AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Dumbo
Director: Ben Sharpsteen () (Supv dir)
Release Date:   31 Oct 1941
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 23 Oct 1941
Duration (in mins):   63-64
Duration (in feet):   5,728
Duration (in reels):   8
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Cast:   Ed Brophy (Voice of Timothy Q. Mouse)  
    Sterling Holloway (Voice of Stork)  
    Herman Bing (Voice of Ringmaster)  
    Cliff Edwards (Voice of Dandy Crow)  
    Verna Felton (Voice of Matriarch Elephant)  
    Eddie Holden (Voice of a clown)  
    Bill Fletcher (Voice of a clown)  
    Bill Sheets (Voice of a clown)  
    The King's Men (Choral effects)  
    Hall Johnson Choir (Choral effects)  

Summary: 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. 

Production Company: Walt Disney Productions  
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Ben Sharpsteen (Supv dir)
  Otto Englander (Story dir)
  Norman Ferguson (Seq dir)
  Wilfred Jackson (Seq dir)
  Bill Roberts (Seq dir)
  Jack Kinney (Seq dir)
  Sam Armstrong (Seq dir)
Producer: Walt Disney (Pres)
Writer: Joe Grant (Scr)
  Dick Huemer (Scr)
  Bill Peet (Story dev)
  Aurie Battaglia (Story dev)
  Joe Rinaldi (Story dev)
  George Stallings (Story dev)
  Webb Smith (Story dev)
Art Direction: Herb Ryman (Art dir)
  Ken O'Connor (Art dir)
  Terrell Stapp (Art dir)
  Don Da Gradi (Art dir)
  Al Zinnen (Art dir)
  Ernest Nordli (Art dir)
  Dick Kelsey (Art dir)
  Charles Payzant (Art dir)
Music: Edward Plumb (Orch)
Sound: Sonovox (Spec sd eff)
Production Misc: Eloise Tobelmann (Secy)
  Dorothy Link (Secy)
  Dorris Pugsley (Secy)
Animation: Vladimir Tytla (Anim dir)
  Fred Moore (Anim dir)
  Ward Kimball (Anim dir)
  John Lounsbery (Anim dir)
  Art Babbitt (Anim dir)
  Woolie Reitherman (Anim dir)
  John P. Miller (Char des)
  Martin Provenson (Char des)
  John Walbridge (Char des)
  James Bodrero (Char des)
  Maurice Noble (Char des)
  Elmer Plummer (Char des)
  Claude Coats (Backgrounds)
  Al Dempster (Backgrounds)
  John Hench (Backgrounds)
  Gerald Nevius (Backgrounds)
  Ray Lockrem (Backgrounds)
  Joe Stahley (Backgrounds)
  Hugh Fraser (Anim)
  Howard Swift (Anim)
  Harvey Toombs (Anim)
  Don Towsley (Anim)
  Milt Neil (Anim)
  Les Clark (Anim)
  Hicks Lokey (Anim)
  Claude Smith (Anim)
  Berny Wolf (Anim)
  Ray Patterson (Anim)
  Jack Campbell (Anim)
  Grant Simmons (Anim)
  Walt Kelly (Anim)
  Josh Meador (Anim)
  Don Patterson (Anim)
  Bill Shull (Anim)
  Cy Young (Anim)
  Art Palmer (Anim)
  Van Kaufman (Anim)
  Basil Davidovich (Anim)
  Karl Van Leuven (Anim)
  Ed Parks (Anim)
Country: United States

Songs: "Baby Mine," "Casey Jr.," "Look Out for Mr. Stork" and "Song of the Roustabouts," music by Frank Churchill, lyrics by Ned Washington; "When I See an Elephant Fly" and "Pink Elephants on Parade," music by Oliver Wallace, lyrics by Ned Washington; "Clown Song," music and lyrics by Oliver Wallace and Arthur Quenzer; "Happy Birthday to You," music by Mildred J. Hill, lyrics by Patty Smith Hill.
Composer: Frank Churchill
  Mildred J. Hill
  Patty Smith Hill
  Arthur Quenzer
  Oliver Wallace
  Ned Washington
Source Text: Based on the novel Dumbo, the Flying Elephant by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl (New York, 1939).
Authors: Harold Pearl
  Helen Aberson

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Walt Disney Productions 8/8/1941 dd/mm/yyyy LP11124

PCA NO: 6809
Physical Properties: col: Technicolor
  Sd: RCA Sound System

 
Genre: Children's works
  Children's works
  Children's works
Sub-Genre: with songs
  Animal
  Animation
 
Subjects (Major): Circuses
  Ears
  Elephants
  Mice
  Mothers and sons
  Self-confidence
 
Subjects (Minor): Bullies
  Children
  Clowns
  Crows
  Drunkenness
  Feathers
  Feats of strength
  Florida
  Friendship
  Gossip
  Hallucinations
  Hats
  Hiccups
  Imprisonment
  Jumps from heights
  Parades
  Peanuts
  Storks
  Storms
  Talismans
  Temper
  Tents
  Trains

Note: Although 28 May 1941 Var 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 22 Dec 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 Aug 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 Jul 1941. The animated sequence does not appear in the final print of Dumbo , however. As special effects artist Ub Iwerks described in the Jan 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 ( Narr ); 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 19 Aug 1941 HR 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 Dec 1941 news items note that the picture's West Coast premiere took place on 4 Dec 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 24 Dec 1941 Var 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 DV review, which lists the film's preview running time as 71 minutes, erroneously identifies "Timothy Q. Mouse" as "Mickey Mouse." Although a 6 Dec 1941 LAT 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 16 Dec 1941 HCN 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 NYT 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 Sep 1955. They also appeared as "puppetronics" on the television series Dumbo's Circus , which had its premiere on 6 May 1985 and was broadcast on the Disney Channel for 120 episodes. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Binghamton Sun   1 Nov 1941.   
Boston Post   2 Nov 41   p. 3.
Box Office   4 Oct 1941.   
Cleveland Plain Dealer   22 Dec 1941.   
Daily Variety   1 Oct 1941.   
Daily Variety   8 Dec 1941.   
Film Daily   1 Oct 41   p. 4.
Hollywood Citizen-News   16 Dec 1941.   
Hollywood Reporter   31 Jul 41   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Aug 41   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Aug 41   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Sep 41   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Oct 41   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Oct 41   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Oct 41   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Oct 41   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Dec 41   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Dec 41   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   7 May 42   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Jan 44   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Jul 46   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Sep 47   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Aug 1955   p. 14.
Los Angeles Herald Express   23 Dec 1941.   
Los Angeles Times   6 Dec 1941.   
Los Angeles Times   8 Dec 1941.   
Los Angeles Times   15 Dec 1941.   
Life   8 Dec 1941.   
Motion Picture Daily   1 Octr 1941.   
Motion Picture Herald   22 Nov 1941.   
Motion Picture Herald   17 Jan 1942.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   4 Oct 41   p. 297.
Newsweek   27 Oct 1941.   
New York Times   24 Oct 41   p. 27.
New York Times   26 Oct 1941.   
PM (Journal)   24 Oct 41   p. 23.
Popular Mechanics   1 Jan 42   pp. 34-37, 189, 191
San Diego Tribune Sun   3 Dec 1941.   
The Seattle Daily Times   3 Dec 1941.   
The Sun (NY)   21 Oct 1941.   
Variety   28 May 1941.   
Variety   1 Oct 41   p. 9.
Variety   24 Dec 1941.   

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