Yeah….and Elephants Can Fly!

When talking about associations to Disney parks, most people point out the same attractions. People usually point to dark ride attractions as the iconic attractions most associated with the parks, but in particular, a much simple attraction stands out more than any. If you were to show someone a picture of Dumbo the Flying Elephant, people would immediately tell you that is a Disney park. The ride is showcased in most commercials for the company, and despite the simple design, is considered one of the ridden attractions at any Disney theme park.

Dumbo is a tele-combat style ride which wasn’t anything new when it first debuted in 1955 at Disneyland. In fact, the tele-combat rides had been popular at most fairgrounds and carnivals, something Walt Disney didn’t want his park to be, however he saw great promise in the style. The fun thing about tele-combat rides is the vehicles can vary in shape and size. The most common look is to have an airplane or space craft style vehicle. Disney had a different plan for this new Disneyland though.

Before Disneyland opened, Walt had plans to develop the ride into what Imagineers called “Ten Pink Elephants on Parade.” The attraction was built with the ten vehicles all painted pink to go along with the hallucination scene from Dumbo the Flying Elephant. When Walt saw the installation, he decided he didn’t want families to ride an attraction based on a drunken hallucination. The pink dumbos were all repainted after this to the grey elephant color with a distinction in each being the color of hat and ribbon around the neck of each vehicle.

The attraction is also outfitted with an organ from 1915 which can be heard around Fantasyland, drawing guests near Dumbo the Flying Elephant. The organ’s volume can be adjusted and can get loud enough to be heard for a mile, of course, Disneyland cast members have never turned it up that loud, but do have the ability. Beyond the organ, Timothy Mouse, Dumbo’s friend from the film, can also be heard on the attraction as he sits atop the center with the magic feather.

The attraction was one of the opening day attractions and has been through a long history of changes and has had it’s own great stories over the years. In 1957, former president Harry Truman made a visit to the park and refused to ride Dumbo as he felt that pictures of him on the attraction would give mixed messages as he was a Democrat and the symbol of the elephant was Republican.

The original Dumbo vehicles were replaced in 1990 after a support beam broke off from the ride. The previous ten vehicles were upgraded to sixteen vehicles to help with long lines. These, like the previous vehicles, were all painted grey with different colored ribbons and hats until 2005 when one vehicle was painted gold for the fiftieth anniversary of Disneyland. The vehicle was painted gold to establish it as an original park attraction. The old flying elephant vehicles have since been displayed or put on auction. In 1992, one vehicle sold for $16,000. Another currently is on display at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.

When the Magic Kingdom opened in Florida in 1971, Dumbo was also an opening day attraction. Different from the rest of the Dumbo attractions around the world, the Magic Kingdom version lacked the water feature floating below all of the vehicles. This was due to the famous utilidors being right below the attraction and water would leak into the cast member hallways if it was there. (The Magic Kingdom is built on the 2nd level and the ground level is made up of hallways for cast members to go to certain areas of the park unseen. These hallways are called “utilidors.”) In 2009, plans for a renovated Fantasyland called for Dumbo to close down and move to a new area of the park. The new location now features water like the rest of the sister attractions worldwide.

Also during the new Fantasyland renovations, the Dumbo is doubling in size, making the wait times shorter and creating a different experience. The new Dumbo the Flying Elephant as well as the new part of the Fantasyland project called Storybook Circus has begun soft openings and will have its true opening in April 2012.

Have any great memories of Dumbo? Do you love the attraction or do you not care for it? Give us your thoughts and leave a comment. I hope you enjoyed this look into a Disney park original.

Josh Taylor
Follow me on Twitter: @kidredo

 

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Posted on March 29, 2012, in Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I love the Dumbo ride! I am so glad that they doubled the ride capacity…the line was always so long! However, I actually prefer the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. This is a similar ride, but the line is usually shorter. Both rides are more fun at night as it stays nice and cool!

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