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Western Animation / Dumbo

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"I seen a peanut stand, heard a rubber band
I seen a needle that winked its eye
But I'd be done seen 'bout ev'rything
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. Thanks to this and a re-release in 1949, Dumbo was the most profitable Disney film of The '40s.

The movie opens with circus elephant Mrs. Jumbo receiving a new baby from the stork: a baby with incredibly large ears. This causes the other elephants and circus patrons to laugh at him, giving him the derogatory nickname of Dumbo. This enrages Mrs. Jumbo, who attempts to hide her son from the ridicule. But when children come to see the circus, they begin abusing Dumbo, and Mrs. Jumbo lashes out in fury and spanks one of the children. The ringmaster only sees her attacking the crowd and circus keepers, not realizing that Mrs. Jumbo had just been protecting her son. Because the ringmaster thinks Mrs. Jumbo just snapped, he separates her from Dumbo and has her locked up as a mad elephant. A mouse named Timothy stands up for Dumbo when the other circus elephants berate him, and subsequently tries to get Dumbo to become a big star. Unfortunately Dumbo messes up, tripping over his large ears, and he is cast as a clown instead, something which he does not enjoy at all. When Timothy and Dumbo accidentally become drunk, they wake up the next morning in a tree. A gang of crows living in the tree suggest that Dumbo must have flown with his ears. Using this information, the duo (with the crows' help) 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 '80s 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) but never got off the ground.

A live-action remake directed by Tim Burton was released in 2019.

This film provides examples of:

