Dumbo - The 1941 Disney animated film

Dumbo - The 1941 Disney animated film

Dumbo is a 1941 animated fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Productions and distributed by RKO Radio Pictures. Dumbo is Disney's fourth animated feature film, and is based on the children's book written by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl and illustrated by Helen Durney for a new toy prototype (“Roll-a-Book”). The main character is Jumbo Jr., a baby elephant who is cruelly nicknamed "Dumbo" as in "stupid" when he is born. He is ridiculed for his large ears, but is actually able to fly using them as wings. For most of the film, his only real friend, aside from his mother, is the rat, Timothy, a parody of the stereotype that mice and elephants are natural enemies.

Made to recoup the financial losses of both Pinocchio and Fantasia, Dumbo was a deliberate pursuit of simplicity and economy for the Disney studios. At 64 minutes, it's one of Disney's shortest animated films. The sound was recorded conventionally using the RCA system. A voice was synthesized using the Sonovox system, but it too was recorded using the RCA system.

Dumbo was released in American theaters on October 23, 1941, where it received generally favorable reviews. However, he has also been criticized for racist stereotyping of African Americans. In 2017, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant."

A live-action adaptation of the film directed by Tim Burton was released in cinemas on March 29, 2019, although it was neither critically nor commercially successful.


It's the end of winter and the storks are delivering new babies to the circus residents in its Florida winter quarters. All mothers receive their parcels except one elephant, Mrs. Jumbo. But after the circus leaves, a lost stork brings him an elephant which, to everyone's surprise, is characterized by two enormous ears. He becomes the object of ridicule of all the other female elephants, he is immediately nicknamed "Dumbo" (dumb in English means stupid).

Mrs. Jumbo tries to remain dignified, surrounding her baby with all her motherly love. However, when a handful of ill-mannered boys once again taunt Dumbo, her distraught mother, unable to deal with the permanent wickedness of which her baby is the victim, she plucks one with her trunk and gives him a spanking. You will pay dearly for her gesture as her sir. Loyal, after whipping her, chained her up and locked her in a cage. Considered a "different" from the other crew members, Dumbo is now alone. Fortunately, the cunning mouse Timothy consoles him and decides to make him a real circus star.

Timothy tries to perform several circus acts with Dumbo but all fail: while Dumbo has to jump on a trampoline to land on top of a pyramid of elephants balancing on a ball, he trips over his ears and rolling ends up hitting the ball that supported the pyramid , which collapses dragging the entire circus tent with it. In the nearby town, the ringmaster decides to make Dumbo a clown, to the grave shame and embarrassment of the other elephants.

The show is a big hit, and the clowns party after the show. Meanwhile, Timothy, taking advantage of the general euphoria, takes little Dumbo to see his mother imprisoned inside a caravan. They cannot see each other, but only the embrace of their proboscis remains. To comfort Dumbo who continues to cry and sob, Timothy takes him to a drinking bowl, where one of the clowns has inadvertently spilled a bottle of champagne. Alcohol quickly takes effect on both the elephant and the mouse, so the two friends have dreamlike and psychedelic visions, including the walk of the pink elephants and many other improbable hallucinations.

The next morning, the two companions are awakened from their sleep by a band of crows, who are amazed to find an elephant in the topmost branches of a tree. After the amazement, Timothy understands that Dumbo managed to fly up there, thanks to his big ears. He tries to persuade him to use this gift, supported by the leader of the crows who, after being put in his place by Timothy, offers the young elephant one of his feathers, convincing him that he has the magical power to make him fly. The duo climb off the top of a cliff and the unbelievable happens: Dumbo knows how to fly.

Back at the circus, Dumbo is ready for his clown act. But thanks to the pen, Timothy proposes to turn the number into a flying show. As he opens his ears, the baby elephant loses his pen and panics. Timothy confesses that it was just a pretext and that he didn't need the feather to fly; he just has to trust himself. In front of the amazed onlookers, the elephant soars like an airplane, splashing the incredulous clowns. The flying elephant act is a big hit. In the company of Timothy and his mother, finally free, Dumbo becomes the new star of the circus.

It is the moving story of Dumbo, the elephant with big ears, son of the elephant Jumbo. Dumbo is immediately mocked and humiliated by both the circus elephants and the circus staff because of his ears which initially cause him a lot of trouble. Her mother to protect him will rebel against this situation, but she will be locked up and separated from her puppy.

Dumbo finds in the cheerful little mouse Timothy the only friend who will be able to understand that his greatest problem is also his greatest talent. With a little luck, a lot of determination and an exceptional courage, Dumbo learns to soar in the air, becoming the flying attraction of the circus. The film has creative moments of great interest, such as Dumbo's dream, one of the most singular songs with an almost surreal taste. Among the soap bubbles Dumbo sees myriads of elephants of various colors that make up a wonderful "Silly Symphony". Dumbo is one of the most beloved films created by Walt Disney and was the winner of the Academy Award for best soundtrack.

