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Advocate Disney: Dumbo

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By NostalgicChills   |   Watch
Published: September 14, 2012
© 2012 - 2020 NostalgicChills
A start of a new series called 'Advocate Disney.'

*The following analysis is my opinionated viewpoint, not fact.*

One thing i've always admired about the very early Disney classics (apart from the impressive animation and inspiring storytelling) is that they've always been big on Animal Rights. You may notice that a few of their films, mainly the ones that feature animal characters, base the film around a certain animal commodity that they feel they need to spread awareness about. And they do so by reaching out to kids. Dumbo was the first, but not the last Disney film to do this. I won't list the other films just yet (but some of you may be able to guess some of them, there are currently seven that i know of).

Released in 1941, Dumbo was Disney's 4th animated feature. I trust that most of you know this story, so i won't bother explaining the plot. The very basic moral of this story is obviously 'believe in yourself' and that what you think is a huge flaw may in fact be a gift etc. But this film also explores the plight of circus elephants. And personally, i believe they portrayed the issue very well. Particularly when Dumbo's mother is chained in solitary confinement, after being condemned as dangerous because of an angry rampage after people made fun of her baby's big ears. The scene that followed became one of Disney's saddest moments in their history. The scene known as 'Baby Mine' where Dumbo is cradled by his captive mother through the bars of her prison, with tears running down his face (and the face of everyone else who watches this scene).

On a side note, i always wondered why Dumbo and his mother were the only characters that couldn't speak (except for Mrs. Jumbo's one line at the beginning). But i think i may have figured that out. This is just my opinion, but i think it's because they were trying to convey the message that animals suffer in silence, so Disney decided to mute the two characters that suffer the most in this film. I don't know, it's a thought. Let me know what you think about it.
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anonymous's avatar
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SweetSommer's avatar
SweetSommerHobbyist General Artist
I feel sorry for Jumbo Jr.
RensMeerkat's avatar
RensMeerkatHobbyist General Artist
I heard somewhere that the ending scene with the train is a metaphor for death. Both Dumbo and his mother died and are taking a train to Heaven.  Quite a few animal advocates wanted Disney to rewrite the ending to the live action version where Dumbo, his mother and the other animals are on their way to a sanctuary at the end.  
hershey990's avatar
Yeah, the film was sad but you have to admit, the Baby Mine scene was legit.
Inksans201x's avatar
Inksans201xHobbyist General Artist
This made me cry, man I love dumbo but damn that's just cruel to take away a mother
KayleetheDragacron's avatar
KayleetheDragacronHobbyist General Artist
Don't cry, Dumbo! We love you!
Robotic-Mind's avatar
I think Baby of Mine is not only a sad song, but it shows a reality of the circus world. The sadness of a mother when her baby is taken away because she wanted to protect it. 
Luspear-Soram's avatar
Luspear-SoramHobbyist Artist
That is a good picture. I feel that Disney sugarcoated Dumbo a lot, just like it did to many of its movies. I have learned about the cruelties of the circus. It is very grim and shocking. In the movie the mother is the one to be locked up in confinement, and that is after she did something bad. I understand that she was just trying to protect her baby, but she was scorned and punished. It is sort of like a special animal jail. The reality is much more grim. In the circus all animals are confined cruelly that cruelly that way. If they are not performing or rehearsing, they are confined in their prisons.

Marine parks with performing whales are also cruel places. It is like a circus, but with whales. I have learned a lot about that as well. There is a grim disturbing documentary about captive orcas. It focuses on Tillicum. It is called Black Fish. That taught me a lot. Afterward I watched Free Willy. Then I understood the story and the conflict much better than when I was a kid. Free Willy can be a spokesperson for animal rights as well.

One controversy is deer hunting. It is a a complex issue. Personally I believe that hunting is wrong, unless it is done for food. The Bambi movie is notorious for traumatizing kids. Even you have some pictures with Bambi in it. So he can also make a good spokesperson. Deer hunting is a major problem in the movie. However it doesn't convey the complexity of the issue in real life. I don't know what is the motive of the villain, man. It would affect my judgement on whether he is good or bad. It depends on whether he is after venison or after a trophy. If I could pick, I would rather go with the venison hunter. I like having redeemable villains. I accept that someone kills deer for their meat. That is just how the natural food chain works. I care about animals, but not enough to go vegetarian. Although if one really wanted to go that far, another spokesperson is Wilbur, the pig from Charlottes Web.

