Dumbo, like its intended audience, is short and sweet
Instead of there being an evil witch to defeat or a prince to marry, Dumbo’s an ugly-duckling tale where the goal is acceptance -- or even just lack of humiliation. In some ways, that’s a harder concept to explain than just, “Oh no! There’s Cruella de Vil! She’s mean!” On the other hand, the themes of inclusion and self-love never go out of style. Happily for parents, Dumbo is also a very short watch, apparently made quickly to try to recoup the money Disney lost on Fantasia. I kept thinking, as I looked at the time counter, that perhaps there was something wrong with the rental and it would be cut off, but no, it’s really only 64 minutes long, just the right length for repeated viewings.
However, Dumbo has complicated views of women
There are no male elephants in the movie, aside from Dumbo himself, even though all the other animals in the early stork scene have partners. Mrs. Jumbo and her son are tormented, not supported, by their fellow elephants, all snide, gossipy matrons. When the elephant with the green hat smiles, satisfied, after spreading malicious news about Mrs. Jumbo, I realized (depressingly) how accurately the writers grabbed on to some of women’s worst tendencies. On the other hand, Dumbo is one of few Disney flicks that features a loving, protective mother who survives the entire movie.