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Dumbo: Big Top Edition

Walt Disney's 1941 Dumbo, coming on the heels of such high-profile projects as Snow White (1937) and Fantasia (1940), was almost a throwaway film, something to keep the animators busy and keep Disney's product in theaters. But instead of being a minor entry from the studio's early years, this 64-minute gem is often cited as the best film to ever come out of the Mouse House, thanks to sharp characterizations and a story everyone can love. Starting with a lovely opening sequence as storks deliver newborns to a sleeping village of circus animals, Dumbo concerns one Jumbo Jr., who fills Mrs. Jumbo's life with joy but is outcast and nicknamed "Dumbo" by the other elephants because of his big, floppy ears. And after Mrs. Jumbo is locked away for violently defending her young calf, Dumbo's only friend is Timothy Q. Mouse, a wiseacre rodent who thinks great things are in store for his pachyderm pal. After Dumbo is forced to leave the elephant act and perform with the clowns, a twist of fate reveals that his perceived defect is actually his greatest strength. It's a movie that Disney fans tend to watch at least once a year (or more), which means Dumbo is a required title in a lot of DVD collections. Disney's "Big Top Edition" updates the previously released "60th Anniversary Edition" — returning is a commentary track with animation historian John Canemaker; the 15-minute retrospective featurette "Celebrating Dumbo" with comments from Roy Disney, Leonard Maltin, and others (and which regrettably concerns how these people feel about the movie rather than its production history); an excerpt from Walt Disney's introduction to the film when shown on TV; a wonderful series of stills galleries featuring original concept art and character sketches; the animated shorts "The Flying Mouse" and "Elmer Elephant"; sing-alongs for "Look Out for Mr. Stork" and "Casey Jr."; the children's read-along "Dumbo's Big Discovery"; and trailers for other Disney/Buena Vista titles. The only new features we could locate were the DisneyPedia game "My First Circus" and the music video for "Baby Mine" sung by Jim Brickman and Kassie DePaiva. The original "Baby Mine" video as sung by Michael Crawford is not on board, nor are the six-minute "Sound Design" excerpt from Disney's 1941 behind-the-scenes documentary The Reluctant Dragon or the Dumbo trailers from 1941 and 1947. The solid, colorful full-frame transfer (1.33:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio are as good as ever, and while the folding paperboard model of the Casey Jr. train engine is not to be found, a new "Matching Game" with punch-out cards is in the keep-case with paperboard sleeve.
—JJB



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