I just thought I could throw some ideas out for you. :P
Robotic-Mind's avatar
I do eat meat, but I refuse to eat lamb/calf meat.
(Anyways, what would be a Disney-like realistic interpretation of the circus?)
KalahariMeerkatfan's avatar
KalahariMeerkatfanHobbyist General Artist
If you ask me, I like how they made Mrs. Jumbo (always wondered where her husband was) react. It's been some time since I watched movies, but some mothers would just stand by, thinking that it is no big deal. But Mrs. Jumbo acted like a true animal mother, although I think she might had taken it a little far (but when an elephant gets mad, then they get really mad). 
Luspear-Soram's avatar
Luspear-SoramHobbyist Artist
There is a natural reason for the elephant's anger. In the wild, elephants form close nit herds. They protect all the babies. When an elephant has a baby, it is a huge investment. This is a two year pregnancy plus years of raising the baby to adulthood. So it is in the elephant's best interest to protect this big investment. It seems so natural for a mother elephant to protect a baby from a predator. Even other adult elephants would help. They would attack the predator. So it is understandable for Ms. Jumbo to protect Dumbo like that.
KalahariMeerkatfan's avatar
KalahariMeerkatfanHobbyist General Artist
What really bothers me is how those elephants did not help him...what was wrong with them to ignore instinct?
rustydiamond's avatar
rustydiamondHobbyist General Artist
Dumbo is my all time favorite character min any movie ever.and I think you did an amazing job on this its well nthought out and I never thought of why they don't speak, very good theory!
Trekkicat's avatar
TrekkicatHobbyist Artist
animals do not belong in a circus. very beautiful picture and very sad
VioletWhirlwind's avatar
VioletWhirlwindHobbyist General Artist
Oh gosh..."Baby Mine."  I'm tearing up just thinking about it.  That has to be one of THE. Saddest. Disney scenes/songs. Ever.  Moreso even than Mufasa's death.  I LOVE it for that.  (I am strange that way.)
Nakuru-Nebelung's avatar
In fact as you say Dumbo's mum is not a mute character, she speaks at the beginning, and the song is kinda sung by her. I think she really doesn't need to speak anymore: her actions speak louder than her words.
Dumbo can't speak, yes, but ... he's a baby. I think they thought the plot was cuter and most innocent portraying him this way. But hey, those are just my thoughts!
boomheart900's avatar
boomheart900Student General Artist
will you continue the series?
RensMeerkat's avatar
RensMeerkatHobbyist General Artist
Ditto! 
CocoChipooRocks's avatar
CocoChipooRocksStudent General Artist
I love this piece and I agree with you when you talked about the possible message of how animals suffer in silence. 
I seriously detest animal circuses, and for that reason I've actually never liked this movie because it always upsets me ^^;
Hebigami-Okami-77's avatar
Hebigami-Okami-77Hobbyist Digital Artist
To be honest, the silence of Dumbo and this mother I think was to show two things:

1. Their helplessness in the situation: no voice to back up or speak against those with louder voices who insist on reigning down on them.  It's to continuously feel empathy for them, and also because there are times when we ourselves are spoken over and shunned for not having that proper voice.  And,
2. Actions speak louder than words.  Some of the best scenes are invoked with little to no dialogue E.g. 3-Iron: it was a highly successful Korean movie about a travelling loner and a woman he rescued from domestic violence.  Though the woman is capable of talking, they have no dialogue exchanged between the both of them (save for the very end where she says one line).  Also, Timothy the mouse, though he spoke a lot, didn't just tell the other elephants to leave Dumbo alone, he ran in there and purposely made them feel frightened and scared as a sort of carrying out the threat of, "Mess with my friend, and you're gonna get it - I'm not joking." Dumbo's own learning to fly was a huge action that caused a big slap to the face - the elephant can't talk the talk, but he walks the walk.
Angel-Kazekage's avatar
"Bongo...the bear in the guild-ed cage."
Starlioness's avatar
more empathy for the characters if they were silent? and yeah, that is heartbreaking..:(... 

but Dumbo is a baby.. he could when he's older.. 
Flameshadow117's avatar
Flameshadow117Hobbyist Digital Artist
OMFG. You know how moving the "Baby Mine" scene is? I have not seen Dumbo in probably 10 years, and just *mentioning* that scene got me crying :XD:. Ugggggg with her trunk reaching through the bars, and the injustice of it all..... aaaaaahhhhhhhhh. 

They really did do awful stuff to elephants back then. I've even heard once case where disobedient elephants were executed in front of all the other elephants who were lined up and made to watch. O.o WTF?
RensMeerkat's avatar
RensMeerkatHobbyist General Artist
Edison made a film about electrocuting one to death. 
anonymous's avatar
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