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Jim Crow, Fats, Deacon, Dopey, and Specks are supporting characters in Disney's 1941 film, Dumbo. A flock of boisterous crows, they initially heckle Timothy and Dumbo over the prospect of a flying elephant. Upon hearing Dumbo's story, however, the crows prove themselves to be warm-hearted and friendly.

They act as father figures to Dumbo, and are responsible for teaching him how to fly. As a group, they have a familial camaraderie, referring to themselves (and others close to them) as "brothers".

Background

Jim Crow (voiced by Cliff Edwards) acts as the leader of the flock. With his trademark cigar, spats and derby hat, Jim carries himself with a slick, self-assured and stylish flair. He has a commanding presence and does most of the talking amongst the group.

Fats gets his name from his rotund appearance. Donning an open-front red vest and blue hat, Fats has a deep, baritone voice and a jolly deposition.

The refined Deacon gets his name from his attire, which resembles that of a church deacon. He is the tallest of the crows and is often seen with his wings firmly tucked behind his back.

Dopey lives up to his namesake with his sloppy posture and clothing—his signature ensemble includes a yellow hat with a missing top, which is held up by Dopey's beak.

The zestfully youthful Specks is the shortest of the crows, named for his oversized, pink-lensed glasses. His small size makes him the frequent butt of the jokes.

Development

In the original story treatment for Dumbo by Joe Grant and Dick Huemer featured a "large, rusty-looking crow" that Dumbo and Timothy encountered in their adventure.[1] This was later expanded to a flock of crows. Ward Kimball, one of Disney's most illustrious animators, supervised the crows. As was the case with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, live-action models were used to assist in animating the crows. In this case, Freddy and Eugene Jackson (also known as the "Jackson Brothers") were called into the studio. The Jacksons were a song-and-dance team, famous for their vaudeville and film work. They provided Kimball with various routines that would be used during the "When I See an Elephant Fly" sequence.[2][3]

The personalities and mannerisms of the crows—specifically their fast-paced, back and fourth dialogue—were inspired by the backchat found in the band records of African Americans artists of the time, such as Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong.[3] The crows were also inspired by African Americans on a deeper level; according to animation historian, John Canemaker, the crows sympathize with Dumbo's plight, as they are also an alienated group, ostracized because of their physical being.[3] As such, the Hall Johnson Choir, an all-black group, provided the voices for Fats, Deacon, Dopey, and Specks. Jim, the leader of the crows, was voiced by Cliff Edwards, who made a name for himself in the Disney family for voicing Jiminy Cricket in 1940's Pinocchio—another character animated by Kimball. According to Kimball, part of the casting was Edwards's ability to imitate musical instruments. Kimball was also adamant that the crows were differentiated characters with unique personalities. In the case of Jim, Kimball envisioned the character as "the big, dominating boss crow with a derby".[1]

Appearances

Dumbo

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The Crows singing "When I See an Elephant Fly".

The crows first appear in the woods where they spot Dumbo and Timothy sleeping in a tree. Fats, Deacon, Dopey, and Specks are utterly confused at the sight, and so their leader, Jim Crow, flies down to investigate. Jim Crow wakes up Timothy with his smoking. The minute Timothy mentions "pink elephants", Jim and the crows fall into a knowing fit of laughter. Timothy remains too dazed to realize his predicament, until Jim notes that the former and an elephant are in a tree. Upon noticing, Timothy and Dumbo plummet into a pond, garnering more laughs from the crows. As Timothy, thinking out loud, wonders how they ended up in the tree, Jim jokingly suggests they flew. After a moment of thought, Timothy believes it and deduces that Dumbo used his giant ears to fly. The crows laugh at Timothy's wild theory, and start to sing "When I See an Elephant Fly" as a mock. Furious with the crows' heckling, Timothy rebukes their behavior. He shares Dumbo's background with the crows, who are immediately effected and moved to tears.

Ashamed of their behavior, Jim tries to make amends and offers to help Dumbo fly. Through the use of psychological trickery and a feather from Specks, Jim grants Timothy a "magic feather", which they claim will make Dumbo fly. In reality, it is merely a token to encourage and increase Dumbo's confidence. The crows take Dumbo to a nearby cliff, where he attempts to take off. After the dust clears, Timothy finds that Dumbo is actually flying, while the crows fly beside them and excitedly proclaim that they've seen everything—thus, singing a reprise of their song, "When I See an Elephant Fly". The crows see Dumbo back to the circus and openly anticipate the audiences' reaction to a flying elephant.

Afterwards, Dumbo's ability to fly makes him a national icon. His fame and fortune (headed by his manager, Timothy) allows for the release of his mother, Mrs. Jumbo. While preparing to ride off on Casey Junior with his mother, Dumbo takes flight with the crows during a final reprise of "When I See an Elephant Fly". Once Dumbo and Mrs. Jumbo are reunited, the two elephants wave goodbye to the crows. While seeing them off, Jim remarks that he never got Dumbo's autograph until Fats assures him that he himself got his autograph to which Jim joyfully replies to Dumbo: "Well, so long glamour boy!"

