I haven’t seen Dumbo since I was quite young, so when I rewatched it for my Disney marathon today it really struck me, watching it with adult eyes. Now I’ve heard people criticize it for being outdated, racist, etc. But I have never seen a better representation of special needs children than Dumbo.
Almost every struggle little Dumbo faces is one faced by a special child. The snickers, the condescension, people trying to use them for publicity. It’s really the story of circus performers, but they focused on an elephant. Because circus performers of old were usually the odd and outcast, the hunchback, the ones with a peculiar physical debility that others could capitalize on.
But back to Dumbo being the greatest representation of special needs, there’s the struggle of a mother whose “friends” can’t deal with how unusual and special her child is so they turn their backs on her, leaving her alone and unsupported to raise him, and then blaming her child for all the hardships she faces. There’s the struggles of not fitting in. And the hero who comes along and believes that what others make fun of you for is the very thing that makes you wonderful and special. I was just really struck by how a movie most people who currently cry out for representation in Disney features would deem offensive solely because one of the crows’ name is Jim is the best representation of special needs children and their struggles. This cartoon is seriously underrated.