Cast & Crew
One night, a group of storks deliver babies to the animals of a traveling circus, but Mrs. Jumbo, an elephant, is deeply disappointed when she does not receive a little bundle of her own. The next day, the circus leaves its winter quarters in Florida, and as Casey Jr., the circus' intrepid train engine, leads the way, a lost stork finds Mrs. Jumbo and delivers her baby. Mrs. Jumbo is overjoyed by her son, whom she names Jumbo, Jr., but her gossipy, spiteful neighbors, Prissy, Giggles, Catty and the Matriarch, laugh at the baby's large ears and call him Dumbo. Despite Dumbo's unusual appearance, Mrs. Jumbo is devoted to him and tenderly cares for him. After the circus sets up its tent in a new city, Mrs. Jumbo protects Dumbo from a taunting human boy, who pulls on his ears. Mrs. Jumbo spanks the youngster, then tries to fight the ringmaster and others as they take Dumbo away from her. Finally, Mrs. Jumbo is locked up in a wagon, and Dumbo is left to fend for himself. As the other elephants ridicule and snub Dumbo, a mouse who is listening nearby is outraged by their behavior and deliberately scares the "overstuffed hay bags." The tiny rodent, named Timothy Q. Mouse, introduces himself to Dumbo and calms the frightened youth by telling him that lots of famous people have big ears. The publicity-wise Timothy decides to concoct a "colossol" act around Dumbo to help free his mother, and so whispers to the sleeping ringmaster that Dumbo should be the climax of an elephant pyramid act. Soon after, the ringmaster introduces the act to an excited audience, but while running to jump onto the top of the pyramid of elephants, Dumbo trips over his ears and hundreds of pounds of pachyderms tumble down, creating chaos that destroys the big top. Afterward, the scandalized elephants gloat when Dumbo is ordered to join the clown act as punishment. A scared Dumbo is forced to jump from a high, burning facade into a tub of plaster, and the act's success prompts the clowns to decide to build an even higher facade. Timothy attempts to comfort the lonely Dumbo by taking him to visit Mrs. Jumbo, and after the bittersweet meeting, Dumbo accidentally gets drunk with Timothy on the clowns's champagne. The tipsy pals are confounded by visions of pink elephants on parade, and when Timothy is awakened the next morning by a group of jeering crows, he is astonished to discover that he and Dumbo have spent the night on a high tree branch. After falling from the tree, Timothy and Dumbo begin to walk back to the circus, but Timothy stops when he realizes that Dumbo must have flown up to the tree. Telling Dumbo that the very things that have held him back are going to take him up and up, Timothy tries to prompt the little elephant to fly. Dumbo is too frightened to try until he is given a "magic" feather by the crows's leader, who has been shamed by Timothy into helping. While clutching his feather tightly in his trunk, Dumbo takes off from a cliff and begins to fly. Timothy, who is riding in Dumbo's hat, is thrilled by his friend's prowess and begins to plot their revenge on the uncaring clowns. Soon after, the clowns have placed Dumbo on the new facade, and he and Timothy jump off the platform. Although Dumbo loses his magic feather on the way down, Timothy convinces him that he can fly anyway. His self-confidence restored, Dumbo soars gracefully above his tormentors and shoots peanuts at them. Soon after, Dumbo is declared a "miracle mammoth," and while publicity over the wonderous elephant builds, he is content to cuddle with his adoring mother in his luxurious new train car.
