A newborn circus elephant is separated from its mother and must find its own way under the big top.
Revisiting A Classic
Although it is a classic animated film, I think I have only seen “Dumbo” a couple of times and that was when I was young, so I barely remembered it at all.
When the trailer for Disney’s live action version dropped last week, I thought it was probably time to revisit this soaring tale.
Sadly, as with so many things from childhood, this film had lost its magic as I grew older. The music was now maddening, the sets seemed very flat at times, and the story is practically non-existent.
Really there are just a couple of sequences where the animation is really special, the drunken sequence and the flying sequences. These are both sequences that I remember from my childhood and the terrifying neon elephants are still the thing of nightmares.
Unfortunately the story has even fewer moments that really worked. Only the song from Dumbo’s mother is able to break through and provoke an emotion as you watch.
It felt like exactly what it was; an animated film from a time when seeing the animation itself was all that was needed to make something special. Today, we need more.
Hope for More
In a strange way, it kind of excited me that the original film seemed so anemic in its animation, story, and songs. Without a whole slew of story points, the writer will be free to build characters almost from scratch. I hardly expect to walk out of the new Dumbo wringing my hands muttering, ‘That’s not the Dumbo I know.’
The songs were underwritten and give plenty of room for development from a modern composer and songwriter, and hiring Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland) is a stroke of genius. He never met a stripe he didn’t like.
In all seriousness, I think Tim Burton is a great choice to direct a Dumbo movie. When he’s at his best, he excels at blending the fantastic fairy tale world and the real world and highlighting characters that society doesn’t seem to understand. I can certainly see that theme getting played out over the course of a movie about an elephant that can’t seem to do anything right until he discovers he can fly.
While the original Dumbo film is so sparse of content that I had trouble finding much to talk about in this review, It certainly isn’t bad. It’s just out dated. watching an animated film like this one is like being shown an old rotary telephone. Sure it was great when it was invented but today we all have phones in our pockets.
Dumbo just wasn’t made to do the same things as modern animated films. It was meant to be pure animation, and it is.
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