DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: ***** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    Edward Brophy as TIMOTHY Q. MOUSE
    Sterling Holloway as MR. STORK
    Herman Bing as RINGMASTER
    Cliff Edwards as JIM CROW
    Verna Felton as MATRIARCH ELEPHANT

    Rated G
    Studio: Disney

    Directed by: Ben Sharpsteen
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Before I had kids, I hadn’t seen “Dumbo” in years. Strangely enough, I wasn’t a huge fan of the film as a child. I enjoyed the cute elephant and mouse, but to be honest, the Pink Elephant segment scared the bejesus out of me.

However, once my youngest son was old enough to start watching his own videos, he eventually found my wife’s old VHS tape of “Dumbo.” Watching it with my kids as an adult, I found an incredible amount of love for this movie. And to make things right, I found that now I absolutely loved the Pink Elephant segment. In fact, I think it’s the best part of the film.

Disney has brought “Dumbo” from its vault and released the “Big Top Edition,” which is a new digital transfer with an assortment of special features – some old and some new.

The film itself remains one of the warmest, sweetest and most adorable Disney films ever made. Even though you might not realize it when you see it, the title character never says a word. And his mother only has one line in the film. Because they are animated figures, I now realize the genius of the classic Disney animators because they brought so much life and emotion to the characters without the use of voice.

A low-budget Disney film at the time, “Dumbo” helped save the finances of the company. It’s beauty is in its simplicity – not just in the story but the animation throughout much of the film. Being one of the early Disney animated films, it was pretty rough, and it didn’t have the hands-on care that was given other films like “Pinocchio and Snow White.”

But that’s okay. “Dumbo” didn’t need to be perfect. It didn’t need to be photorealistic. It didn’t need eye-popping animation. It just needed to tell the story of the big-eared elephant underdog. Perhaps it was this low-budget, low-important focus on the film that made it so good.

And then there’s that Pink Elephant sequence. Although it frightened me as a child, I now see it as a quintessential work of surreal animated art from the Disney studio. It was so innovative for the day, and even now it holds up against anything I’ve seen in the modern animation age.

“Dumbo” is a sweet story that teaches a lesson without being preachy. It doesn’t hit you over the head, but rather presents us with a character that is so trusting, yet so ridiculed that it doesn’t seem like a message is being hammered into him.

The DVD comes with a new DisneyPedia section that teaches children the different animals found in a circus. There’s also a DVD storybook, which kids can read along with the narrator. Sing-along songs for “Look Out for Mr. Stork” and “Casey Junior” allow kids to sing karaoke style, and a new music video for “Baby Mine” is performed by Jim Brickman and Kassie DePaiva.

There are two bonus Silly Symphonies on the DVD, including “Elmer Elephant” and “The Flying Mouse,” which both offered some inspiration to the “Dumbo” feature. Additionally, there’s a 15-minute featurette about the film, Walt Disney’s original television introduction, a commentary by John Canemaker from the previous DVD release and several galleries of concept art.

“Dumbo” is a film that would never be made today. It’s not grandiose, and it doesn’t set out to change the world. It just tells a great story and has beautiful moments of powerful emotion that can bring a tear to the eye even 65 years after it was made.

Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Original fullscreen aspect ratio (1.33:1). French and Spanish language tracks. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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