  • Absurd Altitude: The Delivery Stork looks down from the clouds and sees the southern United States, with all the states clearly labeled and colored.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: At the end, when Dumbo knocks the clown on the ladder into the bucket of water he was supposed to land in, the other clowns are all grinning at his very annoyed face, despite being soaked by the splash.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Mrs. Jumbo was named Ella in the original book. She was not implied to be the mate of the famous Jumbo, so rather than being an implied Dead Guy Junior, Dumbo was Named After Somebody Famous.
  • Adapted Out: Due to them being portrayed as offending stereotypes of African-Americans, some of the newer tie-in storybooks leave out the crows altogether.
  • Alpha Bitch: The Matriarch, who is 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-Induced Idiocy: While drunk, the clowns suggest Dumbo can survive a thousand-foot drop because they believe elephants are made of rubber.
  • Alcohol Is LSD: "Pink Elephants on Parade". Quite possibly the definitive example of this trope.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: All the other elephants ostracize Dumbo on the account of his large ears.
  • All Part of the Show: When Dumbo goes off-script in the climax and starts flying around the big top, the audience gasps at first. Then they cheer as it seems the clowns are even funnier when they're trying to avoid him.
  • 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 was originally "Jim". (Doubling as a Stealth Pun.) Now, it’s said to be Dandy.
  • Ambiguous Situation: For a posthumous character, in that we don't know if Jumbo's father is meant to be that Jumbo or simply a case of Named After Someone Famous.
  • Anachronism Stew: The real Jumbo died in a railway accident in 1885, the movie takes place in then present day 1941. Either Mrs. Jumbo, implied to be the mate of the aforementioned bull due to Dumbo's birth name being "Jumbo Junior", was waiting for a very long time or something funny was going on with the writers. As it turns out, it is the latter. In the original storybook, the matriarch says that the size of Dumbo's ears means he will be a regular Jumbo and so is named "Jumbo." The screenwriters made Dumbo a junior and the implication that his father was the real Jumbo, without taking into consideration how much time had passed since Jumbo's death. (Either that, or Dumbo's father was just named after the famous one. Again, in the book, he was not supposed to be that Jumbo.)
  • Animals Lack Attributes: Played straight to the point where all animals have to rely entirely on delivery storks in order for them to have offspring. However, it is somewhat averted in that the elephants DO have clearly visible breasts.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Casey Jr., the train. He has eyes, and the various sounds he makes form words.
    "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.
  • Animated Musical: Many songs are used to help move the story forward, with "Baby Mine", "Pink Elephants on Parade" and "When I See An Elephant Fly" being well-known examples from the film.
  • Anti-Alcohol Aesop: Dumbo and Timothy Q. Mouse accidentally get drunk when champagne gets dropped into their water bucket. While at first, they act chipper and goofy, they eventually start to hallucinate dancing Pink Elephants that scare Dumbo and result in him blacking out.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • Dumbo's enormous ears would seriously lower his body temperature to potentially fatal levels. And his number of toes consistently changes.
    • This movie is arguably the only reason anyone still remembers the obsolete taxonomic term "pachyderm", which had already fallen out of use in the 1940s. Justified, as the term is used by a showman (the Ringmaster) rather than a scientist or any kind of animal expert.
    • Talking about the Pyramid of Pachyderms, elephants in real life are so heavy that even a small fall leads to serious injuries, and a big fall like the Pyramid's collapse would probably kill them.
    • The rest of the elephants shunning Dumbo (even for his ears) is very unlike real elephants, which form very tight-knit groups. In a more realistic scenario, the entire group would take responsibility for looking after the calf.
    • The baby monkey sleeping on its mother's tail, the kangaroo sleeping while standing, and baby ostriches looking like miniature versions of the adults and sleep with their head in the ground. Also, the mother ostrich has black feathers like an adult male ostrich instead brown ones like females (unless said ostrich is actually the father).
    • A monkey has 4 babies, while in reality monkeys give birth to single baby or rarely twins (marmosets can produce quadruplets though)
    • The hyenas laughing in their sleep are based on striped hyenas, which don't make the "laughing" sounds of their spotted hyena cousins.
    • The zebras just look like striped horses more than actual zebras.
    • This movie perhaps started the trend of giving cartoon crows yellow bills and feet.
    • The gorilla at the circus parade lets out a scream resembling Tarzan's yell. Real gorillas don't sound even remotely similar.
    • Newborn bear cubs weigh only about a pound, are blind and have very fine hair. Also, newborn kangaroos are only the size of a bumblebee, have no fur and are also born blind.
    • Hippos can't breathe underwater and would drown if submerged for long periods. Hippos actually can sleep underwater, but they have a reflex that allows them to surface every few minutes while sleeping.
