Thursday, October 23, 2008

Happy Anniversary Dumbo!

One of my favorite films celebrates the anniversary of it's release today! Dumbo was first released on October 23, 1941 by RKO Radio Pictures and the fourth film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics. Dumbo is based upon a child's book of the same name by Helen Aberson and illustrated by Harold Perl.

The main character is Jumbo Jr., who is cruelly nicknamed Dumbo. He is ridiculed for his big ears, but in fact he is capable of flying by using them as wings. Throughout some of the film, his only true friend aside from his mother is Timothy Mouse, parodying the stereotypical animosity between mice and elephants.

Despite the advent of World War II, Dumbo was still the most financially successful Disney film of the 1940's. Completed in fall 1941, Disney's distributer RKO Radio Pictures initially balked at the film's 64 minute length and wanted Disney to either make it longer, edit it down to a short subject length, or allow them to release it as a B-movie. Disney refused all three options, and RKO reluctantly issued Dumbo, unaltered, as an A-film.

After its October 23, 1941 release, Dumbo proved to be a financial miracle compared to other Disney movies. The film cost $813,000 to produce, half the cost of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and less than a third of the cost of Pinocchio. Dumbo eventually grossed $1.6 million during its original release; it and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were the only two pre-1943 Disney features to turn a profit.

This film was one of the first of Disney's animated films to be broadcast, albeit severely edited, on television as part of Disney's anthology series. The film then received another distinction of note in 1981, when it was the first of Disney's animated films to be released on home video.

Dumbo, sculpted by Kent Melton, made his Walt Disney Classics Collection debut in 1995. Chosen as the Walt Disney Collectors Society membership gift sculpture for that year, he was available from January 1st thru December 31st, 1995. The sculpture's title defined this piece perfectly, "simply adorable" and still remains my favorite piece to this day in the collection.

It wasn't until 2003 that a full scene (with opening title) was released from this film. Up until that time, only stand alone releases (Members Only, Special Event, Open Edition and WDAC Convention) were made available. A complete WDCC listing
from this film can be seen in the Dumbo Image Gallery section of the website.


  • In December 1941, Time magazine planned to have Dumbo on its cover to commemorate its success, but it was dropped due to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • Initially Walt Disney was uninterested in making this movie. To get him interested, story men Joe Grant and Dick Huemer wrote up the film as installments which they left on Walt's desk every morning. Finally, he ran into the story department saying, "This is great! What happens next?"
  • The first Disney movie for Sterling Holloway (the Stork) and Verna Felton (the Elephant Matriarch). Both would become regulars in Disney animated films for the next thirty-five years.
  • According to some sources this was Walt Disney's favorite film made by his studios.
  • During production there was a long and bitter animators strike, in which half of the studio's staff walked out. Some of the strikers are caricatured as the clowns who go to "hit the big boss for a raise".
  • While trying to comfort Dumbo, Timothy says: "Lots of people with big ears are famous!". That's a joke with Walt Disney himself, who did have big ears. The line also refers to Clark Gable, renowned for his charming looks and large ears.
  • Mrs Jumbo (Dumbo's mother) only speaks once when she says Dumbo's original name.
  • The name of the circus (seen on a sign as the train leaves the winter headquarters) is WDP Circus (Walt Disney Productions).
  • When the drunken Timothy is sliding down the staircase-shaped bubble Dumbo has blown, his laugh is actually that of Mickey Mouse.
  • When Jim Crow plucks the "magic" feather off of the little crow's tail, the crow's yell is actually a snippet of dialogue from The Reluctant Dragon (1941). The full line is the dragon saying "Well, that's splendid!"

Below is the 1941 trailer for Dumbo, courtesy of

Dumbo is ©Disney


Babette said...

Dumbo is such a great movie. Will have to rewatch it after the Phillies win the World Series! ;)

Bug's Life is coming up on 10years this year too! Wish WDCC would do Heimlich and Francis, they are my faves from the movie.

Duckman said...

Go Phillies!! :)

It's been a while myself since watching it. Researching the blog entry and watching some clips on YouTube has been thinking it's time to watch again.

Busy weekend with company from out of town, going to the Steeler game on Sunday .. GO STEELERS! May make time next week. How many times have you heard me say that? LOL!

Would love to see them do the scene of Dumbo with Mrs. Jumbo when she's locked in the cage.

10 Years already for A Bug's Life? Only saw that film once, may years ago. The names you mention sound familiar but can't visually place them :(

Behr said...

Wouldn't it be great if they did the whole carnival gang for the 10th Anniversary. One can hope huh!

Duckman said...

Definitely Geoffrey! Being at the top of my list of favorite Disney films, would love to see each and every moment captured!

Any particular moment/scene you had in mind?

Behr said...

Not really a moment or scene but would love to see Hopper, P.T. Flea, Francis, Heimlich, Manny & Gypsy, Rosie, Slim, Dim, & Tuck and Roll added. Maybe the scene where they are preparing for Hopper's return so that it includes everyone. Maybe a signature series to celebrate the 10th anniversary next year to include everyone would be wonderful! I think I feel a poll coming =)~

Duckman said...

Hi Geoffrey,

Reading your response, showed I read your initial response too quickly when I responded. You were referring to A Bug's Life and I thought you were talking about Dumbo! LOL!

Had company this weekend, jumped on quickly, responded but shows my mind was elsewhere .. LOL!