Sunday, October 2, 2011

For Sunday Scribblings

(Also submitted to Three-Word Wednesday, ABC Wednesday and Magpie 85)
"L" is for "Large-Eared"
Me
: I didn’t think I could write something suitable for the Magpie 85 prompt this week.
My Muse: Why not?
Me: Well, it’s a picture of what appears to be an elephant that can fly. It’s a bit too obvious: a flying elephant? That means that other folks are going to be writing about that old Walt Disney movie “Dumbo.”

My Muse: Surely not everyone. But even if some do, you can come up with a different angle on the film. Write about the foreign situation at that time, World War II, the Great Depression…
Me: What does that have to do with a cartoon pachyderm that flies?
MM: A lot. Try to get people to imagine what it meant to be sitting in a movie theatre in October, 1941, watching that film. The film viewer doesn’t look like he’s enjoying himself; a lot of people weren’t at that time. World War Two, the great conflict so many had feared for the past decade or so, had already begun.
Me: That’s true. In fact, in Europe it had been going on for two years. It depressed us in the States because it seemed inevitable that we were going to be drawn into it.
MM: And remember October, 1941, the date the movie opened. The attack on Pearl Harbor was just a few weeks away. What with the war going full blast overseas, it was a scary time for all. So it was natural that a lot of folks sought to relax at the movies – with a film about a cute little flying elephant named Dumbo.
Me: You may be right. Especially since the key fact about him was that he was – to use a technical scientific term – large-eared. The other animals made fun of him. He was afraid he might be ejected from the circus.
MM: But don’t forget, the fact that he was convinced he couldn’t do something – i.e., fly – and then it turned out that he could, well, it may have cheered some folks up who thought things were fairly hopeless then.
Me: Well, it cheered up Disney. Remember “Fantasia,” that blockbuster of the animation medium? It had opened the year before and didn’t come close to getting its investment back. You see, Walt Disney was tired of turning out nothing but short subjects of cute little cartoon animals; he felt a call to do something Important. So he went for broke with "Fantasia": it was for common folks of course, but with so much classical music and with numerous literate references, very unusual for a cartoon, it was also aimed at the intelligentsia.
MM: Right. And it was a techie breakthrough for the time. The sound track was recorded using multiple audio channels; it was the first commercial film ever to be shown in stereophonic sound, which had a great impact on movie-goers.
Me: But it meant that many theaters couldn’t play it. And of course the War cut out all foreign distribution, so the film lost a bundle. Disney then sought something much simpler to recoup his losses – enter “Dumbo.” I’ve always remembered that song in the movie about the little elephant flying. Most folks don’t realize that it was rendered by the Hall Johnson Choir, one of the finest choral groups of that time. It went like this:

I seen a peanut stand, heard a rubber band
I seen a needle that winked its eye.
But I be done seen 'bout ev'rythin’
When I see a elephant fly.

I seen a front porch swing, heard a diamond ring
I seen a polka-dot railroad tie.
But I be done seen 'bout ev'rythin’
When I see a elephant fly.

I heard a fireside chat, I saw a baseball bat
And I laughed till I thought I'd die.
But I be done seen 'bout ev'rythin’
When I see a elephant fly!


MM: There. So maybe there is something you could write about this week. And oh yes, don’t forget the Manhattan Bridge.

Me: Of course. Not every one knows that there’s an interesting neighborhood in New York City that came into being under the Manhattan Bridge. Above, the Brooklyn Bridge seen from under the Manhattan Bridge. The name of the neighborhood is Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, so everybody knows it as DUMBO. Many folks are proud to say they live in Dumbo.
MM: So the little pachyderm lives on, even today.

47 comments:

Roger Owen Green said...

And yet, I have 'pink elephants on parade' stuck in my brain.

Tess Kincaid said...

It's been far too long since I've watched Dumbo...must remedy soon...love your NY pic...

Berowne said...

Roger O G: "I have 'pink elephants on parade' stuck in my brain."
I remember that too. Takes us back, right?

Berowne said...

Tess K: "love your NY pic..."
Love your comment.

Leslie said...

Gosh, I remember good ole Dumbo...and the ride at Disneyland! Great take on Magpie today! Always a treat to drop by.

Rene/ Not The Rockefellers said...

The trivia lover in me just went circus peanuts over this! Well done.

sharplittlepencil said...

I loved Dumbo... the only part that would not pass today is that the Hall Johnson singers were portrayed by crows. But my favorite song from that movie will always be "Baby Mine." I weep like a baby every time I see that scene. Thanks, Berowne! Amy
http://sharplittlepencil.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/absinthe-3ww/

Kathy Bischoping said...

That's neat about the DUMBO neighbourhood.

izzy said...

