To vote in this lineup, scroll to the poll at the bottom of the page, then head back to the bracket to see all of round one of The Best Pop Culture Dream Sequence, The A.V. Club’s no-holds-barred competition to see which dream sequence from TV or film deserves the title “Greatest Of All Time.”
A rare instance when the dream sequence encompasses the more prevalent part of the movie than the abject reality: 1939’s The Wizard Of Oz used some showy then-new technology to indicate its shift into fantasy. The jarring switch from nostalgic sepia tones to Oz in Technicolor made it clear that we weren’t in Kansas anymore. The bulk of the movie then takes place in this brave, new multi-toned world, with horses that changed colors, a hideous green witch, and an upgrade from silver slippers to ruby, to better take advantage of the heightened hues. Oz is so memorable that the Kansas portions that bookend the movie almost seem like an afterthought: Only Judy Garland’s poignant version of “Over The Rainbow” remains a non-Oz highlight. Maybe what’s made the movie such a perennial classic is that this dream sequence is not only gorgeous, but an example of the kinds of somnambulant journeys we’ve all experienced: where the nasty lady in town enlists flying monkeys, a nice farmhand turns into a wisdom-searching scarecrow, and a long and winding yellow brick road leads the way to an Emerald City where wishes can (hopefully) be granted. L. Frank Baum was reportedly working on Michigan Avenue while he was writing Oz’s source material, inspired by the promise of a then-young Chicago to make all dreams come true.
Not even in his dreams can Dumbo escape from his fellow pachyderms. During the film’s most ambitious, memorable sequence, the distraught little elephant and his mouse friend accidentally chug a bunch of champagne and have an alcohol-induced hallucination. They envision a parade of technicolor elephants, all of them marching along and using their trunks to play their song. The rubbery beasts fill the screen until Dumbo is out of the picture, and over the next three minutes, the movie abandons reality for a kooky musical number. The first phase ditches the marching band in favor of weirder and weirder sights—elephants whose trunks are the serpentine bodies of other elephants, an elephant that’s made of elephant heads. From there, the song twists through various musical styles and the dancing animals shape-shift along with it until the final salsa-inspired stretch devolves into a cacophonous sensory overload and Dumbo settles into a quiet drunken slumber. A trippy reflection of Dumbo’s depression and treatment at the trunks of his peers, “Pink Elephants On Parade” is a daring, much needed chunk of surreality in an otherwise sedate Disney tale.