#55 Dumbo

Watched: October 30 2016

Director: Wilfred Jackson, Ben Sharpsteen, Jack Kinney, Sam Armstrong, Norman Ferguson, Bill Roberts, John Elliotte

Starring: Edward Brophy, Verna Felton, loads and loads of other voice actors

Year: 1941

Runtime: 1h 4min

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Poor Mrs Jumbo. She’s the only animal in the circus who’s not visited by the stork, and she’s very sad about it. But wait! The stork was only delayed due to its heavy burden. Hooray! But wait again! What’s going on? Is the elephant baby a freak? The other elephants certainly seem to think so on account of his massive ears. But Mrs Jumbo (where’s Mr Jumbo..?) disagrees – she thinks her child is beautiful and perfect. Thus goes the emotional roller coaster ride which is the opening of Dumbo.

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This may seem blissful now, but just you wait for the trauma that is about to come…

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Mrs Jumbo, fiercely protective of her son, is labelled insane (or, being female, probably hysterical) by the circus owners after attacking some kids who made fun of Dumbo, and she’s sent to solitary confinement, leaving the young infant to fend for himself as the other (very elitist) elephants will have nothing to do with the freak.

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Bitchy, gossipy elephants: many an innocent child’s first exposure to bullying

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Luckily for Dumbo, Timothy Q. Mouse, a mouse(!), takes pity on him and becomes his mentor/manager, trying to get him a good position in the circus show. Which doesn’t go so well. However, after a drunken night complete with pink, dancing elephants, the two (along with some very culturally insensitive, but historically interesting, crows) discover Dumbo’s secret power – his enormous ears are perfect for flying, and they become the salvation of both Dumbo and Mrs Jumbo. Yay!

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Though technically, those ears should have been the death of them all, so science tells us…

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Despite the traumatizing event of Mrs Jumbo being sent to solitary, this is a sweet film about learning to accept your faults, and finding that what makes you weird may also be your biggest asset. We love the “Pink Elephants on Parade” scene (which made us wonder just how many drugs were involved in making this film, and in which quantities) as well as the way Dumbo holds on to the mouse’s tail and follows him around when his mother is no longer around. Perfect Sunday viewing, especially if you have children (or if you can borrow one as an alibi..).

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“You’re my mommy now!”

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What we learned: look out for Mr Stork! Seriously – avoid that bastard.

Next time: Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

#51 Pinocchio

Watched: October 02 2016

Directors: Norman Ferguson, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, Ben Sharpsteen

Starring: Dickie Jones, Cliff Edwards, Christian Rub, Mel Blanc, and various other creatures

Year: 1940

Runtime: 1h 28min

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Geppetto is a lonely toy maker/inventor who lives with his cat and fish somewhere in Italy (we presume). After finishing a wooden marionette, he wishes upon a star that Pinocchio (the dummy) would be a real boy. Somehow, this does not come across as creepy. Well done, Disney! Lo and behold – in the night a blue fairy visits and brings Pinocchio to life, promising him he’ll be a real boy if he proves himself to be brave, truthful, and unselfish. Jiminy Cricket, a cricket(!), is assigned to be the newborn boy’s conscience and is tasked with keeping him out of trouble.

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The first thing he does is light himself on fire. So much for staying out of trouble.

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Geppetto is delighted to wake up and find his new “son,” but like many parents before him, he is equally delighted to send the kid off to school the next day so as to have a few hours of peace. Despite the fact that he was literally born yesterday. We feel you, Geppetto!

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“Give this apple to your teacher, and oh – take these school books I have lying around for no discernible reason…”

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Of course, Pinocchio, being both a dummy and born yesterday, gets into trouble right away. He is lured away from his path by a couple of scammers who promise him a career in show biz.

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He’s also promised ladies

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Lots and lots of ladies

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Of course, the glamorous life in show business isn’t at all that it’s cracked up to be. Pinocchio is kidnapped and the blue fairy has to show up and help him out one last time. One would then presume the marionette had learned his lesson, but he is a young simpleton and promptly gets himself into even more trouble.

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“Seriously, pull yourself together or I’m gonna find myself a new job!”

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Pinocchio is once more kidnapped (sort of) with a bunch of other young boys who are skipping school and are generally up to no good. They are brought to “Pleasure Island” from where boys never return… At least not as boys. We won’t even begin to comment on the connotations here… Meanwhile, poor Geppetto, the world’s most irresponsible parent, is wondering what on earth has happened to his son.

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Luckily for the boys, they’re only turned into jackasses and don’t become victim of some horrible child prostitution ring. Just slave labour. It’s a Disney film after all.

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We’re prepared to bet most of you have seen this Disney classic and learned your lessons from it. Thus you are all responsible, honest and caring people. Well done!

We really liked Pinocchio, particularly Jiminy Cricket and Figaro the cat. The clock scene in Geppetto’s work shop in the beginning is magical, and despite the fact that he sends his newborn son alone to school on day two, we like Geppetto as well. Pinocchio is slightly annoying, but being a puppet we can (mostly) forgive him. Growing up, “There Are No Strings on Me” was on TV every Christmas but we realised watching this that we’ve never really seen the entire film! So it was about time.

What we learned: a conscience is that small voice people just won’t listen to. But clearly should. Also, you shouldn’t send your kid to school when he’s only a day old, no matter what!

Next time: The Bank Dick (1940)

#49 Fantasia

Watched: October 19 2016

Directors: James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Ford Beebe Jr., Norman Ferguson, Jim Handley, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Ben Sharpsteen

Starring: Leopold Stokowski, Deems Taylor, Mickey Mouse, various creatures and instruments.

Year: 1940

Runtime: 2h 5min

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We cannot do this film justice in a text post, so we recommend you watch it (if you haven’t already). It’s a Disney classic (and the first Disney animated feature on the list) for very good reasons – it’s a love letter to the magic of music and an (a?) homage to human creativity and artistry.

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For those of you whose tastes run darker than Disney, it also features this guy

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Various animators and directors have visualized works of classical music by Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Ponchielli, Mussorgsky and Schubert (hopefully we didn’t forget anyone… Either way, they’re dead so no harm done!) in various styles and the results are mesmerizing, beautiful, therapeutic, educational, and at times funny, sad or scary.

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The clumsy elegance of the ostrich and hippo ballerinas ticks the boxes for both beautiful and funny

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The different segments are introduced by Deems Taylor and the music is performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and conducted by Leopold Stokowsky (our classical musician friends have informed us that it is vitally important to credit the conductor). Some of the sequences tell a story while others are more abstract interpretations of the music, but they are all lovely and entertaining to watch.

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A wonderful collaboration indeed!

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This is the sort of film one can rewatch endlessly and it should be required viewing for all children (and adults).

What we learned: hippos are awesome dancers. Also, church bells will scare off any unearthly creature.

Next time: His Girl Friday (1940)