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Disney: Dumbo

"I'll be done seen about everything, when I see an elephant fly..."

Dumbo is a 1941 animated film, the fourth in the Disney Animated Canon. The previous year, Disney released two expensive animated features, Pinocchio and Fantasia, that both bombed at the box office. Production for the equally expensive Bambi was already well underway, and Disney had to quickly find a way to make some money in order to complete the movie. After a short children's book about a flying circus elephant was brought to his attention, Disney made Dumbo on a pretty cheap budget (it cost less than half as much as Pinocchio or Fantasia). Fortunately, it paid off and enough money was made to complete Bambi.

The movie opens with circus elephant Mrs. Jumbo receiving a new baby from the stork. A baby with freakishly huge ears. This causes the other elephants and circus patrons to laugh at it, giving it the derogatory nickname of Dumbo. This enrages Mama Jumbo who eventually lashes out and attacks a group of children, getting her caged up and separated from Dumbo. Small Mouse Timothy stands up for Dumbo, however, and tries to get Dumbo to become a big star. Unfortunately Dumbo messes up, causing him to become a clown instead, something which he does not enjoy at all. When the two accidentally become drunk, they wake up the next morning in a tree, drawing the conclusion that Dumbo must have flown with his ears. Using this information, the duo now plan to use this skill in order to make Dumbo a star.

A live-action children's show based on the movie, called Dumbo's Circus, aired on the Disney Channel in the 1980s at around the same time the similar show based on Winnie the Pooh did, where Dumbo could speak.

On a side note, a direct to video sequel was planned (and a preview of it can be seen on the 2001 60th Anniversary DVD, or just here) but never got off the ground, hopefully for the better.

A live-action film has been announced, written by Transformers writer Ehren Kruger.


This film provides examples of:

