Dumbo (1941)

Film and Plot Synopsis

“Dumbo,” released by Walt Disney Productions in 1941, remains one of the most beloved animated classics of all time. Directed by Ben Sharpsteen and inspired by the novel by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl, this heartwarming tale follows the journey of a young elephant with oversized ears as he discovers the power of self-belief and the importance of friendship. Set in the colorful world of the circus during the Great Depression, “Dumbo” weaves together themes of resilience, acceptance, and the triumph of the underdog.

‘Dumbo’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Dumbo (1941)The film opens with storks delivering baby animals to their respective mothers, but one baby elephant’s delivery does not go as planned. Mrs. Jumbo (Verna Felton), a gentle elephant in the care of the Ringmaster of the Medici Brothers Circus, which is spending the off-season in Florida, eagerly awaits her baby’s arrival. When he is finally delivered, the other elephants are surprised and amused by his unusually large ears. Mrs. Jumbo affectionately names him Jumbo Jr. Mrs. Jumbo shows her baby great care and love, defending him from teasing by other elephants.

Despite Mrs. Jumbo’s love for her son, the other elephants mockingly nickname him “Dumbo,” a cruel play on his name and his perceived deformity. Dumbo becomes the subject of ridicule among both the animals and the circus performers, including the crows who sing “When I See an Elephant Fly,” a catchy tune that highlights Dumbo’s perceived limitations.

One night, while Dumbo is trying to reach a bucket of water for his mother, he accidentally causes a commotion that leads to chaos in the circus. Mrs. Jumbo spanks the leader of a group of rowdy boys after they start to bully Dumbo and his ears. She also throws hay bales at them. The circus staff remove Dumbo from the pen. Mrs. Jumbo responds by flying into a rage, eventually dousing the ringmaster in a water tub. Mrs. Jumbo is labeled a “mad elephant” and is locked away in a separate cage, leaving Dumbo alone and ostracized by the other animals.

Timothy Q. Mouse (Edward Brophy), a kind-hearted and resourceful circus mouse, takes pity on Dumbo and becomes his loyal friend and mentor. Timothy is determined to help Dumbo reunite with his mother and prove to the world that Dumbo’s ears are not a handicap but a gift. Timothy is determined to make Dumbo one of the stars of the circus.

All we gotta do is build an act. Make ya a star. A headliner! Dumbo the Gr-eat! Timothy Q. Mouse (Edward Brophy)

Timothy and Dumbo embark on a series of misadventures, including two disastrous attempts at being the capping elephant on a pyramid of elephants and becoming a circus clown. However, they eventually stumble upon the secret to Dumbo’s extraordinary talent – his ability to fly. One night, Timothy and Dumbo drink from a vat of water that some of the circus clowns accidentally poured champagne into. As a result, the two friends become drunk and dream of pink elephants. They awake to find themselves in a high tree with the only conclusion of how they got there is that Dumbo flew. Some local black crows (Hall Johnson, James Baskett, Nick Stewart, and Jim Carmichael) help Timothy with convincing Dumbo that he can fly by giving him a “magic feather.” With the help of the feather, Dumbo soars gracefully through the air and instills confidence in Dumbo to perform for the circus.

Once back at the circus, Dumbo jumps off the high platform during the clowns’ fire act. Accompanied by Timothy, Dumbo prepares to fly. Unfortunately, Dumbo drops the feather and begins to panic as he plunges towards the ground. Timothy assures Dumbo that the feather was only a psychological aid. With the new information, Dumbo successfully flies around the big top to the absolute delight of the audience. He grabs a trunkful of peanuts and throws them to the other elephants. After the show, Dumbo gains fame and fortune, and Timothy becomes his new manager and signs him to a Hollywood contract. Mrs. Jumbo is freed, and she and Dumbo are given a private coach on the train. As the train travels away, the crows wave goodbye to their friends. In the end, Dumbo’s courage and determination earn him the respect and admiration of everyone in the circus. The film concludes with Dumbo taking flight once again, this time with the support and encouragement of his newfound family.

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Our Rating

RKO Radio Pictures released Dumbo on October 31, 1941. Ben Sharpsteen directed the film starring Sterling Holloway, Edward Brophy, and Herman Bing.

User Rating: 2.88 ( 3 votes)
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