblivion, Tron: Legacy) will be producing it.
• The History of Walt Disney's Dumbo - October 16, 2011
In 1941, around the time of Pearl Harbor, the Disney studio was in rough financial shape. With animators striking and bombs flying overseas, Disney released Dumbo, which probably saved the studio and became an all-time favorite. Join us behind the scenes of Dumbo ...
» Show more related news posts for Dumbo Blu-ray
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