  • Absurd Altitude
  • Adult Fear: When Dumbo and his mother get separated.
  • Alpha Bitch: The ringleader of the elephant clique that picks on Mrs. Jumbo and her baby.
  • Alcohol Hic: Dumbo and Timothy become very cute versions of these.
  • Alcohol Is LSD: "Pink Elephants on Parade".
  • All of the Other Reindeer: All the other elephants ostracize Dumbo on the account of his large ears.
  • All There in the Script:
    • The four Gossiping Elephants are unnamed in the film, but the model sheets label them as "Catty", "Giddy", "Prissy", and "Matriarch".
    • The big-eared kid who teased Dumbo was named "Skinny".
    • The leader crow's name is "Jim". (Doubling as a Stealth Pun.)
  • Animals Lack Attributes: Played straight to the point where all of the circus animals even have to rely entirely on Delivery Storks in order for them to have offspring.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Casey Jr., the train. At the end he has eyes too, moreover you can hear him talk during the mountain climbing ("I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...").
    • Casey has eyes throughout the movie, but the whites of his eyes are actually a similar grey to his boiler and hard to notice.
    • His whistle before he starts off is also sounds-as-speech (and kicks off his song):
      "All ABOOOOOARD! Let's go!"
  • Animal Talk: Played straight for the most part, but Timothy Mouse is able to communicate with a human who is sleeping. And he's seen acting as Dumbo's (apparently official) manager in the end, even signing contracts for him.
  • Anti-Villain: The Ringmaster is touted as 'main antagonist', but most of his controversial acts like locking Mrs. Jumbo and sending Dumbo to the clowns were all to maintain and protect his circus and every other animals there. He also would try to honor Dumbo's attempts to get his mother free, but Dumbo screwed up the first one, and after he spectacularly succeeded, he kept his word and gave Dumbo and his mother a well-deserved luxury.
  • Artistic License – Physics: After discovering how to fly, Dumbo landing on the electric strings of the pole would in reality give him a serious electrical shock. This isn't even counting all the problems of an animal as heavy as an elephant flying under its own power - and with its ears, no less!
  • Bedtime Brainwashing: Timothy whispers in the ringmaster's ear while he's sleeping to plant the idea of using Dumbo on the elephant pyramid routine.
  • Beef Bandage: One of the injured elephants is seen wearing one after the disastrous pyramid act.
  • Berserk Button: Mrs. Jumbo is mild-mannered, but never, ever, mock her child.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: If you make fun of Dumbo, Mrs. Jumbo will make you regret it.
  • Black Bead Eyes: Mrs. Jumbo, but only in a brief, Off Model moment during the "Roustabouts" sequence.
  • Big Shadow, Little Creature
  • Bratty Half-Pint: The kids that mock Dumbo, pull on his ears and taunt him repeatedly even as he tries to hide under his mother. Had this been real life, Dumbo's mother probably would have killed them for even getting close to Dumbo.
  • Brick Joke: The crows sing about seeing everything if they ever saw an elephant fly. When Dumbo is flying, Jim Crow comments that now he has seen everything.
    • The clowns talk behind the scenes about how the building Dumbo jumps from in the act should be taller. Cut to the final scene and the building is noticeably taller.
  • Butt Monkey: Dumbo, big time.
  • Buzz Job: The climax has him showing off his new abilities by flying low over the heads of everyone who harassed and made fun of him.
  • Censorship by Spelling: The elephants use this when describing Dumbo.
    "Just look at those... look... E-A-R-S..."
    "It's all the fault of that little F-R-E-A-K."
  • Children Are Cruel: The monstrous brats who taunt Dumbo.
  • Children Are Innocent: Dumbo to the extreme, since he's so young. He doesn't even understand when others are laughing at him.
  • Clever Crows: The crows here are friendly, comedic characters who are at first derisive but then help Dumbo discover his ability to fly (the Magic Feather was their idea).
  • Cool Train: Casey Jr.
  • Cute Mute: Dumbo never says a word in the entire film; he just looks mournful or happy when appropriate. Which is fitting, seeing as how he's, well, a baby.
  • Dark Reprise: The Casey Jr. song after the Pyramid of Pachyderms disaster.
  • Delivery Stork: Dumbo is delivered this way.
  • Deranged Animation: "Pink Elephants On Parade".
  • Didn't Think This Through: Timothy really didn't think through his plan to make Dumbo a star via the Pyramid act.
  • Disappeared Dad: Dumbo is originally named after him, and his mother sounds wistful when she reveals this, but that's the extent we know of him.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Dumbo does this to a gigantic tower of adult elephants which ends up collapsing the circus tent!
  • Disney Acid Sequence: "Pink Elephants On Parade", marking it an early example of the Disney Acid Sequence.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off: Dumbo's mother administers a sound spanking to the backside of a boy who picks on Dumbo.