    • Mr. Stork has the wrong posture, head, and body type to pass for an actual stork, let alone the only stork native to Florida where the film takes place, which has a black scaly head and black wings. The bird he actually resembles is the Great White Heron.
  • Artistic License – Engineering: When Dumbo sits on the power lines, he's perfectly unharmed. Birds are able to do this because they normally only sit on one wire at a time and as electricity follows the path of least resistance will not pass through the bird. Dumbo sits on every wire at once and therefore has no excuse why he wasn't electrocuted. Then again, there could have been a power outage.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Setting aside the fact that the states don't actually have their names written across them, some appear to be missing when viewed from above at the beginning.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Flying elephant. 'Nuff said.
    • The circus train has enormous inertia, so much that Casey Jr. can't get it started without somehow rebounding on it in such a way that its recoil off the buffers sets it in motion. If he didn't have enough horsepower to get it started, he wouldn't have enough to bring it to a halt.
    • Lampshaded by the clowns' burning building act as well. Dumbo isn't physically hurt from jumping from the height into a tub of suds the first time, though he feels humiliated. When the clowns discuss raising the height, one says he doesn't want to hurt him, but another clown says "elephants don't have feelings, they're made of rubber." It's made moot when Dumbo shows off his flying.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: When the pink Elephant-head-monster walks (as seen on the Nightmare Fuel page), one can notice the head in the general location of its groin does not have a visible trunk.
  • 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: Happens when Timothy sneaks up to the Ringmaster to explain his plan.
  • 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, Dandy 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, a very tragic example of this trope.
  • Buzzing the Deck: Twice. First Dumbo buzzed the clowns in the arena the first time he showcases his flying skills in public. He does it again at the end with him flying low over the heads of everyone who harassed and made fun of him.
  • Call-Back: A very sad one. After playing around their stall, Mrs. Jumbo and her son entwine their trunks affectionately, and she slowly pulls up on her own until they inevitably separate. During the "Baby Mine" sequence, they do the same thing when it's time for them to part, holding trunks until the last possible moment.
  • Censorship by Spelling: Catty frequently uses 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 Innocent: Dumbo to the extreme, since he's so young. He doesn't even understand when others are laughing at him.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: They made him a clown!
  • Creepy Circus Music: The first part of "Pink Elephants on Parade" is a circus march played in a minor key, and made even more frightening by the surrealism of the scene. When the singing starts ("Look out! Look out! Pink elephants on parade!") the brass and xylophone are replaced by a circus-esque organ.
  • Clever Crows: The crows here are friendly, comedic characters who are at first derisive (though never because of Dumbo's ears) but then show their intelligence and empathy by helping Dumbo discover his ability to fly (the Magic Feather was their idea).
  • Cool Train: Casey Jr.
  • Cringe Comedy: A minor example; during the parade, a gorilla roars with bars of the cage in his hands when one of the breaks loosen. He tries to mend it, visibly embarrassed.
  • 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: A more melancholy version of the Casey Jr. song after the Pyramid of Pachyderms disaster plays as the train moves on to the next town during a rainstorm.
  • Delivery Stork: Dumbo is delivered this way, by a stork performing "Happy Birthday" in singing telegram style, no less. A fleet of storks delivering various animal babies get the first sequence of the movie as well.
  • 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. To be fair, the Ringmaster didn't either; any reasonable leader would have tested the act ahead of time to prevent technical difficulties.
    • The bratty kid with the big ears sees Mrs. Jumbo hiding her son, and he decides to go past the rope and tug on his ears. Something like that would have probably gotten him killed in real life.
    • For whatever reason the Ringmaster didn't think to station any of his numerous workers with the elephants to prevent the bratty kid from harassing Mrs. Jumbo and her son. Not only is this why Mrs. Jumbo went on a rampage in the first place, but leaving children unattended with wild animals would be incredibly dangerous.
    • Separating a baby elephant from a rampaging mother trying to protect him is a catastrophically stupid and dangerous idea — it only makes Mrs. Jumbo even more enraged which is exactly what would happen in real life.
  • Disappeared Dad: Dumbo is named after him, and his mother sounds wistful when she reveals this, but that's the extent we know of him. Early illustrations by Bill Peet depict him as an absolutely massive African bull elephant.
