Dumbo, Disney, and Difference

Nicholas Sammond

in The Oxford Handbook of Children's Literature

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780195379785
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Dumbo, Disney, and Difference

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This article examines the ways in which Walt Disney created a cinematic empire by selling his creations as “good for children.” It links them to classic children's literature and incorporates popular child-rearing wisdom. The article also investigates the ways in which the animated film Dumbo (1941) functioned as a dialog with World War II. Dumbo was released a little more than a month before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the cultural field into which the film entered, at least in terms of understandings about children and child-rearing, was in transition. The world of Dumbo counterposed the overweening social policing of the conformist elephants against the blind self-interest of the union-organizing clowns, and it marked a humble, talented, and unique Dumbo as the happy medium.

Keywords: Walt Disney; Dumbo; children's literature; elephants; Pearl Harbor; World War II

Article.  9658 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Children's Literature Studies ; Film

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