Friday, August 27, 2010

Dumbo Part 20

I'm going to start off with a plea. Hans Perk's documentation for Dumbo is incomplete in several areas, but never more frustratingly than in the "Pink Elephants" sequence. He only has credits for the first 9 shots.

This sequence is a tour de force. It is graphically daring, using colour treatments, metamorphosis and shot transitions in ways that were out of the ordinary for Disney and every other animation studio of the time.

The missing information is out there, I'm sure. If anyone can supply the information for the rest of this sequence, I would greatly appreciate it. I would be happy to give credit to whoever supplies it, or would be happy to keep the donor anonymous if that is the donor's preference. If you have access to a complete copy of the animator draft or access to the scene folders for this sequence, could you please supply me with the information?

This sequence is an alcohol-induced joint hallucination of Dumbo's and Timothy's and ends with images of a tree, which will turn out to be their new location. The sequence can best be described as a stream of consciousness (or unconsciousness?) where each elephant action leads to another without any sense of narrative logic.

Wikipedia says that the first recorded use of the term "pink elephants" is from Jack London in 1913. The phrase was used musically by George Olsen and His Music in the 1932 recording below, so Disney was not the first to use it as the basis for a song.

Please note that after shot 9, the shot numbers are pure guesswork. I could number the later shots differently and still support the alternate numbering. For instance, the tearing curtain in shot 13, revealing the skaters, could be thought of as a wipe between two separate shots rather a single shot. Did a single animator do the work before and after the curtain? Even if that is the case, it might still be two shots in the eyes of the production team.

Howard Swift tends to give the elephants more pointy heads than Hicks Lokey. Is that due to the animators' drawing styles or did that come from the layouts? If it's the animators, it gives us a clue as to who did the later, unidentified shots, but if it comes from the layouts, all bets are off.

I have to admit that my favorite animation in this sequence is the skaters. I love the striking colour treatment and the animation is as flexible and fluid as it gets. Who animated it? I wish I knew.

The opening 4 shots portray the elephants as very bubble-like, as they have originated as bubbles blown by Dumbo. By shot 5, they are being treated more solidly, though liberties are taken with their colours and their construction.

Shots 15 through 18 are very interesting for their suggestion of male and female elephants. With all the shots of mothers in the "Baby Mine" sequence and Dumbo being named for his father, this is the only hint in the film of male animals. The lightning between the dancers in shot 15 can be interpreted as sexual energy. Can this be considered a wet dream? That interpretation can be supported by the phallic imagery of the snake in shot 11 or the raised trumpets of shot 15. The harem elephant's suggestive hip wiggling also supports this. Or are the dancers Dumbo's longing for an elephant father figure and a complete family unit? Is it a coincidence that the male-female dynamic of the dancers leads to the chaos that ends the dream? Like real dreams, this can be interpreted several ways, but there's no doubt that something deep and agitating has been released to cause Dumbo to become airborne.

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