Dumbo (USA, 1941)
Directed by Ben Sharpsteen
Starring Edward Brophy, Verna Felton, Herman Bing, Sterling Holloway
One of the things you realise from revisiting classic Disney films is just how short the majority of them are. In the entire Golden Age, when Walt Disney was personally involved in every production, only Fantasia breaks the 90-minute mark - and since that's essentially a collection of short stories, you might well argue that it doesn't count.
The Pursuit of Happyness on BBC Radio 5 Live, Mark Kermode quipped that the film was "the live-action version of Dumbo... it's pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, and then ten seconds of "it's alright" at the end". Notwithstanding the ins and outs of Gabriele Muccino's film, this (deliberately) flippant assessment is a little unfair. While the story is more straightforward and limited in scope than a good many Disney films from this period, it makes up for this with genuine emotional depth, resulting in a tearjerker which works on people of all ages.
Big Lipped Alligator Moment: a surreal interlude which comes out of nowhere, and once it's over no-one ever mentions it again. You can argue all you like about its role in the plot, and the problematic implication that Dumbo discovers his true calling by getting drunk. But the best thing to do is to celebrate the scene for what it is: a strange and terrifying example of the darkness in all great Disney films, a darkness which takes no prisoners and boggles the mind with its mesmerising beauty.
Verdict: Slight but still emotionally strong