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Dumbo (1941) - When I See an Elephant Fly

by Nicholas Sammond

This scene in Dumbo (1941) features the crow Jim Crow and his friends teasing Dumbo, performing a song about how they've never seen an elephant fly. After this act they are shamed by Timothy, and decide they will help Dumbo and teach him how to fly. This scene in the film in particular, due to its jazzy minstrel stylization and emphasis of the crows' distinctly black characters have brought up the issue of racial stereotype within this film. The rest of their characterizations, and the use of "Jim Crow" for the main crow figure, too, further back this issue. Some argue that the characters are not negative, showing fully formed "black characters" who in fact have an upper/teaching hand to that of the Dumbo character. However, these characters should be analyzed closely (and indeed have been, by others) as mimicking black stereotypes which involve tutelage, performance and playfulness, such as that inflected by the Uncle Remus character (as one example). The issue is complex, nevertheless demanding a close look at the recurrence of minstrelsy as black characterization through popular and feature animations.

Dumbo (1941) - When I See an Elephant Fly

This scene in Dumbo (1941) features the crow Jim Crow and his friends teasing Dumbo, performing a song about how they've never seen an elephant fly. After this act they are shamed by Timothy, and decide they will help Dumbo and teach him how to fly.

from Dumbo (1941)
Creator: Ben Sharpsteen
Posted by Nicholas Sammond
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