Sunday, October 23, 2016

Dumbo's 75th Birthday

Walt Disney's elephant picture was released 75 years ago today. ...

Dumbo was an outlier among Disney's early features, right from the beginning. The only pre-war picture that cost under a million to make. And that was made without Walt being in on every creative twist and turn (Mr. Disney was in South America while a big chunk of it was being made). Unlike Pinocchio and Bambi, the story of the little circus elephant was profitable on its first release.

Dumbo was also made at breakneck speed. Years back, Ward Kimball told me he was animating over thirty feet a week. He then pulled a gag cartoon from the period out of a large cardboard box. The drawing showed assistants Walt Kelly and David Swift looking at a pencil test on a movieola while Ward K. animated madly on the other side of the room. The cartoon Ward has a mic on his desk, with wires running to a speaker by the movieola. Ward yells "Cut it in!" into the microphone without looking up. His voice comes booming out of the speaker.

Gives you an idea of how hurried everybody was.

The studio's third released animated feature was in production before and during the 1941 strike. Dumbo was to be the first of Disney's "low budget" features, with Wind in the Willows slated to be the second. But Willows, though begun as a feature, was re-purposed by director Jack Kinney into a featurette and released with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow as a 1949 package feature: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.


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