  • 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.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Once able to fly, Dumbo does this to all those who have exploited or otherwise mistreated him in the past. He flies so low that the clowns and Ringmaster try to run and hide from him. As for the gossipy elephants, he takes the opportunity to spray them with a barrage of peanuts.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off!: Dumbo's mother administers a sound spanking to the backside of a boy who teases 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 trouble Dumbo went through, nothing is better than being a worldwide sensation and finally earning the respect of everyone around him.
  • 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: How else do you expect big-eared elephant Dumbo to fly?
  • Elephants Are Scared of Mice: When the other elephants talk smack about Dumbo, Timothy the mouse takes full advantage of this trope, scaring them all out of their wits. It's subverted with Dumbo himself, who befriends the little mouse simply because he was nice to him (and not that scary up close).
  • Everybody Cries: The crows cry when Timothy calls them out for mocking the idea of Dumbo flying.
  • Everyone Has Standards: When the clowns are talking about raising the burning building for their routine, one points out a logical objection: what if Dumbo gets hurt from the fall? He's only a baby. Another clown retorts that elephants are made of rubber and won't feel pain.
  • Exposed Animal Bellybutton: The gorilla seen in the circus parade has a hairless belly with a visible bellybutton. Real male gorillas have hairless patches on their chest, but their belly is covered with hair.
  • The Faceless: Three instances of this trope.
    • The black roustabouts that get off the train to work on setting up the circus. Their faces are framed in the shadow of the night as they disembark and get to work, and a clear shot of them by lantern light as the camera pans toward them has their backs turned.
    • Various white workers and spectator people are faceless.
    • And the clowns that use Jumbo Jr. as part of their act all have their faces heavily covered in clown makeup. And when they take it all off after the show, the audience doesn’t see their faces, only their figures behind a tent tarp.
  • Fat Bitch: While elephants are naturally large animals, the matriarch is noticeably fatter than the other elephants.
  • Fireman's Safety Net: The clown firemen routine ends with the clowns catching Dumbo with a trampoline, but he falls through it and into a vat of whitewash.
  • The Flapping Dickey: The Ringmaster's boisterous introduction of the elephant acts, in particular his introduction of the failed balancing act, is frequently interrupted by his dickey rolling up like a scroll and hitting him on the underside of his nose.
  • Floating in a Bubble: Happens to Timothy during the drinking scene.
  • Gossipy Hens: The other elephants.
  • G-Rated Sex: Delivery by the Stork, a persevering chap.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: The scene following the failed Pyramid of Pachyderms act takes place in one. Casey Jr. moans as he pulls the circus train through a rainstorm, and all the elephants are shown injured and crying.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: There are no guards to keep the kids from directly taunting the animals, though they show up to restrain Mrs. Jumbo when she goes Mama Bear on all the humans.
  • Happy Birthday to You!: Sung by the Stork to celebrate Dumbo's very first birthday, naturally.
  • Happy Circus Music: The film has a scene where the circus marches into town, advertising their arrival with a parade and cheerful music.
  • Hard-Work Montage: When the roustabouts and the elephants disembark to set up the circus, they are shown rolling carts of animals off runways, passing stakes off and then using sledgehammers to drive them into the ground, carrying canvas bags, raising tent poles, unrolling tarp, tying knots into them, and then raising the canvas by rope.
  • Hate Sink: Smitty, the kid who picks on Dumbo and blows in his ear, as well as Catty, one of the Circus Elephants.
  • 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.
  • A Head at Each End: Appears as a pink-elephant hallucination from the film's Disney Acid Sequence.
  • Heal the Cutie: Dumbo is mocked for his big ears, separated from his mother, and accidentally ruins a circus performance, becoming an object of scorn. Then with the friendship of a mouse, some crows, and a "magic feather", he becomes a beloved animal celebrity and is reunited with his mother.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The Ringmaster, after Dumbo triumphs at the end.
  • Heel Realization: After the crows pick on Dumbo and Timothy, Timothy delivers a "The Reason You Suck" Speech about Dumbo's hard life. The crows are moved to tears and promptly become Dumbo's biggest supporters.
  • Help, I'm Stuck!: Matriarch Elephant as she enters the train wagon.
  • Homage: The whole "Pink Elephants on Parade" sequence pays homage to Disney's own rubber hose animations from the 20s and 30s that had otherwise fallen out of fashion by the time Dumbo was released in the 40s.
  • 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.
  • Honor-Related Abuse: The elephants' excuse for giving Dumbo the cold shoulder is they think his ears, and later his job as a clown, reflect poorly on all elephant kind.
  • Human Ladder: The Pyramid of Pachyderms is an elephant ladder in practice.
  • Humans Are Bastards:
    • The Ringmaster that puts Dumbo and the other elephants in such dangerous acts.
    • The clowns for the same reason as the Ringmaster.
  • Humiliation Conga: Pretty much the entire movie is this for Dumbo up until the "Pink Elephants" part. His tormenters get one of their own in the climax when he puts them in their place after revealing that he can fly.