  • Drunken Song: "We're Gonna Hit the Big Boss For a Raise".
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Casey Jr. (or a prototype of him) makes an appearance in the previously released Disney film The Reluctant Dragon.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After all the abuse Dumbo went through, having him become a worldwide sensation after buzzing his tormentors under the big top was so sweet.
  • Ears as Hair: Before he tries to participate in the pachyderm pyramid trick, Dumbo's ears are tied above his head so he won't stumble on them. Guess what happens while he's running out to the spring board.
  • Ear Wings
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Timothy takes full advantage of this.
  • Expy: Timothy is very similar to Jiminy Cricket, but far less iconic.
  • Fat Bitch: While elephants are naturally large animals, the matriarch is noticeably fatter than the other elephants.
  • Flanderization: The ringmaster in the movie wasn't necessarily an outright villain, just yet another human jerkass. But he's upgraded to being the main antagonist for Dumbo in Disneys Villains Revenge.
  • Floating in a Bubble: Happens to Timothy during the drinking scene.
  • Gossipy Hens: Those other elephants.
  • G-Rated Sex: Delivery by the Stork, a persevering chap.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "And now comes the climax!!!" The Ringmaster says this while undressing, too. "Climax" is still used to refer to the most exciting part of an entertainment today, though.
    • After that, the man the ringmaster's speaking with asks what the climax is. The ringmaster shrugs and says, "I don't know."
    • Timothy first suggesting Dumbo to him with the words, "You are now getting that climax." In a rather creepy voice as well.
  • Hate Sink: This movie is called No Antagonist for a reason, as even the elephant bullies occasionally has a point in being angry at Dumbo (especially when he screwed up their climax and wounds them greatly). But good luck finding fans of that one kid that bullied Dumbo and incited the wrath of Mrs. Jumbo, triggering a chain of events of Dumbo's misery. Most people use him as a prime example of the show's Kids Are Cruel and Humans Are the Real Monsters.
  • A Head at Each End: Appears as a pink-elephant hallucination from the film's Disney Acid Sequence.
  • Help, I'm Stuck!: Matriarch Elephant as she enters the train wagon.
  • Honorable Elephant: Dumbo is playful but never malicious. The Matriarch clearly considers herself a straight example ("We elephants have always walked with dignity"), but is actually quite shallow and cruel toward Dumbo. Only Mrs. Jumbo plays it completely straight.
  • Human Ladder
  • Humans Are Bastards:
    • Damn clowns.
    • The kids that make fun of Dumbo surely fall under this.
    • The Ringmaster for putting Dumbo and other elephants in such dangerous acts.
  • Hurricane of Puns: "When I See an Elephant Fly".
  • Hypocritical Humor: A big-eared kid picks on Dumbo for having big ears.
    • The other elephants pride themselves on being an honourable and dignified species while considering Dumbo a disgrace, but spend their entire day gossiping and are quickly sent into hysterical panic at the sight of a mouse.
  • I Am What I Am: Nicely put by Timothy, "The very things that kept you down are gonna carry you up and up and up!"
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Dumbo has big baby-blue eyes.
  • Irony: When you think about it, Dumbo could've made the Pyramid of Pachyderms act a success if he had discovered his gift of flying beforehand.
  • Jerkasses: The other circus elephants, the clowns, the ringmaster, the boys that make fun of Dumbo. Nearly every character besides Dumbo, Mrs. Jumbo, and Timothy is one.
    • Asshole Victim: One of the kids making fun of Dumbo gets grabbed and spanked by Mrs. Jumbo (though he is not killed).
    • Jerks With Hearts of Gold: The crows. Their song was more mocking of Timothy's notion of a flying elephant (and it's easy to see how one could be mistaken). They were making fun of him a lot more than Dumbo. Also, they're willing to apologize when Timothy tells them off, and help Dumbo learn how to fly.
  • Large Ham: Timothy at times. The Ringmaster too.
  • Literal Metaphor: The pink elephant parade, given that "pink elephant" was a decades-old expression for a drunken hallucination.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: At the very end of the film, one of the Spinning Paper newspapers announces that (the now famous) Dumbo's manager (Timothy Mouse) has struck a Hollywood deal.
  • Magic Feather: Trope Namer.
  • Magical Negro: The crows.
  • Mama Bear: Really, those kids deserved what was coming to them.
  • Meaningful Name: In a bit of Fridge Brilliance, the mute main character is nicknamed Dumbo. Dumb used to mean "unable to speak."
  • The Mountains of Florida: The movie depicts Florida as having mountains. In Real Life, Florida is one of the US states that doesn't have mountains.
  • Mushroom Samba: "Pink Elephants On Parade".
