Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Roll-A-Book Dumbo

Q: My daughter's favorite character has always been Dumbo. How did the movie of the same name come to be made, and on what was it based?
Duane, Golden, Colorado

A [Dave Smith]: Dumbo was based on a story by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl that was first published in a scroll-like item called a Roll-A-Book. None of these Dumbo Roll-A-Books have ever surfaced. After the intense work on the major productions of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio and Fantasia, Walt Disney and his artists were looking for a simple little story which they could turn into the next animated feature. Dumbo fit the bill.

[Marcio Disney]

"Dumbo the Flying Elephant is like Sleeping Beauty Castle. It is so iconic that when you see it, you know you’re looking at some place inside Disneyland park. It’s one of our classics, dating back 55 years ago. In fact, it debuted almost exactly a month after opening day on August 16, 1955. The 16 happy, grey elephants — inspired by Walt Disney’s 1941 animated film — are “piloted” by guests. These baby pachyderms can fly as high as 17 feet! Did you know that the Dumbo attraction is also at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World (1971), Tokyo Disneyland (1983), Disneyland Paris (1992) and Hong Kong Disneyland  (2005)? Here’s another fun fact: When President Harry S Truman (a staunch Democrat) visited the park in 1957, he playfully refused to ride Dumbo because of the Republican symbolism associated with the elephant-themed attraction. Enjoy this historical footage of our famous flying elephants."


Early Dumbo sketches

The Mysterious Dumbo Roll-A-Book

When I wrote in a January 14, 2010, post about the history of the black crows in Dumbo, I reached back as far as the 102-page treatment that Joe Grant and Dick Huemer submitted to Walt Disney in the early months of 1940, in installments. But Dumbo's history goes back further than that, as Huemer himself acknowledged in his interview with Joe Adamson, part of which I published in Funnyworld No. 17. Adamson asked, "Where's the story that Dumbo comes from?" and Huemer replied:
I never saw it, but they say it was on a little strip that was given away on a cereal box. Or maybe it was even printed on the outside, I don't know. But it had the basic elements of the story: the little elephant who had big ears, was made fun of, learned to fly, and was redeemed. All in just a few panels. Well, we took it from there, had a few story meetings, then Joe Grant and I wrote it up a chapter a time and submitted it to Walt. He used to come down and say, "That's coming along good,. We'll make it!"
Then we got sketch men and story men and went to work and put together what we call a Leica reel. A Leica reel was a way of presenting a storyboard with the individual pictures on a filmstrip that was run through a Leica projector. You'd flip over a picture and talk about it, then flip over the next. ...
This was how we often held a story meeting. Sometimes we had rough Leica reels in pencil, and later we would make a color reel.
Adamson: When you first got Dumbo, what form was it in?
Huemer: Somebody had started working on it and there were quite a few sketches that I remember, but no storyboards yet. Mostly talk, getting together with Walt, and taking notes, and studying them. Dumbo was put aside a while to concentrate on another picture, I suppose, then Joe Grant and I picked it up.

Please! Read the rest of this AMAZING article by visiting: http://www.michaelbarrier.com/Essays/DumboRollABook/DumboRollABook.html

Everyday, Disney fans send dozens of questions for Disney Chief Archivist Dave Smith. Here are Dave's answers to your questions. Check back every day for a new post with a new question.

Dave Smith (born October 13, 1940) was the Walt Disney Archives founder and chief archivist which is located in the Frank G. Wells Building at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. He joined the company June 22, 1970. Forty years later, on July 2010, he retired.

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