That street scene is very familiar- thanks. Took me right back into my younger days! I wasn't
allowed to watch hardly any Movies or TV...did see Dumbo when I was older, don't remember being
impressed. Loved Barnum and Bailey though!

Ann Grenier said...

I didn't think I would write for this prompt either. I did. Love what you came up with - always do.

Suz said...

always informative
but I liked the song Baby of Mine better

kaykuala said...

Missed DUMBO when last there. Never realised it. Should have gone beyond Times Sq and 42nd St. Excellent post Browne! very educational.

Hank

Tumblewords: said...

Love the DUMBO town. Had no idea, til now.

Jo Bryant said...

Dumbo is just wonderful - missed him

ds said...

I completely forgot about Dumbo, not to mention DUMBO. That movie was viewed so often, but I had no idea of its backstory. Thank you for that.

Love your photo, too!

linda may said...

Thats a clever take, I like it :)

linda may said...

Thats a clever take, I like it :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Berowne: Love how you put Dumbo into historic perspective, re; the war years, Disney's move Fantasia, Dumbo briges awesome shot! I'll have to check out the Johnson singers now on youtube! Great memories! chiccoreal

R. Burnett Baker said...

Cool! I learn something new with your every post!

Rick

Morning said...

smart magpie.

Helen said...

Your dialogue ... perfect way to begin a Monday morning!

Berowne said...

That's the best kind of dialogue, Helen, the kind you have with yourself. No one ever puts you down, or speaks condescendingly, and you always manage to come up with just the right response to end the conversation. :-)

Berowne said...

Rick: "Cool! I learn something new with your every post!"
It's really encouraging to get comments like yours, Rick -- thanks.

Berowne said...

Rene: "The trivia lover in me just went circus peanuts over this!"
My guess is that going circus peanuts is a step or two higher than just going bananas. :-)
Thanks for the comment, Rene.

Doctor FTSE said...

No one's education can be said to be complete without regular doses of Berowne. Thanks again.

Brian Miller said...

nice...thanks for putting us in the midset of what was going on at the release of the movie...it def adds perspective...and cool bit of trivia on that neighborhood...did not know that...

Gerry Snape said...

super story...and who couldn't love Dumbo! Thankyou.

Kay L. Davies said...

Great stuff today, Berowne.
My kid brother is in the animation business. When he was small, in the 70s, Mom and Dad had a neighbor at their winter home in Baja: an animator who was "so old" he had worked on Fantasia. He was a wonderful influence on our little budding artist.

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

Caty said...

very impressive...and I learned so many new things from this post (which makes me love it even more)

Sheilagh Lee said...

Very well thought out and also a cool piece of history in that picture.

Rinkly Rimes said...

You and your muse have a great time together and we all enjoy getting in on the act! I'd love to live in DUMBO!

Susie Clevenger said...

Your elephant muse did well...I so enjoyed the trivia set as an interview..so clever. I applaud your journey with an elephant that could fly :)

Scriptor Senex said...

What a great perspective on Dumbo and a clever link to the letter L.

Linda Jacobs said...

I enjoyed this ! Great photo, too!

Berowne said...

What a fine set of comments from Linda J, Scriptor S, Susie C, and our good friend Rinkly R -- thanks.

Berowne said...

Always great to hear from Doc FTSE, Brian Miller and Kay L D.

Trellissimo said...

And always great to hear Berownian eruditon. I appreciate the careful research that goes into your posts. Best thanks.

Jo Bryant said...

Oh how I love coming here - A neighbourdood called DUMBO - the things you learn. :)

Alice Audrey said...

I looked the scene up on youtube since I haven't seen the movie in a few decades. The headlines in the newspaper within the movie really calls to mind the times, much as you do here.

Great use of three words. I hope you'll check out my attempt.

andy sewina said...

Dead good! love the bit about Down Under the Manhatten Bridge Overpass!

NaiSaiKu Time

gautami tripathy said...

Loved it!

jumpstart

Isabel Doyle said...

I was really hoping you would get Hannibal (alpes transit) or Shakespeare in there somewhere - but am far from disappointed with your reflections on the film viewers

also, interesting photo
best wishes Isabel x

Berowne said...

Trellissimo, Jo B, Alice A, Andy S, Gautami T and Isabel D -- what a pleasure to hear from you. Thanks.

Aeria said...

Good grief, I wish my muse talked to me like this! Wonderful :)

Berowne said...

Thanks, Aeria, for a wonderful comment.

Elizabeth said...

Berowne, once again you have shown that you are no dumbo, but have an elephantine eloquence, wit and take on life. Wonderful post. x

Berowne said...

And a wonderfully elephantine comment -- thanks. :-)

 
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