Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dumbo Part 19

Dumbo is still tearful after seeing his mother and gets the hiccups as a result. Timothy has Dumbo drink water from the tub the clowns knocked a bottle of champagne into and both of them inadvertently get drunk. Timothy challenges Dumbo to blow a square bubble, and before their eyes (it's a joint hallucination), the bubble metamorphoses into an elephant that starts to blow its own elephant bubbles.

The use of alcohol and drunkenness is very cleverly handled. The clowns have spiked the water purely by accident. Dumbo is motivated to drink by the hiccups and the hallucinations that start here and continue in the next sequence are what cause Dumbo to fly for the first time. There has been no suggestion anywhere in the film that Dumbo's ears resemble a bird's wings, so Dumbo has no logical reason to attempt flight. It's only the alcohol-induced nightmare that provokes his actions and the audience doesn't find this out until after the fact.

The innocent and accidental nature of the drinking excuse it for both the family audience and the Hollywood censors. The film gets to use alcohol for humour while keeping the characters untainted by a moral lapse.

John Lounsbery handles the bulk of Dumbo shots and Fred Moore handles the bulk of Timothy. I have no idea what Lounsbery's relationship to alcohol was, but Moore was famous for his love of drink. You can bet that everyone in the studio considered this sequence typecasting.

Both animators have a lot of fun with the characters' tipsiness. Lounsbery gives Dumbo heavily lidded eyes. Moore has Timothy constantly weaving, using S-curves for the character's line of action. Ed Brophy is just wonderful in his voicing for Timothy. I don't think that Brophy gets enough credit for what I think is one of the best vocal performances in all the Disney features.

There are unnumbered shots between 18.2 and 26. The draft lists 19, 20, 21, 21.1, 22 and 23 as "out of picture," but I suspect that some of those shots were put back in.

Shot 18
There's some bad matching of the water with the top of the bucket in shot 18 before Timothy comes into the shot. I assume budget limitations prevented it from being fixed and I have to admit that it bothers me every time I see this sequence.

Then two shots later in 18.2 (above), the top of the tub is dry. This is small stuff and nobody watches Dumbo for details like this, but there's a clear distinction between the production values of this film and the other pre-war features.

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