This Day in Pop Culture for October 23


1941: ‘Dumbo’ Flies for the First Time

While Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a huge hit for Walt Disney, the next two films, Pinocchio and Fantasia, proved to be expensive films to make. The war in Europe takes most of the blame for the lack of ticket sales. The fourth movie in Disney’s pipeline was supposed to be Bambi, but it was put on hold in order to produce a new story that could be done cheaply. Dumbo was based on a “Roll-A-Way Book” written by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl and illustrated by Helen Durney. Walt loved the story and quickly bought the rights to it. Studio artists were instructed to make the feature as cheaply as possible. It is the shortest of all Disney’s full-length features (just 64 minutes) and is a lot less detailed than the others. It is one of the few cartoons to feature a background made from watercolor paintings. The film’s distributor, RKO Radio Pictures, asked Disney for another ten minutes of screen time, but he refused saying that the film was complete as it was – and that he didn’t have any more money to put into it. Fortunately, the film was a hit. Dumbo won the 1941 Academy Award for Best Original Score and won Best Animation Design at the 1947 Cannes Film Festival. The film was re-released in theaters in 1949, made its television debut in 1955 then rereleased in theaters again in 1959, 1972 and 1976. Over the years, the film has been criticized by how it handles race, most notably the five crows who “teach” Dumbo how to fly. It has been argued that while the crows were black and their voices came from black actors, the characters were not meant to be stereotypes of African Americans. Tim Burton released his live-action adaptation of the movie on March 29, 2019. (Image: Walt Disney Pictures)

1991: National Mole Day

Instead of the furry critter that crawls underground, the “mole” is a term used when measuring things like atoms and molecules. Celebrated annually on October 23 from 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m., Mole Day commemorates scientist Amedeo Avogadro’s Number (6.02 x 1023), which is a basic measuring unit in chemistry. Mole Day was created as a way to foster interest in chemistry. Schools throughout the United States and around the world celebrate Mole Day with various activities related to chemistry and/or moles.

2000: Boston Public

Created by David E. Kelley and shown on FOX, Boston Public took place at Winslow High School in Boston and centered on the lives of the teachers, students and administrators at the school with the slogan, “Every day is a fight. For respect. For dignity. For sanity.” The show was praised for its drama and ethnically diverse cast. It was the winner of the 2002 Peabody Award (“Chapter Thirty-Seven”) from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.


  • 1925: Johnny Carson (TV host)
  • 1942: Michael Crichton (author)
  • 1954: Ang Lee (film director)
  • 1959: Nancy Grace (jounalist)

  • 1959: Sam Raimi (film director)
  • 1959: Weird Al Yankovic (singer)
  • 1995: Ireland Baldwin (model)

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