#18 Dumbo (1941)
The first of the Golden Age era on the list, Dumbo may be one of the more controversial picks for being quite low on the list, but that is not to say it isn’t great. Remember this list is about the best the studio has to offer, so placement should not matter. What should matter is how close this film is to how the company started with its Silly Symphonies. Dumbo is a rare film for the company that barely passes the hour mark and not as artistically sound as the previous film before it in Pinocchio. Rather, it’s a simple story with a cheaper animation budget, yet it still a marvel. It certainly shows that even with limits, Disney could succeed.
Dumbo, who has no speaking voice, is just a young elephant with big ears shunned by his fellow herd. Luckily, Dumbo uses his ears to fly much to the chagrin of the circus and, along with Timothy Mouse, explore what he can do with his newfound talent and eventually reunite with his mother. It’s a gorgeous short story in cinematic form. It feels like close to their Symphonies short by taking a basic concept and making an entertaining, except this time, it is an hour version of it. There is heart and soul into every frame from the “Baby Mine” sequence, the terrifying “Pink Elephants on Parade” and the controversial today, but inspirational “I Never Seen An Elephant Fly.” Come on, Disney, did you really have to name the crow “Jim” for a laugh? That’s too much.
Critic’s Quote: “It may not be the most impressive feature that Mr. Disney has turned out, but it certainly is the most winsome, and the one that leaves you with the warmest glow.” – Bosley Crowther, New York Times, October 24, 1941
Signature Moment: The “Baby Mine” sequence is a tearjerker and a delight to behold all at once.