The Velvet Café

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Would they allow pink elephants into a theatre today?

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Recently they passed a new law in Australia that regulates the design of cigarette packages. In the future they’re to be covered in warning texts and deterring images showing what smoking makes to your intestines. Not even a brand logo is allowed.

To be honest I’m not all that upset by those limitations, though I’m in doubt whether they’ll really work. I think very few smokers are seduced into the habit by how the envelop looks. There are other forces at work there.

With this as one example, it isn’t farfetched to say that we live in a time of history when the awareness of the dangers of drugs is strong, perhaps even all-time-high. The list of all the moral, ethical and political aspects you need to consider when making a movie gets longer and longer, especially if it’s a film directed towards children.

This makes me wonder: would it even be possible to make a film such as Dumbo today?

I doubt it. You could possibly make a sequence with dancing pink elephants. But they would spark from a dream or a fantasy; they wouldn’t be the hallucinations by someone who is completely wasted on god-knows-what drug.

“What kind of water is this anyhow?” asks Timothy mouse before the psychedelic shows takes off.

Yeah, I wonder too. Before the little fellows drink it and – in the case of the mouse – swim in it – we see how a bottle with an unknown content that sparkles falls into the bucket of water. It surely must be something way more potent than ordinary champagne, judging from the effect of it.

As a grown-up I adore the scene that follows – bubbles, elephants and all. I’m not entirely sure I would have loved it as much if I’d watched it as a child. I suspect it could seem weird bordering to creepy. Perhaps I would take comfort in that the mouse and the elephant seem to be very happy with what they see.

And as they wake up the next morning in the top of a tree (where you ends if you’re on a high I reckon), they don’t even look as if they have a hangover.

As I scanned the webs I found the scene posted on YouTube – with one little difference: they’ve changed the soundtrack to Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix. It fits like a charm.

So what do I make of this? Am I for or against it? Should we be upset about it? Well – don’t get me wrong here. I’m well aware of the downsides of drugs and I certainly don’t suggest that film companies should start to make more drug positive movies aiming for a young audience. There’s no reason to make the kids more curious about alcohol and narcotics than they already are.

This said – I have to admit that I love this film and particularly this scene, which was made in an era when not all movies were streamlined into the same shape, a time when animators were allowed to go crazy without taking all those political considerations. It gives me a kick to watch how the craftsmen let their playfulness run free and wild, the same kind of kick you can get listening to a skilled guitar player improvising a breathtaking solo. You have no idea of where and how it will end; all you know is that it’s a marvelous ride.

Dancing pink elephants aren’t allowed into theatres anymore. But I’m glad we still have Dumbo to enjoy.

This post is a part of a blogathon run by the Swedish film blogging network Filmspanarna. The theme was “drugs”. Here’s a list of links to the other participants:

Except Fear
Fiffis Filmtajm
Fripps Filmrevyer
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Written by Jessica

August 28, 2012 at 8:00 am

Posted in Dumbo, Filmspanarna