Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Finally, my family and I were lucky enough to find ourselves at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood this past Sunday for a rare opportunity to see Walt Disney's Dumbo on the big screen, and I will say that if you've ever only seen Dumbo on VHS or on DVD, you've seen it, all right. But I'd wager it has never washed over you or reached out and grabbed you with its vivid, super-saturated colors, wonderfully subtle visual characterizations, honestly moving character relationships and sharp comedy as it does when it comes trumpeting off that giant screen. (When Timothy J. Mouse describes Dumbo's exile from his circus environs to the crows and says, "Socially, he's all washed up!" I laughed out loud as if I'd never heard the line before.) Disney is presenting this rare screening basically as filler until the release of Pixar's Cars next week. That means that if you're reading this in the greater Los Angeles area, you have until next Wednesday, June 7, to get yourself a ticket and see this genuinely brilliant classic of animation the way it was meant to be seen, and it has probably never been seen to this great an advantage ever before. More than once, while watching it, I was reminded of the great, blubbering joy with which Robert Stack's General Stillwell sat and watched Dumbo while all of Los Angeles, or at least Hollywood Boulevard, crumbled around him in Steven Spielberg's gloriously funny 1941. Though it's difficult to determine from the film, I've always fancied that the El Capitan Theater, which at the time Spielberg's movie took place was known as the Paramount and had only just recently played host to the world premiere of Citizen Kane, was also the theater in which Stack sat watching Dumbo. One of the funniest and most touching images in Spielberg's work is that of the stern General Stillwell watching through uncontrollable tears as Mrs. Jumbo's trunk comes snaking out of the caged cart in which she is imprisoned, groping until it finds the slumping figure of the little elephant with the gigantic ears, her son from whom she has been separated, and then caressing him with gentle assurance and love. Looking at this moment at the El Capitan, it also settled on my mind why this movie, in this place, was the perfect activity for me and my family to experience together on this Memorial Day weekend. It wasn't intentional, and maybe that's why it was perfect. Sometimes life is like that.


Anonymous said...

That's so great that you got to see it there--wish I could've been there, too. That is indeed the perfect Memorial Day activity for you guys.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE "Dumbo," tho' I find it hard to watch... just as "Are You My Mother?" is hard for me to read-- I'm a mama's baby, even after all these years, it would seem.

As you well know, Dennis, I've long wanted to write a scholarly film crit monograph on "Dumbo" and "The Elephant Man"-- both being, at their cores, about motherless children.