Dumbo’s lullaby

SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil - The Philippine Star
Dumboâs lullaby
Dumbo, the 1941 animated feature film about a unique baby elephant who can fly because of his extraordinarily large ears, is one of the treasures of the Walt Disney kingdom

Dumbo, the 1941 animated feature film about a unique baby elephant who can fly because of his extraordinarily large ears, is one of the treasures of the Walt Disney kingdom. It is really a simple tale. Baby elephant born to Mrs. Jumbo does not only look different. He is also a bumbling insecure heap. That is why he was named Dumbo as in dumb and his only friend is a mouse.  

Things changed for him after it is discovered that Dumbo could fly. He is a success, saves the circus and everybody loves him. Now, it is the trip to there and the supposed happy-ever-after ending that the movie is all about. And over 70 years later, I really say that producer Walt Disney milked Dumbo’s sad experiences to great tear-jerking effect.  

One scene that never fails to bring on the floodwaters even among adults is that of Dumbo and his Mom. Now you know Disney seemed to have had and so did those who came after him, this thing about mothers. The lead characters in most Disney pictures are orphans. The better for the audience to pity them. Snow White, Cinderella, Pinocchio, Belle, Jasmine, Ariel, etc., etc. are all without mothers. Bambi even heard his mother shot.

That did not happen to Dumbo but he was separated for a while from Mommy. In the scene, they are caged in separate circus cars and Mrs. Jumbo has wrapped her trunk around the teary-eyed Dumbo and is singing to him a lullaby. There are many memorable scenes in Dumbo but that is the one that still stands out the most. 

It is not only because it illustrates this bond between a mother and her child but also because of the beautiful song, Baby Mine. You really have to hand it to Disney in this case. He may have gotten rid of a lot of mothers but he also found so many songs that are now considered immortal.     

Baby Mine from Dumbo was composed by regular Disney songwriters Frank Churchill and Ned Washington. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1941. It lost out to The Last Time I Saw Paris by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II from the movie Lady Be Good. 

But no matter, Baby Mine was later named to the 100 Greatest Film Songs of all-time list and has turned out to be one of the world’s favorite lullabies. Bette Midler recorded a wonderful cover for the soundtrack of the movie Beaches in 1988. There are also versions by Alison Krauss, Rosemary Clooney, Art Garfunkel, Brian Wilson and Kenny Loggins.

Baby mine, don’t you cry/ Baby mine, dry your eyes/ Rest your head, close to my heart/ Never to part, baby of mine.

Little one, when you play/ Pay no heed, what they say/ Let your eyes sparkle and shine/ Never a tear, baby of mine.

If they knew all about you/ They’d end up loving you too/ All those same people who scold you/ What they’d give just for the right to hold you.

From your head down to your toes/ You’re not much, goodness knows/ But you’re so precious to me/ Sweet as can be, baby of mine.

The song is performed by Sharon Rooney, who plays Miss Atlantis, a circus mermaid and the rock band Arcade Fire in the live action Dumbo remake that was released recently. Sadly, there is no trunk cuddling with Mommy for Dumbo in the picture with the lullaby in the background. Which, I say, is only to be expected given that the director of Dumbo is Tim Burton. 

You know Burton, he sees life differently than most and he knows freaks and misfits like Batman, Beetlejuice, Sweeney Todd, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and others. He is seldom given to being light-hearted, sweet and sentimental. Truth to tell, the last time I think that he ever directed a heartwarming scene was in Edward Scissorhands.

Burton’s Dumbo story remains the same and retains its circus setting as well as the “freak” performers. But the plot has been expanded to include a human family of a soldier back from the war and his two kids, who are as Disney probably dictated, without a mother. They take care of Dumbo, reunite him with his Mom and expose abuse and corruption in the amusements business.

 This Dumbo is not bad although it is too much a reminder of The Greatest Show. It also goes beyond the flying elephant tale into the plight of soldiers after war, of separated families, of cruelty to animals, etc., etc. Now, if only Burton had included some trunk cuddling. That would have lightened Dumbo movie’s burden and made it fly.



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