Directed by Ben Sharpsteen



Theatrical: Walt Disney

Video: Walt Disney


Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC

Disc Size: 38.92 GB

Feature Size: 18.52 GB

Bit Rate: 24.63 Mbps

Runtime: 64 minutes

Chapters: 17

Region: B


English DTS-HD MA 7.1

Dutch, Italian & Spanish DTS 5.1

Hindi Dolby Digital 5.1

Catalan & Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0

Dutch & Italian Dolby Digital 2.0

English Dolby Digital 2.0


English, Dutch, Hindi, Italian, Spanish, Swedish

Extras: English, French, Spanish & Portuguese


• Cine-Explore PIP with Pete Docter, Paula Sigman & Andreas Deja

• Taking Flight: The Making of Dumbo (27:05)

• Magic of Dumbo : The Ride of Passage (3:00)

• Sound Design Excerpt for "The Reluctant Dragon" (5:40)

* Walt Disney's TV Introduction (1:10)

• 2 Theatrical Trailers for Dumbo (1941 & 1949)

* Deleted Scenes: "A Mouse Tale" & "Are You a Man or a Mouse?"

European Blu-ray case

Release date: March 22, 2010

The Score Card

The Movie : 10

If there is an animated feature more genuinely affecting, with more timeless universal appeal than Dumbo, I am unaware of it.

Dumbo is Disney's fourth movie in the Pentatuch that includes Snow White (1937), Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940) and Bambi (1942).  Dumbo is credited for having saved the studio, for despite the popularity and critical acclaim heaped upon Snow White and Fantasia, these films were not enough to keep the studio afloat and Disney needed to reconsider his product.  Would it be possible to make a less expensive movie that honored the direction he wanted to go in the medium?  Just ask any of the dozen or so contributors to the extra features on this set.

At first glance, and in the context of Disney's own efforts up to then, Dumbo appears less artistic, more cartoony than the three earlier films – and you'd not be wide of the mark to see it that way.  Dumbo is a distillation of everything Disney animators had learned to that point.  Animation, remember, is not the art of painting, but bringing drawings to life – to animate the inanimate.  It isn't animals that they are breathing life into, it is drawings of animals, or people, or tress, or anything they choose.


In the case of Dumbo, this art has been pared down to the absolute minimum, consistent with pleasing audiences and making money.  These guys aren't starving artists working in a loft someplace burning their overcoats to keep warm, after all.  To make matters even more challenging, the decision was made to keep Dumbo mute - and except for a whimper or two, all of Dumbo's feeling are expressed visually through drawings.  Much the same is true for Dumbo's mother, Jumbo.  All the other elephants speak, but Dumbo and Jumbo react only in mime. 

What makes Dumbo so universally engaging is its ugly duckling story of finding worth in exactly the thing for which others ridicule you and for which you come to hate in yourself.  Dumbo not only has huge ears that everyone makes fun of, he continually trips over them and, once he comes to see how others tease him and ostracize him, he hides himself in them.  It's a story often told, and for good reason – but I think never expressed better than in Dumbo.


Image : 9/9

Compared to the U.S. "Big Top" DVD, the new Blu-ray is a revelation: Colors are brighter, and lighting has been reconsidered for proper dramatic intention.  Noise is seriously reduced without loss in sharpness.  Dumbo is not big on texture in the first place, but what little there is is now more apparent.  One thing that the sharp-eyed among you will notice is the built-in edge enhancement. A close examination of the edges around the tuba reveals a subtle swash of shading to give dimension to the instrument, else it would appear completely flat.  The artist did that. Cool, huh.

But don't expect the same level of restoration we see in the Blu-ray editions of Sleeping Beauty or Pinocchio.  Scratches and specks, which in some scenes on the DVD seemed almost painted into the background, are now 99% removed.  Natural watercolor splotching can now be seen where before it was just noise.  Sharpness, especially in respect to the line art, is restored.  All in all, a huge upgrade, but not perfect.


Audio & Music : 5/9

I wish I could report the same level of care for the audio that was offered for Pinocchio.  Alas, this is not be.  I feel the idea of turning a mono score into a 7.1 surround is preposterous to start with, but I wouldn't have minded if there were an original somewhere to be found.  But the bad news doesn't stop there.  The DTS-HD MA mix is too screechy, with exaggerated treble.  Much better is playing that same mix through the digital output of your player, possibly even the analog output (I didn't try it), bypassing HMDI for the audio.

The film won an Oscar for Best Musical Score and a nomination for "Baby Mine" – a song that any of today's composers would give their index finger to have written.  And look at how Disney dramatizes the song in a series of mother and child tableaux, alternating sentiment with deft humor.  At least the song had the good taste to lose to the Meryl Steep of composers: Jerome Kern, for "The Last Time I Saw Paris."


Operations : 2

The content information on the back cover just about drove me crazy, as most of it is just wrong.  It suggests that the accompanying DVD contains more extended bonus features, but it is simply a 480p version of the Blu-ray, minus the Cine-Explore.  And speaking of Cine-Explore, why hide it under the Play function in the Menu?  At least have the good sense to duplicate it under Set-up or Extra Features, or both.


Extras : 8

If you like John Canemaker's audio commentary from the DVD, you should not part with it once you get the Blu-ray, for neither it, nor the "Celebrating Dumbo" documentary is anywhere to be found here.  In place of that 15-minute feature is an updated half-hour high-def documentary titled "Taking Flight: The Making of Dumbo.  Very good, with all the right people crowing about Dumbo and offering some background.  There is also a cute piece on the Dumbo ride at Disneyland.  And in place of the Canemaker commentary, Disney offers "Cine-Explore" – a PIP presentation with Disney Historian Paula Sigman, Disney Animator Andreas Deja, and Pixar Director Pete Docter (who is there primarily as an excuse to update the documentary to new audiences – he prefers to let his colleagues lead.)  The trio fleshes out the points brought up in "Taking Flight" as they detail matters of how the original children's book materialized into the movie, animation and especially each of the animators (some of whom we hear from in archive tapes), voice actors and the historical context of the film in regards Disney and the art form in general.

One more detail about the DVD: Like the BR, it is Region 2 Locked.  It is also PAL, and therefore the movie is subject to speedup – another good reason to keep the U.S. DVD if that's what you have already.


Recommendation : 9

My only gripe – and it's no small one – is the audio.  But it least there is a workaround.  The image quality is a huge improvement over the DVD (I hope you appreciate my avoidance of elephantine metaphors here).  The special features are quite good considering the lack of on the spot archival footage.  And, yes, the Cine-Explore panel does address the question of the elephant in the room – the crows.  I've always thought the issue was something of a pink elephant myself, but that's another story.

Leonard Norwitz


March 28, 2010


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