Hall Johnson Choir
Don Da Gradi
Mildred J. Hill
Patty Smith Hill
John P. Miller
Karl Van Leuven
Brudda rat? I ain't your brudda and I ain't no rat.- Timothy Q. Mouse
Straight from heaven up above, here is a baby for you to love.- Mr. Stork
Did you ever see an elephant fly?- Crow #1
Well, I seen a horse fly.- Crow #2
I seen a dragon fly.- Crow #3
I seen a house fly.- Crow #4
Oh, the shame of it. Let us make a solemn vow. From now on, he is no longer an elephant.- Elephant Matriarch
I wonder how we got up in that tree anyway? Elephants can't climb trees, can they? No, that's ridiculous. Could have jumped up? Nah, too high.- Timothy Q. Mouse
Hey there, brother. Maybe y'all flew up.- Jim Crow
Maybe we flew up. Yeah, maybe we... THAT'S IT. Dumbo, you flew. Boy, am I stupid. Why didn't I see it before. Your ears. Just look at them. Why, they're poifect wings. The very things that held you down are gonna carry you up, and up, and UP. I can see it all now. "DUMBO. THE NINTH WONDER OF THE UNIVOISE. THE WORLD'S ONLY FLYING ELEPHANT."- Timothy Q. Mouse
You oughta be ashamed of yourselves. A bunch of big guys like you, picking on a poor little orphan like him. Suppose you was torn away from his mother when you was just a baby. No one to tuck him in at night. No warm, caressing trunk to snuzzle into. How would you like to be left all alone, in a cold, cruel, heartless woild? And why, I ask you, WHY? Just because he has those big ears they call him a freak. The laughing stock of the circus. And when his own mother tried to protect him, they threw her in the clink. And on top of that, they made him a CLOWN. Socially he's washed up. But what's the use of talking to you cold-hearted boids. Go ahead. Have your fun. Laugh at him. Kick him now that he's down, GO ON. I don't care. (turns away and blows nose)- Timothy Q. Mouse
The only Disney animated feature film that has a title character who doesn't speak.
In early versions of the script, the group of crows that help Dumbo had a substantially larger role in the film. At various parts in the film, they would comment on the events of the story like a Greek Chorus. These scenes may have been storyboarded, and maybe test animated, but they never made it to the final cut of the film. Rumors that these scenes were edited out after the film's original release are not true: Dumbo was a very tightly budgeted film; animation for scenes that actually *are* in the film were simplified as far as possible without degrading quality. The numerous fade-outs to black, used as proof of missing footage, were a common transitionary element of early Disney films; they also appear numerous times (and far more often) in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Pinocchio (1940)
A very tightly budgeted, scripted, and produced film, becasue Walt Disney needed the film to bring in much-needed revenue after the expensive failures of Pinocchio (1940) and Fantasia (1940). Final negative cost of Dumbo was $813,00 (making it the least expensive of all Disney's animated features), and it grossed over $2.5 million in its original release (more than Pinocchio (1940)'s and Fantasia (1940)'s original grosses combined).
In December 1941, Time magazine planned to have Dumbo on its cover to commemorate its success, but it was dropped due to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Walt Disney's distributor, RKO Radio Pictures, had qualms about releasing this 64-minute feature as a major motion picture. They tried to persuade Disney to either cut it to short-subject length, extend it to at least 70 minutes, or have it released as a "B" picture. Disney stood his ground, and the film was released as an "A" picture as Disney intended.
Although 28 May 1941 Variety news item reported that the title of this film had been changed from Dumbo to Dumbo of the Circus, no other contemporary source mentions the other title. A December 22, 1941 Cleveland Plain Dealer article reported that the story of "Dumbo" was originally scheduled to be produced as a short, "but all those who had any connection with the picture were unanimous in their enthusiasm over the possibilities of creating a full-length feature." The article also noted that although a year and a half had been alloted for actual production of the picture, it required only a year to finish. Other contemporary sources note that the majority of animation was done between August 1940 and May 1941. Modern sources state that the film's quick production was due to the simplicity of the story line and its short running time, and estimate that the budget was between $850,000 and $950,000, making it one of the least expensive feature-length cartoon produced by the studio. The film's pressbook notes that animation director Vladimir Tytla, who was largely responsible for the conception and drawing of "Dumbo," based his drawings on his young son, Peter. The character voiced by Cliff Edwards is called "Dandy Crow" in the film's cutting continuity, contained in the Walt Disney Archives, although most contemporary and modern sources refer to him as "Jim Crow."
