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Dumbo

Dumbo(1941)

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Although 28 May 1941 Variety news item reported that the title of this film had been changed from Dumbo to Dumbo of the Circus, no other contemporary source mentions the other title. A December 22, 1941 Cleveland Plain Dealer article reported that the story of "Dumbo" was originally scheduled to be produced as a short, "but all those who had any connection with the picture were unanimous in their enthusiasm over the possibilities of creating a full-length feature." The article also noted that although a year and a half had been alloted for actual production of the picture, it required only a year to finish. Other contemporary sources note that the majority of animation was done between August 1940 and May 1941. Modern sources state that the film's quick production was due to the simplicity of the story line and its short running time, and estimate that the budget was between $850,000 and $950,000, making it one of the least expensive feature-length cartoon produced by the studio. The film's pressbook notes that animation director Vladimir Tytla, who was largely responsible for the conception and drawing of "Dumbo," based his drawings on his young son, Peter. The character voiced by Cliff Edwards is called "Dandy Crow" in the film's cutting continuity, contained in the Walt Disney Archives, although most contemporary and modern sources refer to him as "Jim Crow."
       A black-and-white sequence, featuring animation of "Casey Jr." and showing how the Sonovox system is used to add sound effects, is seen in the Disney production The Reluctant Dragon, which was released in July 1941. The animated sequence does not appear in the final print of Dumbo, however. As special effects artist Ub Iwerks described in the January 1942 issue of Popular Mechanics, Sonovox consisted of "two little biscuit-shaped gadgets which are placed on either side of the throat. Sound recordings-rattling dice, a waterfall or whatnot-are fed to the larynx through these so that the sound actually comes from the human throat. Throat and lips control what comes out."
       According to a modern source, Arthur Treacher acted as a live-action model for the "pink elephants" sequence, and Freddie Jackson and Eugene Jackson were live-action models for the crows. A modern source notes that the following actors provided additional voice characterizations: John Fraser McLeish (Narration); Margaret Wright (Casey Jr.); Sarah Selby, Dorothy Scott and Noreen Gamill (Elephants); Malcolm Hutton (Skinny); Jim Carmichael (Crow); and Harold Manley, Tony Neil and Charles Stubbs (Boys). Dumbo marked the first time that actors Sterling Holloway and Verna Felton provided character voices for an animated Disney feature. Felton also supplied the voices of the fairy godmother in Cinderella and the "Queen of Hearts" in Alice in Wonderland. Holloway went on to work for Disney on many films, providing the voices of characters such as "Winnie the Pooh," "Roquefort the mouse" in The Aristocats and "Kaa the snake" in The Jungle Book. Holloway and Felton's work on Bambi May have been been completed before their work on Dumbo, but that film was not released until 1942.
       A August 19, 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that RKO had recently completed a "unique" Technicolor trailer for the picture, which would be entirely animated but feature "no shots from the picture it advertises." Various December 1941 news items note that the picture's West Coast premiere took place on December 4, 1941 at Camp Callan, an Army base near San Diego, CA. Five thousand soldiers attended the screening, which was held to dedicate the new Red Cross recreational center at the camp's hospital.
       According to a December 24, 1941 Variety news item, and other contemporary materials contained in the Walt Disney Archives, Adelard Godbout, the prime minister of Quebec, feared that Dumbo would "deteriorate" the morals of children and therefore ordered that movie theaters admit only adults to screenings of the film. No information about the restrictions in Quebec was found in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, however.
       The Daily Variety review, which lists the film's preview running time as 71 minutes, erroneously identifies "Timothy Q. Mouse" as "Mickey Mouse." Although a December 6, 1941 Los Angeles Times article reported that Disney had "installed writers on preparing a feature which will have Timothy as hero," that picture was not produced. According to a December 16, 1941 Hollywood Citizen-News article, Disney intended to use the character of Dumbo for "a series of [animated] military training films" for the American, British and Canadian governments. Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese and French were among the languages into which Dumbo was translated for international distribution, according to contemporary sources.
       Dumbo won an Academy Award for Best Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture), and the song "Baby Mine," by Frank Churchill and Ned Washington, was nominated for Best Song. The picture was also named one of the ten best films of the year by New York Times and the National Board of Review, and in 1947, was named the best animated feature at the Cannes Film Festival. Although "Dumbo" did not appear in any other feature-length Disney films, he and the other characters from the picture appeared in an hour-long television broadcast of the Disneyland series in September 1955. They also appeared as "puppetronics" on the television series Dumbo's Circus, which had its premiere on May 6, 1985 and was broadcast on the Disney Channel for 120 episodes.