Dumbo the Flying Elephant is a carousel-style ride located in Fantasyland at five Disney parks around the world and located in Gardens of Imagination at Shanghai Disneyland. The original attraction opened at Disneyland on August 16, 1955, almost exactly one month after the park opened. All other versions of the attraction were opening day attractions at their respective parks.
Based on the character from the 1941 animated feature, the sixteen ride vehicles are each shaped like Dumbo and are mounted on articulated armatures connected to a rotating hub. The passengers ride in the "Dumbos" and can maneuver them up and down with a joystick which operates a hydraulic ram. The ride itself rotates counterclockwise at a constant rate.
A figure of Timothy Q. Mouse rides atop the central hub. The figure originally held a training whip and stood on a mirrored disco ball. With the exception of Tokyo Disneyland, he currently stands on a hot air balloon and holds the "magic feather". Starting in 2012, Magic Kingdom's Timothy currently spins with his magic feather on top of the attraction's marquee.
Each of the parks, with the exception of Disneyland Paris, have an extra Dumbo vehicle located outside of the attraction to be used by guests for better photo opportunities. Tokyo Disneyland's photo spot differs from its three counterparts; the character is shown in his regular outfit from the original film, with a pink saddle blanket and Timothy Mouse in his hat.
The attraction was originally built with ten ride vehicles which were intended to represent not the "one and only" Dumbo, but the alcohol-induced "pink elephants" scene from the film. In fact, the working title of the attraction was "10 Pink Elephants On Parade" and the elephants were painted pink on installation. Walt Disney changed his mind, realizing he may look like he was encouraging kids to drink alcohol, and had the elephants painted grey to look like Dumbo.
A circa 1915 band organ occasionally provides background music. This powerful instrument is capable of being heard more than a mile away. Naturally, it is operated at only a fraction of its potential.
The ride was scheduled to be one of Disneyland's opening-day attractions, but instead opened a month after the park's grand opening, due to flawed prototypes. For the first two years, the hub of the original Dumbo ride lacked the ball with the Timothy Mouse figure. Also, the original Dumbos has hinged ears that were supposed to flap, but failed, due to a number of mechanical problems. (Contrary to this, an original Dumbo vehicle with functioning 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.) So, the ears remained stationary until sometime between 1963 and 1964, when new Dumbos were given casts with no hinges for movement. The new vehicles also featured eyes with big black pupils instead of small black pupils with blue irises. (This lasted until 1998, when it was switched back to the former blue-iris design.)
During his 1957 visit to Disneyland, Former United States President Harry S. Truman, a Democrat, refused to ride on Dumbo the Flying Elephant, due to the elephant being a Republican symbol.
During the 1970s, the attraction was planned to be expanded and relocated to a new "Dumbo's Circusland" and was displayed in "Disneyland Presents a Preview of Coming Attractions", but was cancelled. Elements of this concept would be repurposed for Magic Kingdom's Storybook Circus. The attraction itself was given another update around April 1978, with the ride's center having a slight redesign, and the color of the elephants' clothing changing to a matching pale 3-color palette.
In 1983, as part of Fantasyland's major remodeling, the ride was moved to where Skull Rock used to be, allowing Dumbo's original location to be a shortcut to Frontierland. It was completely rebuilt with a kinetic toymaker-like design, although there were still ten elephants and Timothy still held the whip. In a featurette of the ride, as shown on the DVD release of the film's 70th anniversary, the head Disney Imagineer, Tony Baxter, even noted that the new ride looked like one of Geppetto's inventions.
In 1990, the attraction was updated with the sixteen vehicles originally intended for installation at Disneyland Paris after an incident during which a bracket support broke and injured the guests on board. The elephants' clothing also changed once again, this time to a full 8-color rainbow palette.
During the 1992 Disneyana convention, one of the original ride vehicles sold for US$16,000. Like other remaining 1955 attractions, one of Disneyland's Dumbos was painted gold in honor of the park's fiftieth anniversary in 2005. At the same time, Timothy's magic feather was replaced by the whip.
Magic Kingdom's original 1971 version of this attraction was designed differently than its 1955 Disneyland counterpart. On opening day, it not only soft-opened without Timothy and his disco ball, but the elephants created for this version oddly wore no hats. The test vehicles were eventually re-updated shortly afterwards with the elephants now wearing hats, like the Disneyland version, while Timothy and his ball were eventually added around 1972.
The ride was later updated with the sixteen vehicles and the new ride mechanism in 1993. However, it did not include a central water feature like its Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland counterparts; the utilidors running directly below the attraction prevented the installation of water pipes necessary for the water features to operate. Also for this version, as well as its Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland counterparts, Timothy's hot air balloon had red and white stripes, rather than rainbow stripes for the Disneyland version. In 1997, the attraction's queue was covered to provide shade and decorated with topiaries.
Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland underwent a large expansion and renovation that began in 2011. "The New Fantasyland will be constructed in phases with most new experiences open by 2013." Mickey's Toontown Fair closed permanently in February 2011 in order to make way for the expansion. Some elements of Mickey's Toontown Fair were demolished and others were re-themed to a new Storybook Circus area. An expanded Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride was built in this new location with an interactive queue.
Storybook Circus began soft openings on March 12, 2012, including one of the new Dumbo carousels. The southern end of Storybook Circus had a delayed opening on March 21, 2012. During the soft openings, it was revealed that the new attraction received the water features that have been included with the attraction in many other Disney Parks around the world. However, unlike the other versions, an additional effect occurs at night when the fountain lights change colors, an effect that was picked up from the Disneyland version, but with more colors. The Dumbo vehicles, which are richly detailed and vibrantly colored, now spin clockwise from the original version, which was reconstructed next to the new one, that soft-opened on June 22. The two rides therefore counter-rotate from each other. The attraction also features a new soundtrack and artwork panels at the bottom of the carousels that tell the story of Dumbo, like the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel attraction. However, a new central hub was introduced that lacks the hot air balloon with Timothy Mouse and the magic feather. This figure has been moved to above the attraction's marquee. A signature feature of this version is an indoor queue themed to the big top from the film. Inside, guests receive ticket-themed pagers where they can wait until prompted, and small children can play in the play area themed to Dumbo's fire rescue stunt scene.
Tokyo Disneyland's Dumbo attraction (with its design matching Magic Kingdom's 1971 version) is the only version, compared to California and Florida, to feature its original version of the ride with ten flying elephants and Timothy holding a whip atop a spinning disco ball. The only change was a slightly modified color palette around 1998.
At Disneyland Paris, Dumbo the Flying Elephant can be found in Fantasyland. The attraction is an identical double of the attractions of the same name at the other Disney Parks, with its color palette matching closer to Florida's 1993 version of the ride.
Unlike the other Disney parks, this instalment of the ride is the only version that is not be placed at the park's Fantasyland and to appear in front of the castle. Instead, it is placed at Gardens of Imagination and features a dome which houses the attraction.