Dumbo the Flying Elephant is an aerial carousel-style ride that may be found in Fantasyland at six Disney parks worldwide. It is inspired by the 1941 film Dumbo. The original ride debuted on August 16, 1955, at Disneyland. The four other variants of the attraction debuted on opening day at their respective parks. It is the only attraction found at all six Disney castle parks throughout the world.
One elephant from the attraction is in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., where it was donated in 2005 to commemorate Disneyland’s 50th anniversary.
The attraction’s original concept included ten ride vehicles meant to symbolize not the “one and only” Dumbo, but the alcohol-induced “pink elephants” scene from the film. Arrow Development created the display at Disneyland.
The coaster was supposed to be one of Disneyland’s opening-day attractions, but it debuted a month later, due to poor prototypes.
The hub of the original Dumbo ride was missing the ball with the Timothy Mouse figure for the first two years. In addition, the original Dumbos had movable ears that were designed to flap but did not due to a variety of technical issues. (However, an original Dumbo vehicle with flapping ears was featured in a scene during the first-season opening song to Wednesday’s “Anything Can Happen Day” of the original Mickey Mouse Club series.) As a result, the ears stayed immovable until around 1963 or 1964, when new Dumbos were given castings with no hinges for movement. In addition, the new vehicles had eyes with large black pupils rather than little black pupils with blue irises. This remained until 1998, when it was replaced with the previous blue-iris design.
Former US President Harry S. Truman graciously denied a ride on Dumbo the Flying Elephant during his 1957 visit to Disneyland because the elephant is a Republican icon.
The attraction was supposed to be extended and renamed “Dumbo’s Circusland” during the 1970s and was included in “Disneyland Presents a Preview of Coming Attractions,” but it was cancelled. Around April 1978, the ride’s center was somewhat redesigned, and the elephants’ apparel was changed to a matched pale 3-color palette.
The ride was relocated to where Skull Rock used to be as part of Fantasyland’s big makeover in 1983, allowing Dumbo’s previous position to serve as a shortcut to Frontierland. Although 10 elephants were still utilized and Timothy still handled the whip, it was fully redesigned with a kinetic toymaker-like design. The top Disney imagineer, Tony Baxter, even stated in a featurette of the ride, which was presented on the DVD release of the film’s 70th anniversary, that the new ride looked like one of Geppetto’s creations.
After an incident in which a bracket support broke, the attraction was renovated in 1990 with the 16 rainbow-colored vehicles (and Timothy’s magic feather) originally scheduled for installation at Disneyland Paris. For the third time, the elephants’ apparel was modified to a full 8-color rainbow palette.
One of the original ride vehicles sold for $16,000 during the 1992 Disneyana convention. One of Disneyland’s Dumbos, like other remaining 1955 attractions, was painted gold in 2005 to commemorate the park’s 50th anniversary. Timothy’s magical feather was replaced by the whip at the same time.
A circa 1915 band organ provides periodic background music for the ride at Disneyland. Because this powerful instrument may be heard from a mile away, it is rarely used.
The ride’s line was increased in 2018 and is now shaded by additional structures. Additionally, riders are now paired with certain Dumbo elephants. The line is now fully wheelchair accessible.
Next Point of Interest: Snow White’s Enchanted Wish