  • Mysterious Middle Initial: We never learn what the Q in Timothy's name stands for.
  • Nearly Normal Animal: The circus animals know the routine of setting up and performing a show. The elephants even work as a team to help pitch the main tent without any obvious handling or guidance.
  • Nice Mice: Timothy.
  • No Antagonist: A rare instance of a Disney movie that has no villain. Instead, it's about an elephant who's trying to find acceptance within his own circus.
  • Off Model: The "Pyramid of Pachyderms" sequence can't seem to make up its mind how many elephants were in the room to begin with.
    • Ms. Jumbo has a moment of this during the "Roustabouts" sequence, when her eyes inexplicably became Black Bead Eyes.
  • Oh, Crap: Timothy, when the booze REALLY starts to kick in and the infamous pink elephants make their appearance.
    Timothy: Dumbo...do you see what I see?!?
  • Only in Florida: ...would a flying elephant be born.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Dumbo. His name is actually Jumbo Jr.
  • Ostrich Head Hiding: During the Baby Be Mine segment the camera shows a shot of the circus animals taking a rest at night, including a mother ostrich and her two baby birds, sticking their heads underneath the sand.
  • Papa Wolf: While he may not be a dad, and he may not be a wolf (since he's a mouse), Timothy sticks up for Dumbo by scaring the elephants tormenting him and yelling at the crows for constantly laughing at him...thus making the latter nicer.
  • Pink Elephants: Featured in the most famous part of the film. And no, this film is not the Trope Namer—the phrase existed long before this film was conceived.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Protest Song: Again, "We're Gonna Hit the Big Boss For a Raise".
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Timothy gives one to the crows when they pick on Dumbo. They realize the error of their ways and proceed to be encouraging and supportive of him for the rest of the movie.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Mrs. Jumbo's eyes turn red when defending Dumbo.
  • Revenge: When the elephants blame all the trouble in the circus on Dumbo (even having the nerve to say that it was his fault his mother was in a separate cage), Timothy the mouse, although he just met Dumbo, decides to scare them to help him out.
    • When Dumbo reveals that he can fly, he ends up taking his own revenge by humiliating the clowns, the other elephants, and ringmaster.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Dumbo.
  • Separated by the Wall
  • Shadow Discretion Shot
  • The Short Guy with Glasses: The short fat crow fits this trope.
  • Shout-Out: Casey Jr. says "I think I can" going up a hill, from The Little Engine that Could.
  • Sneeze of Doom: How Dumbo's ears were revealed to be large.
  • Solid Clouds: The Delivery Stork carrying Dumbo sits on a cloud to rest and get his bearings. The bundle with Dumbo inside is a little too heavy, though, and the stork has to keep stopping it from falling through.
  • The Speechless: Dumbo.
  • Take That: The drunken clowns planning to hit up the boss for a raise is a dig aimed at the animators who went on strike — and succeeded in making Disney a union shop. The Disney character encyclopedia writer, John Grant, noted that the analogy doesn't make sense when you realize that the apparent leader of the circus in the film, The Ringmaster, is not depicted as being anything like Disney.
  • Totem Pole Trench: After the clowns perform their first performance with Dumbo when he was demoted to a clown, we see silhouettes of the clowns backstage getting out of their costumes. One of the clowns turns out to be two short people stacked on top of each other.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: All the advertisement for this movie gave away the fact that Dumbo could fly. See the poster image.
  • Triumphant Reprise: "When I See an Elephant Fly" gets two reprises, both of which celebrate Dumbo's flight.
  • Trrrilling Rrrs: The Rrringmaster.
  • TV Strikes: See Take That.
  • Unfortunate Names: Dumbo Jumbo.
  • The Unintelligible: Both Dumbo and Mrs. Jumbo only communicate via typical elephant sounds.
    • Also in the movie itself, Dumbo has no spoken dialogue at all, and Mrs. Jumbo only speaks once - when she says Dumbo's original name.
  • The Villain Sucks Song: Disney seems to consider "Pink Elephants On Parade" one, having included it on the Simply Sinister Songs CD.
  • Visual Pun: A "pink elephant" was, at the time of this film, a decades-old expression for a drunken hallucination. During Timothy and Dumbo's hallucination sequence, they see a parade of literal pink elephants.
  • What Song Was This Again?: The Spanish version of "Pink Elephants On Parade" isn't much like the original. In fact, the lyrics are twisted beyond recognition, referring to the pink elephants as "Satan's relatives" and "souls of Purgatory", as well as outright stating how alcohol is bad and why you should never drink it.

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alternative title(s): Dumbo
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