  • Hurricane of Puns: "When I See an Elephant Fly".
    Specks: Ah ha ha ha! Did you ever see an elephant fly?
    Preacher: Well, I seen a horse fly.
    Fats: Ha ha! I seen a dragon fly!
    Dopey: Ha ha ha! I seen a house fly.
    [crows laugh]
    Dandy: Hey, I seen all dat, too!
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • A big-eared kid picks on Dumbo for having big ears.
    • The other elephants pride themselves on being an honorable 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!"
  • "I Can't Look!" Gesture: Timothy does this when the Pyramid of Pachyderms starts going horribly wrong. He dives through a tent wall and watches with one big eye through his fingers.
  • Ignorant About Fire: As part of a fireman routine, one of the clowns tries to put out the fire with gasoline.
  • Ill-Timed Sneeze: A sneeze is how Dumbo's ears were revealed to be large.
  • Impact Silhouette: During the climax, the clowns, trying to escape from the flying Dumbo via their fire engine, end up crashing through the burning building, leaving a perfect outline of all involved.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Dumbo has big baby-blue eyes.
  • Innocently Insensitive: The clowns sincerely enjoy putting on their act with Dumbo, and toast his success. Except, Dumbo is crying outside their tent as Timothy rinses the suds off him. When they plan to raise the burning building, the clowns assert that he shouldn't get hurt because elephants are made of rubber.
    • The kids who tease Dumbo for his ears are certainly more this than outright cruel.
  • Involuntary Smile of Incapacitation: When Dumbo unknowingly drinks from a barrel full of water laced with liquor, he lets out a hiccup and starts to lie down as a smile appears on his face. Shortly afterwards, Timothy has some of the beer and comes out of the barrel, equally wasted, and he's smiling contentedly.
  • 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.
    • The clowns are the only circus members who seem sincerely grateful to Dumbo for making their act a success, apparently...until one scene later. The problem is that by now Dumbo knows that he's a joke and the disgrace of the circus, and he hates that he's put on display.
    • Dumbo, an elephant, is friends with a mouse, who elephants are terrified of.
  • Jerkasses To One: Nearly every character besides the titular character, Mrs. Jumbo, and Timothy is one towards Dumbo.
    • Asshole Victim: The group of older elephants who were mocking Dumbo all get severely injured after the tent collapses during Dumbo's circus act.
    • 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.
  • Job Song: "Song of the Roustabouts" is sung by the circus's labourers as they set up the big top. It's about how the work is back breaking and the pay is poor, but the children's happiness makes it worth it.
  • Killer Gorilla: Amusingly subverted during the circus parade: a gorilla ferociously shakes the bars of his cage, roaring at the audience. But when he accidentally loosens one of the bars, he gets embarrassed and puts the bar back to its place, implying that his ferocity was just part of his circus act.
  • Large Ham: Timothy at times. The Ringmaster too - in his case, it's part of his job.
  • Literal Metaphor: The pink elephant parade, given that "pink elephant" was a decades-old expression for a drunken hallucination.
  • Lost in Translation: The whole meaning of the name "Dumbo" and the original Visual Pun regarding the crows is lost for non-English speaking audiences.
  • Magic Feather: Trope Namer.
  • Magical Negro: The crows.
  • Mama Bear: Mrs. Jumbo attacking one of the kids after he taunted and harassed Dumbo, a baby elephant, which leads to her rightfully going on a rampage when she gets taken away from her son.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor:
    • In-Universe with one of the circus gorillas; see Killer Gorilla above.
    • Also with the clowns, while their act involves mildly physically abusing Dumbo, their toast to him is sincere.
  • Meaningful Name: In a bit of Fridge Brilliance, the mute main character is nicknamed Dumbo. Dumb used to mean "unable to speak."
  • Mickey Mousing: Used during the scene where Dumbo plays tail-pulling with his mother and during the Pink Elephants' sequence.
  • Misblamed: In-Universe. Dumbo is blamed by at least the elephants for the Pyramid of Pachyderms disaster, while it was actually the Ringmaster’s responsibility to test the act.
  • Monster Façade: The circus gorilla acts ferocious during the parade, shaking the bars of his cage and roaring, but when he accidentally loosens one of the bars of his cage, he drops the act and screws the bar back to its place with a sheepish expression.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: Or Florida in this case, as 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".
  • Musical Chores: As the roustabouts work on circus construction while working in the rain, they sing "Song Of The Roustabouts" as they set up the tents with the elephants.
  • Mysterious Middle Initial: We never learn what the "Q." in Timothy's name stands for.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Dumbo's given name is Jumbo Junior, after his father. Jumbo, of course, was a famous real-life circus elephant (although in the book he was not supposed to be the same one).
  • Nasal Weapon: Near the end, Dumbo gets back at the elephants who made fun of him earlier by inhaling peanuts with his trunk and shooting them back at them.