House of Mouse

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The Crows in House of Mouse.

In the animated series, the crows appeared as recurring guests, usually seen flying with Dumbo in crowd shots.

Their most notable role is in the episode "Donald Wants to Fly", where Donald Duck tries to fly. Upon seeing this, Jim (voiced here by Kevin Michael Richardson) jokes with the other crows that he's seen nearly everything fly, but he may never see Donald fly.

Other appearances

The crows make a cameo appearance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. They are seen playing the background music of Jessica Rabbit's song "Why Don't You Do Right?". Jim Crow, Deacon and Specks can also be spotted during the final scenes, hidden amongst the crowd of toons.

In the Mickey Mouse episode "New Shoes", the crows are seen riding Casey Junior along with Dumbo and Timothy.

Gallery

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Trivia

  • In the original novel, an owl named Professor Hoot was the one that taught Dumbo how to fly.
  • None of the crows' names were given in the film, though their names can be seen on model sheets used by the animators and in scripts.
    • Jim's name was changed to "Dandy Crow" in later years in attempt to avoid controversy. However, the name never caught on, and thus "Jim" remained as is.
  • Dopey shares his name with the youngest of the seven dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  • The crows' developed relationship with Dumbo from wise-cracking hecklers to supporting allies would later inspire an identical relationship in The Jungle Book, with the vultures and Mowgli. On the audio commentary for the DVD release of The Jungle Book, Richard Sherman compared the two, calling the concept "classic Disney".
  • Dumbo is often criticized as racist for the inclusion of the black crows as African-American caricatures; specifically the naming of Jim, which is a reference to the infamous Jim Crow laws. However, many critics, pundits and personalities reject these criticisms, noting that the majority of the crows are portrayed by African American actors (with the exception of Cliff Edwards) and their lead animator described them as being spoofs of many black entertainers at the time, with their clothes being based on 1930-40s fashion, such as Jim's derby hat and spats. The crows are sympathetic towards Dumbo's plight - it is in fact Timothy whom they mock with their song, for taking Jim's joke seriously, and there's no way they could have known about Dumbo's tragic history before Timothy's lecture.
  • When accepting her Disney Legends award in 2017, Whoopi Goldberg expressed her desire to see the crows appear in more merchandise by Disney.
  • The movie opens with white storks flying, and closes with the crows flying in a similar V formation, thus closing the circle.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Cliff Edwards, Ward Kimball, Jack Kinney, and the Crows". (January 14, 2010)
  2. Dumbo: Big Top Edition DVD commentary
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Taking Flight: The Making of Dumbo on the Dumbo Blu-ray and Digital release


v - e - d
Dumbo Logo
Media
Films and Television: DumboMickey Mouse ClubDumbo's CircusHouse of MouseDumbo (2019)Video

Video Games: Disney's Villains' RevengeDisney Emoji Blitz
Books: Big Golden BookClassic StorybookDisney's Wonderful World of ReadingDisney Read-AlongGolden Sound StoryLittle Golden BookDumbo's Circus

Disney Parks
Casey Jr. Circus TrainCasey Jr. Splash 'n' Soak StationDisney Animation BuildingDumbo the Flying ElephantGames of the Boardwalk

Entertainment: AnimagiqueFantasmic!Once Upon a Mouse
Restaurants: Timothy's Treats
Shops: Casey Jr. Trinket Train
Parades: Disney's Dreams On Parade: Moving OnFlights of Fantasy ParadeFestival of Fantasy ParadeHappiness is Here ParadeJubilation!Main Street Electrical ParadeMickey's Storybook ExpressThe Wonderful World of Disney Parade (The Float)
Fireworks: Celebrate the MagicDisneyland ForeverHappily Ever AfterMagicalOnce Upon a TimeRemember... Dreams Come TrueWonderful World of Animation
Halloween: Happy Hallowishes

Characters
Original: DumboTimothy MouseMrs. JumboCircus ElephantsRingmasterMr. StorkCasey JuniorPink ElephantsThe CrowsCircus AnimalsClowns

Dumbo's Circus: LionelFair DinkumQ.T.BarnabyLilliSebastianFlip & Flap
Deleted: PennyGodfryDotClaude and Lolly
Remake: Holt FarrierV.A. VandevereColette MarchantMilly FarrierMax MediciJoe FarrierMiss AtlantisNeils Skellig

Songs
Look Out for Mr. StorkCasey, Jr.RoustaboutsBaby MineHit the Big BossPink Elephants on ParadeWhen I See an Elephant Fly
Locations
FloridaCircus
Objects
The Magic Feather

Start a Discussion Discussions about The Crows

  • Disney+ Editing Out The Crows From Dumbo?!

    28 messages
    • Cwf123 wrote:I never think of the crows as racist. They were rude to Timothy Mouse but kind to Dumbo. I know, but it's stupid that s...
    • WikiExpertXV wrote: Cwf123 wrote:I never think of the crows as racist. They were rude to Timothy Mouse but kind to Dumbo. I know, but it...
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