A black-and-white sequence, featuring animation of "Casey Jr." and showing how the Sonovox system is used to add sound effects, is seen in the Disney production The Reluctant Dragon, which was released in July 1941. The animated sequence does not appear in the final print of Dumbo, however. As special effects artist Ub Iwerks described in the January 1942 issue of Popular Mechanics, Sonovox consisted of "two little biscuit-shaped gadgets which are placed on either side of the throat. Sound recordings-rattling dice, a waterfall or whatnot-are fed to the larynx through these so that the sound actually comes from the human throat. Throat and lips control what comes out."
According to a modern source, Arthur Treacher acted as a live-action model for the "pink elephants" sequence, and Freddie Jackson and Eugene Jackson were live-action models for the crows. A modern source notes that the following actors provided additional voice characterizations: John Fraser McLeish (Narration); Margaret Wright (Casey Jr.); Sarah Selby, Dorothy Scott and Noreen Gamill (Elephants); Malcolm Hutton (Skinny); Jim Carmichael (Crow); and Harold Manley, Tony Neil and Charles Stubbs (Boys). Dumbo marked the first time that actors Sterling Holloway and Verna Felton provided character voices for an animated Disney feature. Felton also supplied the voices of the fairy godmother in Cinderella and the "Queen of Hearts" in Alice in Wonderland. Holloway went on to work for Disney on many films, providing the voices of characters such as "Winnie the Pooh," "Roquefort the mouse" in The Aristocats and "Kaa the snake" in The Jungle Book. Holloway and Felton's work on Bambi May have been been completed before their work on Dumbo, but that film was not released until 1942.
A August 19, 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that RKO had recently completed a "unique" Technicolor trailer for the picture, which would be entirely animated but feature "no shots from the picture it advertises." Various December 1941 news items note that the picture's West Coast premiere took place on December 4, 1941 at Camp Callan, an Army base near San Diego, CA. Five thousand soldiers attended the screening, which was held to dedicate the new Red Cross recreational center at the camp's hospital.
According to a December 24, 1941 Variety news item, and other contemporary materials contained in the Walt Disney Archives, Adelard Godbout, the prime minister of Quebec, feared that Dumbo would "deteriorate" the morals of children and therefore ordered that movie theaters admit only adults to screenings of the film. No information about the restrictions in Quebec was found in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, however.
The Daily Variety review, which lists the film's preview running time as 71 minutes, erroneously identifies "Timothy Q. Mouse" as "Mickey Mouse." Although a December 6, 1941 Los Angeles Times article reported that Disney had "installed writers on preparing a feature which will have Timothy as hero," that picture was not produced. According to a December 16, 1941 Hollywood Citizen-News article, Disney intended to use the character of Dumbo for "a series of [animated] military training films" for the American, British and Canadian governments. Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese and French were among the languages into which Dumbo was translated for international distribution, according to contemporary sources.
Dumbo won an Academy Award for Best Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture), and the song "Baby Mine," by Frank Churchill and Ned Washington, was nominated for Best Song. The picture was also named one of the ten best films of the year by New York Times and the National Board of Review, and in 1947, was named the best animated feature at the Cannes Film Festival. Although "Dumbo" did not appear in any other feature-length Disney films, he and the other characters from the picture appeared in an hour-long television broadcast of the Disneyland series in September 1955. They also appeared as "puppetronics" on the television series Dumbo's Circus, which had its premiere on May 6, 1985 and was broadcast on the Disney Channel for 120 episodes.
Released in United States on Video October 23, 2001
Released in United States March 1977
Released in United States February 9, 1991
Shown at Miami Film Festival February 9, 1991.
Released in USA on video.
Released in United States 1941
Released in United States 1941
Re-released in Brussels April 4, 1990.
Released in United States on Video October 23, 2001 (60th Anniversary Edition)
Released in United States March 1977 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (The Mighty Musical Movie Marathon) March 9-27, 1977.)
Released in United States February 9, 1991 (Shown at Miami Film Festival February 9, 1991.)