  • Nearly Normal Animal: The circus animals look and behave largely like their real-life counterparts, but they 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. Timothy, the Delivery Stork and the gang of crows are closer to Civilized Animal, as they wear clothes, talk fluently, and have a bipedal stance (with Feather Fingers in the case of the latter two).
  • Never Work with Children or Animals: Invoked with a baby animal. Dumbo for all his good intentions is inexperienced with the circus, and keeps tripping up over his ears when he runs fast. No one bothers to figure out how to fix this. In his first circus act he has to jump to the top of the Pachyderm Pyramid. Dumbo tries his best, but he ends up tripping on his ears (and no, it was not his fault since the Ringmaster should have done a rehearsal ahead of time), which causes the elephant pyramid and the circus tent to collapse.
  • Nice Mice: Timothy is Dumbo's most helpful ally.
  • Nightmare Face: With the “Pink Elephants on Parade” segment already being Nightmare Fuel, some faces of the pink elephants themselves are pretty creepy, particularly the monster made of eyeless, elephant heads.
  • No Antagonist: Well, not exactly, but Dumbo remains a rare instance of a Disney movie that has no real villains, per se (at best, the Ringmaster is an Anti-Villain). Instead, it's about an elephant who's trying to find acceptance within his own circus.
  • No Name Given: Timothy's name is never actually said during the film. Instead, it appears as a Freeze-Frame Bonus in the photograph of him signing Dumbo's Hollywood contract at the end of the film.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Timothy, when the booze really starts to kick in and the infamous pink elephants make their appearance.
    Timothy: you see what I see?!?
    • During the pyramid routine:
      • Giddy, just before Dumbo trips over his ears.
      • Dumbo, the Ringmaster and Timothy, while the matriarch loses control of her footing on the ball.
      • The matriarch just before she crashes into Dumbo.
  • One-Word Title: Also a Protagonist Title.
  • 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 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.
  • Panicky Expectant Father: More "anxious" than outright panicky, but when the storks are delivering the circus babies, the father tiger is pacing the cage, stealing anxious glances at the sky. His mate just lies there sleeping, quite unconcerned.
  • Papa Wolf: While he may not be a papa, or a wolf (since he's a mouse), Timothy sticks up for Dumbo by scaring the elephants tormenting him (related to Pick on Someone Your Own Size below) and yelling at the crows for constantly laughing at him and Timothy...thus making the latter nicer.
  • Pick on Someone Your Own Size: Inverted: as Timothy scares the elephants for tormenting Dumbo, he tells them, "So you like to pick on little guys, huh? Well, why don't you pick on me?"
  • Pink Elephants: In the probably most famous scene of the film, Timothy and Dumbo drink water mixed with a bottle of champagne and hallucinate literal pink elephants as a result. And no, this film is not the Trope Namer – the phrase existed long before this film was conceived. This film just made a Visual Pun out of it.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Protest Song: Again, "We're Gonna Hit the Big Boss For a Raise".
  • Railroad to Horizon: The movie ends with the titular elephant, reunited with his mother and secure in his flight ability, flying down onto the circus train to join her as it rides into the distance. This signifies the film's happy ending.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Timothy gives one to the crows when they pick on him and 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. It notably happens when one of the guards grabs Dumbo and flees with him. This was the worst possible thing to do in front of an already angry, enraged elephant who thought her child was in danger.
  • Repulsive Ringmaster: Downplayed. While the Ringmaster is rather mean and quite incompetent at his job, he's not exactly evil.
  • 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 the Ringmaster.
  • Rump Roast: In the climax, in trying to flee from the now-flying Dumbo, the clowns blindly run into the prop building, still burning as part of the act, and then run back out of it with their butts ablaze.
  • The Runt at the End: During the parade scene, Dumbo brings up the end of the parade of marching circus elephants until he trips on his ears and lands in a puddle.
  • Separated by the Wall: Dumbo and his mother during the "Baby Mine" scene when Mrs. Jumbo is locked up.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: The clowns in the tent, preventing the audience from seeing them without their makeup.
  • The Short Guy with Glasses: The short crow fits this trope.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Silly Animal Sound: At the circus parade, when a gorilla shakes the bars of his cage, he lets out a scream similar to Tarzan's yell. Real gorillas sound nothing like that.
  • Shown Their Work: Despite being anthropomorphic, it's clear the animators carefully studied actual Asian elephants and observed their behavior. For example, Dumbo will sway side to side while depressed, the elephants living in a group consisting of females led by the oldest female, and the fact they hold tails and march single file all reflects actual elephant behavior. The females also have humanoid breasts as opposed to udders.
  • 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 doesn't say anything throughout the film.
