Silly Symphonies

film 48 of 61

Elmer Elephant

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 6, 2015

More irreproachable animation, in the service of a dubious, positively unhealthy didacticism. Andersen’s ugly duckling was treated badly until he found the swans. After awkward childhood or brutal adolescence he lands on his feet, because this is the possible or even usual course of things. Dramatically speaking his problem was solved. Morally speaking the problem remained, for the reader to encounter and maybe alleviate in some way. Hope and warning both—Andersen is sentimental, but he also provides a superb bit of narrative preachment.

Elmer is not an ugly duckling. Rather, in Rudolph fashion, he is treated badly until his deformity proves useful. Then everyone celebrates, but in the wrong way, and for all the wrong reasons. It seems unlikely that their favour would have continued after the credits rolled, or after anyone had need of him. And what’s with this female? Her painfully self-conscious cuteness is really ill-advised, for any number of reasons. It’s Jenny Wren and the buxom bunny from Bambi, except this time the little girls may actually identify, and maybe even imitate. Then, the whirlwind.

I would like to add that the hippo is funny.