Casey Junior’s comin’ down the track
Comin’ down the track
With a smoky stack
Hear him puffin’, comin’ round the hill
Casey’s here to thrill
Every Jack and Jill
Every time his funny little whistle sounds
Everybody hurries to the circus grounds
Time for lemonade and Cracker Jacks
Casey Junior’s back
Casey Junior’s back
from the original Dumbo, 1941. by Frank Churchill and Ned Washington
I absolutely love that first little song and scene in Dumbo. The old fashioned circus train, the funny animals with their moms, the adventure of a ride to unknown places! Vintage circuses are my absolute fave.
So, I was pretty excited to see the new Dumbo movie. I mean, the original 1941 Dumbo isn’t my all-time favorite or anything. But it’s cute and has some good songs. And it’s a circus!! (I seriously love circuses.)
WHY YOU AND YOUR FAMILY WILL WANT TO SEE DUMBO
You love circuses. The costumes, the wagons, the magic, the clowns, even the freaks. I love every bit of it.
And the first few minutes of this movie were full of all the fun, whimsy of a circus.
WHY YOU AND YOUR FAMILY MIGHT NOT WANT TO SEE DUMBO
Darkness. I expected some darkness as Tim Burton is the director. But, I felt like I literally wanted to up the brightness on the screen!
There was also some figurative darkness. Nothing creepy or evil. But, lots of fire (remember the clown and fire scene in the original movie? That. But more.) and a whole section of the circus called Nightmare Island that was full of scary animals.
But…it wasn’t even that…I don’t know…it kinda reminded me of the Rocketeer. And the bad guy in Up. And kinda Tomorrowland in a weird way.
You know what I mean? It’s like the future of the past? The future that never happened?
What I’m trying to say (SAY IT ALREADY!!) is that this storyline was not remotely the story of the original 1941 Dumbo. It had it’s own new there’s-a-new-circus-in-town plot line that was not the whimsical, fun, circus family I was hoping for.
It was all The Rich Guy is Bad and the Little Guys Have To Fight Back kinda thing.
THINGS TO TALK ABOUT
The moral. Millie’s mom gave her a key to wear around her neck. It was for the times when life seems to be locked behind a door. And…then…they key was…well, I’m not sure exactly. I think it was like, “believe in yourself even when times are hard and you’ll get through.”
And I guess that was the moral of the whole story. You don’t need a magic feather to fly, you just need to believe in yourself. You don’t need a key to get through hard times, you just need to believe in yourself.
In fact, at one point, someone tells the dad (Colin Ferrel), who is unsure how to interact with his kids after the death of their mom and the loss of his arm in the war, “Your children don’t need you to be perfect. They just need you to believe in them.”
Really? Believe in them? That’s what kids need from their parents?
This whole Disney-theology of “believe in yourself” and “anything is possible” is just not true. Should you have confidence in yourself? Sure. Should you work hard at everything in front of you? Absolutely.
But do good things happen simply because you believe in yourself? No. In fact, people like to make fun of prosperity preachers for this same mindset. These preachers say believing in the promises of God bring health and wealth. But at least they are trusting in something bigger than themselves!
I think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.
I know I am.
But also? I don’t want kids walking around trying to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and then being disappointed when they can’t get into that school, get the girl or score the job. Or even worse, when they can’t conquer the addiction, can’t repair the relationship and can’t get out of the pit of depression.
True freedom, true redemption and true miracles come from God.
Here are some Scriptures to help remind us who we should really believe in when times are hard:
Psalm 20:7 “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”
Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Family Activity Idea: Cut a feather out of construction paper and write one of the above verses on it. Put it in a place where you can see it regularly and remember that God and His Word will help us in scary situations. (Or find an old key and write a word or two from one of the verses, then turn it into a necklace!)
So, let’s get back to the movie for a bit…
Overall, the movie was entertaining. Circuses, elephants, futuristic entertainment and family-love were central. There wasn’t any sexual innuendo or even revealing clothing. There were about two cuss words and a little bit of celebrating with alcohol.
Michael Keaton was the best in an over-the-top, fantastical way. Danny Devito gave us the few laughs of the movie. Colin Ferrel had a superb southern accent (a pet peeve of mine when actors butcher southern accents!)
The nods to the original Dumbo were sweet and fun. The Elephants on Parade bubble scene was a-maz-ing.
The be-nice-to-animals part was…well, modern and politically correct.
Would I let my kids see it? Sure. My kids are 13 and 10. If my kids were 3 and 4? Maybe not. There was a lot of fire, scary animals and not-happy moments. I don’t think it’s a movie you’ll watch over and over regardless.
Sheesh. Have I totally deterred you from seeing it? I mean, I really wasn’t trying to bash it. It’s Dumbo for goodness’ sakes! I just wanted it to feel more like Storybook Circus at Disney World.
And did I mention, I love circuses? If you’re into circuses, here’s some fun circus crafts and activities the kids and I have done together:
The Greatest Post on Earth (DIY Juggling Balls)
Make Your Own Circus Train Car for your stuffed animals!
And some of our favorite Circus-themed books:
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley // perfect middle grade with a fun boy-girl best friend, good family dynamics and a dash of magic!
Emaline at the Circus by Marjorie Priceman // a fun picture book about a little girl who goes to the circus on the field trip and gets an up-close and personal look at the performers!
The Show Must Go On by Kate Klise // funny early chapter book about circus animals
The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen // picture book with fun illustrations
You See a Circus, I See… by Mike Downs // sweet picture book about a kid who lives at the circus
Circus by Peter Spier // I love all Spier’s detailed books!