Dumbo flies through its short runtime with endearing tenderness. The 1941 animated classic that recouped the financial losses from 'Fantasia'. Short, simple and sweet. It made perfect sense for Disney to adapt this story. Many regard this as the essential all-rounded animated classic from their canon. Sure, it harnesses that Disney sparkle, but boy oh boy do I have some major issues with this. A stork delivers a baby elephant to a circus elephant, who is then cruelly named Dumbo due to his big floppy ears. Now an outcast, he befriends a mouse who discovers that Dumbo can actually fly.
A pivotal plot characteristic for this semi-anthropomorphic, that we only discover during the last seven minutes. He shocked the audience at a circus knowing that he didn't need a "magic feather" to fly (it came from within...you just got to believe!), reunited with his mother and chugging along the circus train happily ever after. All that, in seven minutes. And that is my biggest criticism. The animation is only an hour long. So much of it is wasted on inventive visuals, most notably the drunk sequence and the elephant pyramid stunt, that the central story of Dumbo is constantly stopping and starting. Frustratingly, there are some really tender moments. When his mother cradles him whilst being locked up, it brings out some much needed emotion and parental themes. The subtle commentary on animal cruelty being unfairly used at circuses for entertainment. The parodying of elephants fearing mice. The over-the-top antics from the clowns to bring some hilarity.
There are good moments in this, all weighed down by that ticking runtime. Everything felt underdeveloped. The musical numbers were unmemorable ("When I See An Elephant Fly" probably being the most famous). The voice acting somewhat hit and miss. Oh, and let's not even talk about the stereotype casting of the crows. The film just feels outdated. More so than any other Disney animated classic. That's not to say Dumbo is bad, because it's not. Self-confidence is an important and engrossing theme. It's just not the essential Disney film that many claim it to be.