Dumbo is the fifth animated feature film and the fourth "Animation Classic" from Disney Studios, released in the United States in October 1941. It is based on the short story of the same name written by Helen Aberson and illustrated by Harold Pearl, published in 1939.


The production of this film was intended to compensate for the poor receipts of Pinocchio and Fantasia, both released in 1940. The original scenario, close to a version of Ugly Duck but with an elephant, was developed by Joe Grant and Dick Huemer to become a 64-minute film, one of the shortest Disney Studios shorts. Despite its brevity and the many cost savings achieved during its production, the film has become a favorite with audiences due to its simple but heartwarming story.

From Disney's perspective, Dumbo required none of the special effects that had slowed production and increased the budgets of Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi. When the film went into production in early 1941, supervising director Ben Sharpsteen was instructed to keep the film simple and inexpensive. As a result, character designs are simpler, background paintings are less detailed, and a number of held cels (or frames) were used in character animation. Although the film is more "cartoony" than previous Disney films, the animators brought elephants and other animals into the studio to study their movements.

Watercolor paint has been used to render the backgrounds. Dumbo is one of the few Disney feature films to use the technique, also used for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and regularly employed for the various Disney cartoon shorts. The other Disney films used oil paint and gouache. 2002's Lilo & Stitch, which drew influences from Dumbo, also used watercolor backgrounds.

Technical data

Original title Dumbo
Original language English
Country of Production United States of America
Year 1941
Duration 64 min
Relationship 1,37:1
Gender animation, musical, drama, fantastic
Regia Supervising Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Record sequences: Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson, Bill Roberts, Jack Kinney, Samuel Armstrong
Subject Helen Aberson, Harold Pearl
Film script Joe Grant, Dick Huemer, Otto Englander, Bill Peet, Aurelius Battaglia, Joe Rinaldi, George Stallings, Webb Smith
Producer Walt Disney
Production house Walt Disney Productions
Distribution in Italian RKO Radio Pictures
Music Frank Churchill, Oliver Wallace
Art director Herb Ryman, Ken O'Connor, Terrell Stapp, Don DaGradi, Al Zinnen, Ernie Nordli, Dick Kelsey, Charles Payzant
Character design John P. Miller, Martin Provensen, John Walbridge, Jim Brodrero, Maurice Noble, Elmer Plummer
Entertainers Bill Tytla, Fred Moore, Ward Kimball, John Lounsbery, Art Babbitt, Wolfgang Reitherman, Frank Thomas, Hugh Fraser, Harvey Toombs, Milt Neil, Hicks Lokey, Howard Swift, Don Towsley, Les Clark, Claude Smith, Bill Justice, Paul Fitzpatrick , Ed Parks, Art Stevens, Bernie Wolf, Jack Campbell, Walt Kelly, Don Patterson, Cy Young, Ray Patterson, Grant Simmons, Josh Meador, Bill Shull, Art Palmer
Wallpapers Art Riley, Dick Anthony, Al Dempster, Claude Coats, John Hench, Gerald Nevius, Ray Lockrem, Joe Stahley

Original voice actors
Edward Brophy: Timothy
Verna Felton: Matriarch Elephant, Mrs. Jumbo
Herman Bing: Ringmaster
Margaret Wright: Casimir
Sterling Holloway: Stork
Cliff EdwardsJim / Dandy Crow
Hall Johnson Choir: Crow choir
Noreen GammillCatty
Dorothy ScottGiddy
Sarah SelbyPrissy
Malcolm HuttonSkinny
John McLeish: Narrator
Billy BletcherClown 1
James Baskett: Fats Crow
Jim CarmichaelDopey Crow
Eddie Holden: Clowns 2
Harold Manley: Boy 1
Tony Neil: Boy 2
Billy Sheets: Clown 3, Joe
Hall JohnsonDeacon Crow
Nick StewartSpecks Crow
Chuck Stubbs: Boy 3

Italian voice actors
Stefano Sibaldi: Timothy
Lola Braccini: Matriarch elephant
Giusi Raspani Dandolo: Mrs. Jumbo
Mario Gallina: director of the circus
Mauro Zambuto: Stork, Clown 1
Lauro Gazzolo as Jim / Dandy Crow
Zither Quartet: Chorus of Crows
Laura CarliCatty
Wanda TettoniGiddy
Zoe Incrocci as Prissy
Vittorio Stagni: Skinny
Mario Besesti: Narrator
Luigi Pavese: Clowns
Mario CorteSpecks Crow
Olinto Cristina: Deacon Crow
Gianni Mazzanti: Dopey Crow
Cesare Polacco: Fats Crow

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