    • Also to a certain extent, Mrs. Jumbo, with the exception of only one line, where she names her baby "Jumbo Junior".
  • Spoiler Cover: All posters and home media covers for this movie gave away the fact that Dumbo could fly. The only one that comes close to hiding this fact is the front cover for the 60th anniversary release in 2001 but even that didn't stop the back cover from revealing it.
  • Stock Sound Effect: When Dandy Crow plucks a feather off the glasses wearing crow (Specks), the "scream" is actually dialogue from The Reluctant Dragon, which explains why it barely even sounds like a scream.
    • Timothy's laugh when he slides down a bubble is clearly one left over from a Mickey cartoon.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • A kid sneaks into the elephants' display to grab Dumbo's ears and mock them. Understandably, the mother goes on a rampage and attacks (i.e. spanks) him in retaliation, though quite downplayed as it might have been a lot worse in real life.
      • The aftermath is also this, as Mrs. Jumbo is locked up and labeled a mad elephant.
    • Separating Dumbo from Mrs. Jumbo only enrages her further — in real life, separating a baby animal from a parent thinking their offspring is in danger is guaranteed to make any wild animal lethally dangerous.
    • The Ringmaster doesn't test out the Pyramid act ahead of time, with one untrained baby elephant. This means that technical difficulties weren't Dumbo's fault because he and Timothy only had a few seconds to work out the ear problem.
  • Synthetic Voice Actor: Casey Junior's voice is sort of like a strange, electronic whistle. This is because Margaret Wright spoke through a Sonovox, a sort of 1940s talkbox which uses a pair of speakers applied to the larynx. There's a demonstration of how it is used in The Reluctant Dragon, which came out earlier the same year.
  • 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 Walt Disney.
  • Through a Face Full of Fur: Dumbo has a body blush moment when Timothy tells him to drink water and hold his breath while mentioning how much his mother will be proud of him.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The Jerkass kid who thought it was a good idea to torment Dumbo, a baby elephant, by grabbing his ears within sight of the latter's mother. Retribution was very mild compared to what would have happened in real life.
  • 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 advertisements for this movie gave away the fact that Dumbo could fly. See the poster image.
  • Triumphant Reprise: "When I See an Elephant Fly" is first sung to mock the idea of Dumbo flying. It goes on to gets two reprises celebrating Dumbo's flight.
  • A True Story in My Universe: 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.
  • Truth in Television
    • The circus elephants are an all-female group, led by an old, pompous matriarch. Elephants do in fact live in herds consisting of females and juveniles, with adult male elephants typically being solitary or visiting other males.
    • When Dumbo and his mother are separated, we get a shot of each of them looking absolutely miserable and swaying in place. Swaying is a very real coping mechanism displayed by stressed elephants.
  • Uncanny Valley: The disturbingly realistic Horus/Illuminati-like eye that appears during the "Pink Elephants on Parade" segment when the belly dancing elephant dissolves, making this an ironic, nearly-full inverting of the film’s cartoony style compared to most Disney animated features. Made especially jarring when comparing this to anything else in the film.
  • Unfortunate Names: "Jumbo Jr." is a perfectly respectable name, except that it's a little too easy to turn into the mocking nickname "Dumbo" — which is pretty unfortunate when he becomes Only Known By His Nickname. Even his best friend Timothy calls him Dumbo as though it's his given name.
  • Unsuspectingly Soused: Dumbo drinks from a water bucket to cure his hiccups, unaware the clowns had knocked a bottle of champagne in it. He and Timothy, who falls in the bucket, get instantly smashed and start seeing pink elephants.
  • "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.
  • Villainy-Free 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 all the 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 railroad car.
  • Voice for the Voiceless: Timothy to Dumbo. He generally does all the talking for him.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Timothy, upon being woken up after the "Pink Elephants On Parade" sequence.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: A literal example with Timothy; sure, we see him during the ending montage where he signs the contract on Dumbo's behalf, but he's oddly absent in the final scene with Dumbo and his mother riding off into the hills bidding farewell to their crow friends.
  • 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.
  • You Can See That, Right?: When the "Pink Elephants on Parade" segment starts, Timothy Mouse asks Dumbo, "Dumbo! You see what I see?"
  • Zebras Are Just Striped Horses: The zebras appearing in the movie have horse-like tails and manes, and pull a carriage just like a domestic horse would.

"I wish I'd had gotten his autograph!"
"Hey, man, I got his autograph!"
"Well, so long, glamour boy!"


Video Example(s):


Timothy stands up for Dumbo

With the elephants of the circus gossiping over Jumbo being locked up, and continuing to mistreat her son Dumbo, Timothy gets back at Dumbo's bullies by scaring the crap out of them

How well does it match the trope?

5 (26 votes)

Example of:

Main / ElephantsAreScaredOfMice

Media sources: