You wanna make the elephant fly, don't ya?...Use the magic feather! Catch on?
―Dandy Crow to Timothy Q. Mouse[src]

Jim “Dandy” Crow, Fats, Deacon, Dopey, and Specks are supporting characters in Disney’s 1941 animated feature film, Dumbo. They are a flock of wisecracking crows who find amusement in clever wordplay and in-jokes. Despite their penchant for heckling, the crows sympathize with the downtrodden. Upon meeting Timothy Q. Mouse and Dumbo, the crows taunt the prospect of a flying elephant, but turn a heel after learning Dumbo’s troubled past. They then devote themselves to teaching Dumbo how to fly, becoming his mentors and surrogate father figures.

Background

Jim Crow (also known as Dandy Crow) is the classy, cigar-smoking leader of the flock. Donning his signature vest, spats, and derby hat, Jim carries himself with a self-assured flair. He has a commanding presence and does most of the talking amongst the group. He is intelligent, being learned in the field of psychology. He is also implied to be well-traveled, as "When I See an Elephant Fly" alludes to a colorful history.

Fats gets his name from his rotund appearance. Donning an open-front red vest and blue hat, Fats speaks in a baritone and has a jolly deposition. He is not particularly smart, as he was unsure as to whether or not dead people can snore. He tends to hold his belly when he laughs.

Deacon gets his name from his attire, which resembles that of a church deacon. He is refined and subdued, and the tallest of the crows. Deacon 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 straw-hat with a missing top, which is held up by his beak (the hat typically obscures his eyes). Dopey’s often-unorthodox posture suggests that he is the most eccentric of the group.

Specks is the shortest of the crows, named for his oversized, pink-lensed glasses. Additionally, he wears a red sweater and a blue cap. Specks’s small size makes him the frequent butt of the crows’ jokes. He has a childlike deposition and a high-pitched voice. He is zestful and often looks to the other crows to cure his curiosity, as a child would to their elders.

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 characters. 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][4]

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] Kimball was also adamant that the crows were differentiated characters with unique personalities.[1]

Voice

The Hall Johnson Choir, an all-black gospel group based in Los Angeles, provided both the speaking and singing 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. Kimball was responsible for Edwards’s casting, attributing the choice in part due to Edwards's ability to imitate musical instruments.[1] Kimball stated, “Cliff Edwards doing the voice of Jim Crow really made the whole sequence, because he was quite adept at doing kazoo solos on his old records, and he could vocally imitate other instruments,”. The casting of Edwards and the Hall Johnston Choir inspired Kimball when designing the crows and establishing their personalities. Kimball recalled, “The voices we used for the other crows were from the Hall Johnson Choir, a group from a well-known black church in Los Angeles. That’s why the development and differentiation of the characters really began on the night that we started recording. After listening to the voices, I decided that maybe the squeaky, high voice might be the little crow with the kid’s cap and pink glasses, and Jim Crow would be the big, dominating boss crow with the derby. Later, I began to graphically redesign the characters to make them emphatically different types.”[5]

Appearances

Dumbo

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

The crows first appear in the woods where they spot Dumbo and Timothy sleeping in their tree. Fats, Deacon, Dopey, and Specks are utterly confused at the sight, and so their leader, Jim Crow, flies down to investigate. Jim 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.

The Crows helping teach Dumbo how to fly.

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

The Crows in House of Mouse.

In the animated series, the crows appeared as recurring guests. They were most frequently seen flying with Dumbo near the club’s screen in crowd shots.

Their most notable role is in the episode "Donald Wants to Fly", where Donald Duck spends the show trying to fly. After taking a failing a lesson from Dumbo and Timothy, Jim (voiced here by Kevin Michael Richardson) jokes with the other crows that he's seen just about everything fly, including a dragon (Pete from Pete's Dragon) and a horse (Pegasus from Hercules), but doubts that he would ever see Donald fly.

Other appearances

The crows make a cameo appearance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. They are seen as employees of the Ink and Pink Club, performing the instrumentation for Jessica Rabbit's song "Why Don't You Do Right?". Jim, 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, Timothy and Casey Jones.

In Ralph Breaks the Internet, a screenshot depicting the crows with Dumbo can be seen around the Sorcerer Hat at the Disney Animation pavilion in Oh My Disney.

Video games

Nurie Daisuki! Dumbo no Waku Waku Circus!

The crows appear in the Japanese game adaptation of the movie. Dumbo and Timothy encounter the flock atop a tree in a grasslands region. Interacting with each of the crows triggers different animation; Dandy smokes his cigar, Dopey tips his hat, Deacon flies around, Fats stomps the branch thus causing the tree to rumble, and Specks flaps his wings. The crows also lead a gameplay segment, in which they teach Dumbo how to fly by having the player match shapes.

Jim Dandy Crow Pigg Life 2.png

Pigg Life

In a limited time Dumbo event for the online Japanese game Pigg Life, Dandy Crow appeared alongside Dumbo, Timothy, Mrs. Jumbo, Mr. Stork, and the Pink Elephants as a garden figurine that can be placed throughout the map. He is depicted as perched atop a circus podium while holding the magic feather.

Disney Parks

Disneyland

Dandy Crow and Timothy Q. Mouse statuette at The Disney Gallery at Tokyo Disneyland

In the 2015 rendition of World of Color at Disney California Adventure, the crows briefly appear alongside Dumbo during the segment celebrating the history of Disney’s animated films.

Tokyo Disney Resort

An exhibit at the The Disney Gallery at Tokyo Disneyland’s World Bazaar featured statuettes of various Disney characters, including Jim/Dandy and Timothy.

During Tokyo Disneyland’s Easter celebrations, an Easter egg inspired by Jim/Dandy can be found in the Baby Mine Baby Boutique beside a statue of Mr. Stork.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

The crows are alluded to in the various iterations of the carousel-style attraction in Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Shanghai Disneyland. Timothy, who appears at the top of the ride, is seen holding the crows’ magic feather, thus “granting” the Dumbo vehicles the power to fly. The black feather motif also appears in other aspects of the attraction, such as the marquee.

Gallery

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Trivia

  • None of the crows' names were given in the film. Their names were instead confirmed by ancillary material such as model sheets, the film’s scripts, and publicity material leading up to the movie’s release.
    • On some model sheets, Specks is referred to as "Little Guy".
    • Jim's name was changed to "Dandy Crow" at some point in the 1950s in an attempt to avoid controversy.[6][7] However, the name “Jim Crow” continues to be used today.
      • The name “Dandy” is derived from the phrase “Jim-dandy”, which refers to something that is of superior quality or excellent.
    • Dopey shares his name with the youngest of the seven dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  • The crows' developed relationship with Dumbo would later inspire an identical relationship in The Jungle Book, between 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’s crow characters have been criticized several years after the film's release as racist African-American stereotypes; specifically in regards to the naming of “Jim Crow”, which shares the name of the infamous Jim Crow laws. According to animator Floyd Norman, the naming of Jim Crow was, “Disney taking a cartoony jab at the oppressive South”.[8] Amidst the controversy, 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. Defenders have also lauded the crows as protagonistic, being sympathetic to Dumbo's tribulations, and ultimately teaching the baby elephant how to fly.
  • The movie opens with white storks flying, and closes with the crows flying in a similar V formation, thus closing the circle.
  • When they are laughing after “When I See an Elephant Fly”, Jim’s clothes are incorrectly colored as brown and purple.
  • The crows do not appear in Tim Burton’s live-action reimagining Dumbo, but they are alluded to.
    • The crows’ act of giving Dumbo a feather and teaching him to fly are transferred to the characters Millie and Joe Farrier.
      • The feather that Millie and Joe provide is black, a further nod to the crows.
    • When introducing Dumbo, the ringmaster of the Dreamland amusement park barks, “You’ve seen a horsefly, you’ve seen a dragonfly, you’ve even seen a housefly, but you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen an elephant fly!” This is a nod to the crows’ banter and their trademark song, “When I See An Elephant Fly”.
    • A big band version of “When I See An Elephant Fly” is played during the film’s end credits.

References


v - e - d
Dumbo Logo.png
Media
Films: DumboDumbo II (cancelled) • Dumbo (2019 film)Video

Television: Mickey Mouse ClubDumbo's CircusHouse of Mouse
Music: DumboDumbo (2019 soundtrack)
Books: Disney's Wonderful World of ReadingDumbo's CircusThe Art and Making of Dumbo
Video Games: Disney's Villains' RevengeDisney Emoji Blitz

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 Q. MouseMrs. JumboCircus ElephantsRingmasterMr. StorkCasey JuniorPink ElephantsThe CrowsCircus AnimalsClowns

Dumbo's Circus: LionelFair DinkumQ.T.BarnabyLilliSebastianFlip & FlapLittle Bo PeepLittle Red Riding HoodBig Bad Wolf
Deleted: Penny • Godfry • Dot • Claude and Lolly
Remake: Holt FarrierV.A. VandevereColette MarchantMilly FarrierMax MediciJoe FarrierMiss AtlantisRongoPuckPramesh SinghIvan the WonderfulCatherine the GreaterNeils SkelligJ. Griffin RemingtonRufus Sorghum

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
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