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How did “Dumbo” save Disney?

In 1941, Disney was facing financial problems due to World War II. See how ‘Dumbo’ helped turn the situation around!

Released in 1941, the animation “Dumbo” tells the story of a small circus elephant who has ears that are too large for his size, and is mocked by other animals. However, the characteristic gives him a unique and incredible ability: flying!

Considered as my favorite film Walt Disneyeven though it was the shortest production of the entire studio, the film was still responsible for saving Disney from a difficult financial period — all this amid a fight between the company and its employees.

Countless problems

When “Dumbo” premiered, Disney was facing financial problems due to the terrible conflict that was ravaging the world at the time: World War II. Furthermore, 1941 marked the official entry of the United States into the war and no one in the population was interested in going to the cinema — after all, countless people died daily due to the confrontation.

A year earlier, the studio also released two films with a high budget, “Pinocchio” and “Fantasia”, but which did not give it a great economic return at the box office due to the same situation.

Scenes from the animations ‘Fantasia’ (1940) and ‘Pinocchio’ (1940) / Credit: Reproduction/Disney

With the difficult financial situation, Disney approved the production of “Dumbo”, with the hope that the film’s success would help the company, but with one important condition: the budget had to be low. For this reason, the running time was reduced to just 64 minutes, in addition to the animation techniques being done in simpler ways.

The decision, however, did not please the studio’s animators, who had been unhappy with their working conditions for some time, due to the salary difference and perks granted to people with the same length of service.

Seeking for their rights, the professionals notified Disney management that they would join the SCG (Screen Cartoonists Guild), the animators’ union, leaving Walt Disney not at all happy with the news. According to UOL, in a speech to employees held in February 1941, the memorable filmmaker said:

“You’ll never achieve anything if you sit around waiting for someone to give you privileges. If you’re not progressing in the studio, stop complaining and do something about it.”

After the pronouncement of Walt, the employees were not happy with the words said by the director, and decided to start a strike. The strike lasted for five weeks, until Disney finally let their guard down, and decide to sign an agreement with the animators.

Walt Disney in interview
Walt Disney in interview / Credit: Reproduction/YouTube/WhereMagicLives95

However, even after returning to work and the situation was supposedly under control, UOL still claims that the creator of Mickey Mouse punished around 200 employees who participated in the strike, dismissing them with the justification that it was part of the studio’s cost cutting .

After the confusion, at the end of 1941, “Dumbo” is finally released, meeting the company’s expectations of minimally helping its financial situation. Despite the low budget, the production pleased the public, and earned around 10 million dollars in its first showing in theaters alone.

Source: Recreio

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