Friday, 8 October 2010

Dumboards - Part One

With Mark Mayerson's Dumbo mosaic drawing to a close I realised I should post my impressions on the story sketches Michael Sporn posted on his "splog" back in May. They're a really interesting look at some unused (or changed) ideas the story-men came up with.

Casey Jones Jr

First of all, Casey Jr, "slow asleep" as Jerry Colonna would have it, in his shed. Notice the full name "Casey Jones Jr" which never appears in the film. (I remember a Little Golden Book or something which referred to the loco as "Casey Jones" though) The name comes from the American legendary figure of Casey Jones, who would later inspire Jack Kinney's short "The Brave Engineer".

Dumbo, Mrs Jumbo, and "friends"

Here we have the other elephants surrounding Mrs Jumbo, with Dumbo resting at her back end. Human figures can be seen in the foreground, and the backdrop (with coconut palm trees) suggests an outdoor setting. The elephants are arranged in the same semi-circular position they are when they complain about Dumbo in the film, but their expressions appear to be kind and indulgent. I'm not sure if this is meant to be a version of Dumbo's birth/delivery, but he already has the big ears.


Here we have Casey Jr (deliberately) scaring Dumbo and Timothy. Casey doesn't really behave in this manner in the film, where "he" doesn't do anything as humanised as his annoyed finger-drumming in his Reluctant Dragon segment.

Giant of the Jungle

Monarch of the Jungle

Now, these two are the big'uns. People have often wondered who Dumbo's father is. His mother is referred to as Mrs Jumbo, with a married woman's title, and Dumbo himself is originally named "Jumbo Jr." So, who is Jumbo Sr? The fact that Dumbo is delivered by a stork shows that, in this fantasy world, childbirth (and conception) doesn't really work the same way it does in our world, so we just generally assume he doesn't have, or need to have, a father.

But, these drawing suggest he was originally going to have one. Quite a famous one too, identified as "Jumbo, Giant of the Jungle", advertised on a poster for "...ingling Bros" circus. The elephants comment that Dumbo "belongs right alongside his daddy" and that "he'll be there soon". What does this mean? Are the other elephants encouraging him to go on to a greater circus? Was this before their personality/ies had been decided on? Or are they just wanting him out of their circus?

Following Pinocchio and with Bambi in production, it seems to fit the mold that Dumbo, as a young male protagonist, would have a father out there somewhere, if not by his side, and it seems that one of Dumbo's themes was, at one point, going to be about the little elephant trying to live up to his father's success. In the second sketch, look at the size of Jumbo Sr's ears! Were the storymen making these sketches even thinking there was to be anything "un-natural" about the size of Dumbo's own ears?

Keep watching this blog for more thoughts on these story sketches, and thanks to Michael Sporn for posting them up! I would be posting these as comments on his blog, if they were a bit shorter (and, if I hadnt waited until so long after he had posted them up in the first place...)


  1. Your observations are excellent, as always. Keep up the great work. I love your blog.

  2. Yeah, I like the Casey Junior scenes - probably my favourite scenes ever was scene 1 in "Routsabouts" and Casey Junior enters a mountain: just BRILLIANTLY well done!

  3. Thanks, Michael S.! Of course, my blog is nothing without yours, Mark Mayerson's, Hans Perk's...

  4. Yeah John, your blog is still interesting even though blogs like Cartoon Brew, Mark Mayerson's, Hans Perk's or even Michael Sporn's splog are at different heights - but having a blog is better than nothing.

    Although, I learnt how to scan stuff, I've managed to scan some of my drawings, comics and a play I written - like Hans Perk has scanned some of his drafts, and have you ever tried any scanning in the past before?

  5. Yeah, well I don't have access to studio materials (drafts, story meeting transcripts, animation drawings) the way the many of the other bloggers do so of course I rely on their posts for most of my own...

    But, yeah, I am hoping to scan some of my own comic strips to post up... I'm currently working on something called "Rubberhose Land", which takes place in the world of late 20s/early 30s cartoons. Keep an eye out for it. :)

  6. Yeah, I'll try although usually during the week I don't have time for blogging - and ofcourse my blog sticks to animation, but not just that!! I like to stick to sometimes my interests - and when I learnt how to scan - I scanned some Beano comics from the 1980's and even a standup play I written about a year ago with my uncle which is all on the net - so I try to write something different each time...

  7. Oh, and thanks for the comments I received...