September 7, 2006

When circus elephants go mad

Dumbo (1941)

If anything has been missing from Disney cartoons of say, the last thirty to forty years, it's those tearjerker scenes that only Disney could pull off. Such scenes were (I'm thinking of my own experiences) aimed squarely and primarily at small children. And those scenes tapped into small children's greatest fear--the fear of separation from a parent. Disney no doubt planted that seed of thought in the impressionable minds of many generations. For example, to this day, I am unable to hunt due to one film--Bambi (1942).

While I'm sure there have been a couple of Disney cartoons to include scenes such as those in the last couple of decades, the only one I'm personally aware of is The Lion King (1994). Perhaps being a sign of the times, the separation in that one is from the father, and not the mother. It is beautiful and a bit sad (just a bit...):


The requisite screencaps:


















Only Disney could do them like that! And because it is Disney, we accept it. A lot of credit for the power of the "mad elephant sequence" is due to Ned Washington (lyricist on "When You Wish Upon a Star," "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," "A Ghost of a Chance," "Stella by Starlight," "The Nearness of You" [my second favorite Sinatra tune]) and Frank Churchill ("Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?," "Some Day My Prince Will Come," "I'm Wishing," "Whistle While You Work," "Heigh Ho") for that great song (it won the Oscar for Best Song in 1941):
"Baby Mine"

I keep repeating that only Disney could get away with something like that, but then again, there's this scene from South Park's "Woodland Critter Christmas" episode:

3 comments:

Tracy said...

HOW did you know that that is one of my FAVORITE songs to sing???

When my mom contracted bacterial meningitis in 2000 she was in a coma for over a week. I took the self-appointed night shift in the ICU and I would sing to her. We don't know if coma patients can hear, but I thought that I would do it anyway. One of the songs that I would sing was "Baby Mine". I thought that it was a good soothing, peaceful song for a mommy in a coma. I mean they don't really make a cd for coma moms, I had to improvise.

So to sum it up: I love this song and that scene in Dumbo makes me sob like nobody's business, which is why I never watch Dumbo. I am also anti-Bambi, for the record. :P

EL said...

No Disney movie can compete with the sadness of Dumbo. Bambi gets a lot of play in that regard, but Dumbo just about kills me. Every single time. And yet, I LOVE LOVE LOVE it.

Chris said...

tracy, you and I were clearly cut from the same cloth. That must have been a very scary experience with your mother. I can understand how "Baby Mine" fit the bill. And watching Dumbo (particularly the "mad elephant" sequence) is brutal. Brutal! I involuntarily broke down watching that clip the first time. I nearly had a warning at the beginning of the post (or an apology!).

It's a toss-up, el, between the two, but I agree--no Disney touches Dumbo for pure, unforgiving tragedy. But it is so good. Bittersweet.