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Dumbo, Disney's 4th Animated Feature

Apr 30, 2008
In 1941, Walt Disney distributed his fourth animated feature, Dumbo. Based on the children's book of the same name, written by Helen Aberson and drawn by Harold Perl, Dumbo follows the adventures of Jumbo, Jr., a baby elephant. Because of his unnaturally large ears, which give him the power to fly, Jumbo, Jr. is nicknamed "Dumbo." His only friend, other than his mother, is Timothy the mouse.

When Disney submitted his first cut of Dumbo to RKO, their distributor at the time, the studio was dismayed to find the running time was only 64 minutes. George J. Schaefer, the president of RKO, demanded Disney either edit the feature down to a short film or beef it up to 70 minutes. Disney refused, and insisted Dumbo be released as an A picture, in the maximum number of theaters nation-wide. Schaefer reluctantly agreed.

It cost Disney only $813,000 to complete Dumbo, which was roughly half the cost of Snow White and a third of the cost of Pinocchio. Along with Snow White, it would be one of the only two feature to turn a profit for Disney during the 1940s. Its original release, in 1941, went on to gross $1.3 million - a monumental success at the time. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, Dumbo was supposed to grace the December cover of Time magazine, only to be dropped at the last minute to cover the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Indeed, the Second World War would nearly break Disney's young studio as they were quickly recruited by the United States government to animate a number of training and propaganda cartoons for the Armed Forces.

Dumbo earned the nomination for and subsequently won the 1941 Academy Awards for Original Music Score. It was also nominated for Best Song for Frank Churchill and Ned Washington's "Baby Mine" and won the 1947 Cannes Film Festival award for Best Animation Design. The popularity of the film was capitalized on again during the 1949 re-release, making a massive profit for both RKO and Disney.

Dumbo was one of the first movies to be aired on television as part of Disney's anthology series, solidifying its popularity for an entire new generation of American viewers. In 1981, it was the first Disney film to be released on VHS. In 2006, the 60th Anniversary Special Edition was released to wide acclaim, while a special edition "Big Top Edition" was released on DVD.
About the Author
Steve Collins is an Author and Journalist based in Encino. A big Disney fan, he uses Disney Movie Club to complete his collection. Read his reviews of the movies he buys at the Disney Movie Club
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