Saturday, 17 August 2013

Pink Elephants on Parade

Pink Elephants on Parade is the name of a segment, and the song played therein, from the Disney animated feature film Dumbo in which Dumbo and Timothy Q. Mouse, after accidentally becoming intoxicated (after drinking water spiked with Champagne), see pink elephants sing, dance, and play marching band instruments during a hallucination sequence.

The song was written by Oliver Wallace and Ned Washington and sung by The Sportsmen. The segment was directed by Norman Ferguson, laid out by Ken O'Connor and animated by Hicks Lokey, Frank Thomas and Howard Swift. 

Disney has always been controversial. First of all, parents drop like flies and ‘good’ characters are sent to their graves. Then there’s a whole issue of allegations of creepy hidden meanings, racist content and scenes that are deemed too disturbing for kiddies. Disney has always had a dark side. 

Dumbo (1941) is a pretty scary movie straight from the start, channelling the whole ‘creepy carnival’ vibe. But the freakiest moment comes when Dumbo and his mouse pal Timothy drink too much booze unknowingly (who would have thought it, drink spiking in Disney), and end up hallucinating about petrifying pink elephants. 

So lately I've been skimming thru all my old VHS tapes and found dumbo... so some scenes were pretty wierd...

this one has an alcohol reference: it was sort of like how it would be like to be drunk...

there was another but I couldn't find the link... it was the beginning where black workers were insulting themselves saying stuff like they cant read, so all they do is work. Maybe that was encouraging kids to study hard but wasn't that a bit too racist? anyway the whole movie was filled with stereotypes like the crows who acted like blacks... well the point of this tread is "was the pink elephants on parade scary?" maybe you can ask you're kids or younger siblings to watch this and to see their reaction. My bro said it was disturbing...

P.S. tell me if this post was bad... I can edit it to suit the topic better...

Pink Elephants arrives as Dumbo's at his lowest ebb. He's useless as a circus performer. His mum's been labelled insane and locked up. His only friend in the world is the elephant's worst nightmare: a mouse called Timothy, who prescribes a drink of water, without realising it's been spiked with champagne.

Dumbo watches all this in a boozy stupor, but it makes me twitchy. I feel sick, even before the bossanova stomp of the final section rattles into a cacophony and the whole dream tumbles in on itself.

This isn't a modern, right-on Disney movie. Dumbo wakes up in a tree with a hangover. Timothy wonders how they got up there and then realises – it was the ears! Dumbo can fly! But it's not Dumbo's self-belief that leads him to salvation. It's not pluck, nor guts, nor persistence. It's booze that unlocks his gift.

That's a terrible, adult message. As good an example of Disney's darkness as any. We talk now about mainstream animations pleasing parents and kids. About the ability of the best cartoons to speak in two languages simultaneously. That's presumed to mean that an adult joke can be slipped into a children's movie. But Pink Elephants does the same thing with fear. It's a hostile and alienating piece of film-making. Fascinating and terrifying to kids and grown-ups alike. I can't believe it exists. But I'm so glad it does.
Henry Barnes

From Hal Wilner’s 1988 tribute Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films comes this incredible version of “Baby Elephants on Parade” from Dumbo performed by none other than the amazing Sun Ra and his Arkestra. Some enterprising person decided to sync the Sun Ra version up to the scene in the film. It’s highly enjoyable.
Richard Metzger 


Oscar B. said...

Just recently watched Dumbo again...this part is always so totally crazy and awesome and creepy!

_Black_Acrylic said...

Hi Oscar! Yeah, I should really watch it again sometime too. Hope that all is well with yourself x