The main character is Jumbo Jr., who is cruelly nicknamed Dumbo. He is ridiculed for his big ears, but in fact he is capable of flying by using them as wings. Throughout some of the film, his only true friend aside from his mother is Timothy Mouse, parodying the stereotypical animosity between mice and elephants.
Despite the advent of World War II, Dumbo was still the most financially successful Disney film of the 1940's. Completed in fall 1941, Disney's distributer RKO Radio Pictures initially balked at the film's 64 minute length and wanted Disney to either make it longer, edit it down to a short subject length, or allow them to release it as a B-movie. Disney refused all three options, and RKO reluctantly issued Dumbo, unaltered, as an A-film.
After its October 23, 1941 release, Dumbo proved to be a financial miracle compared to other Disney movies. The film cost $813,000 to produce, half the cost of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and less than a third of the cost of Pinocchio. Dumbo eventually grossed $1.6 million during its original release; it and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were the only two pre-1943 Disney features to turn a profit.
This film was one of the first of Disney's animated films to be broadcast, albeit severely edited, on television as part of Disney's anthology series. The film then received another distinction of note in 1981, when it was the first of Disney's animated films to be released on home video.
Dumbo, sculpted by Kent Melton, made his Walt Disney Classics Collection debut in 1995. Chosen as the Walt Disney Collectors Society membership gift sculpture for that year, he was available from January 1st thru December 31st, 1995. The sculpture's title defined this piece perfectly, "simply adorable" and still remains my favorite piece to this day in the collection.
It wasn't until 2003 that a full scene (with opening title) was released from this film. Up until that time, only stand alone releases (Members Only, Special Event, Open Edition and WDAC Convention) were made available. A complete WDCC listing from this film can be seen in the Dumbo Image Gallery section of the website.
- 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.
- Initially Walt Disney was uninterested in making this movie. To get him interested, story men Joe Grant and Dick Huemer wrote up the film as installments which they left on Walt's desk every morning. Finally, he ran into the story department saying, "This is great! What happens next?"
- The first Disney movie for Sterling Holloway (the Stork) and Verna Felton (the Elephant Matriarch). Both would become regulars in Disney animated films for the next thirty-five years.
- According to some sources this was Walt Disney's favorite film made by his studios.
- During production there was a long and bitter animators strike, in which half of the studio's staff walked out. Some of the strikers are caricatured as the clowns who go to "hit the big boss for a raise".
- While trying to comfort Dumbo, Timothy says: "Lots of people with big ears are famous!". That's a joke with Walt Disney himself, who did have big ears. The line also refers to Clark Gable, renowned for his charming looks and large ears.
- Mrs Jumbo (Dumbo's mother) only speaks once when she says Dumbo's original name.
- The name of the circus (seen on a sign as the train leaves the winter headquarters) is WDP Circus (Walt Disney Productions).
- When the drunken Timothy is sliding down the staircase-shaped bubble Dumbo has blown, his laugh is actually that of Mickey Mouse.
- When Jim Crow plucks the "magic" feather off of the little crow's tail, the crow's yell is actually a snippet of dialogue from The Reluctant Dragon (1941). The full line is the dragon saying "Well, that's splendid!"
Below is the 1941 trailer for Dumbo, courtesy of YouTube.com:
Dumbo is ©Disney