Mrs Jumbo is the happiest circus elephant in the world when a stork delivers her a much-wanted baby elephant. She names her baby Jumbo Junior. The other elephants are amazed by this adorable bundle of joy – until he sneezes and unfolds a set of enormous ears. The other elephants laugh at him for being a ‘freak’ and call him Dumbo. Mrs Jumbo doesn’t care and loves her baby just the way he is.
Unfortunately, the elephants aren’t the only ones who ridicule Dumbo for being different. When children in the crowd tease Dumbo, Mrs Jumbo wants to defend her baby and punish the bullies. She loses her temper and is declared a dangerous, mad elephant. As a result, Mrs Jumbo is separated from Dumbo and locked in a cage. This leaves poor Dumbo desperate and alone.
Timothy the Mouse (voiced by Edward Brophy) sees that everyone is behaving unfairly and cruelly towards Dumbo. He’s determined to show Dumbo that his big ears shouldn’t stop him from finding success and acceptance. Indeed, Dumbo’s ears turn out to be a blessing when he becomes the only elephant in the world that can fly.
Disney classic; family musical; being different; bullying and discrimination; fighting injustice and intolerance; love and friendship
Dumbo has some emotional and physical violence. For example:
- The other elephants are mean and cruel to Dumbo. They laugh at him, call him a ‘freak’ and exclude him.
- When children make fun of Dumbo’s big ears, his mother gets defensive. She snatches a boy and smacks his bottom with her trunk. Circus workers hit her with whips, and she throws the circus director into a water trough. She’s put in chains and locked in a cage.
There are no sexual references in Dumbo.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Dumbo shows some use of substances. For example:
- After a successful show, the clown artists have celebratory drinks and end up drunk.
- The clowns throw a bottle of champagne into a water trough. Unaware, Dumbo and Timothy drink from the trough. They get so drunk that they hallucinate. The next day, they can’t seem to remember the night before, and they have hangovers.
- Dumbo and Timothy encounter a flock of crows, and the leader of the gang smokes a cigar.
Nudity and sexual activity
There’s no nudity and sexual activity in Dumbo.
There’s no product placement in Dumbo.
There’s no coarse language in Dumbo.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Dumbo is one of Disney’s early animated classics, first released in the US in 1941 and Australia in 1942. Its main themes of bullying, prejudice and discrimination are as relevant now as they were in the 1940s.
The movie is often quite sad, and there are some emotionally intense and heartbreaking scenes that might really upset young and/or sensitive viewers. This is why it’s unsuitable for children under 5 years, and we recommend parental guidance for children aged 5-7 years.
Dumbo also depicts characters in racially or culturally stereotypical and negative ways. For example, a flock of black crows speaks in stereotypical African-American slang. You could use these scenes as opportunities to talk about whether things have changed since the 1940s.
These are the main messages from Dumbo:
- Difference doesn’t justify discrimination.
- Believe in yourself and appreciate the things that make you unique.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include unconditional love, friendship, positivity, courage, resilience and education.
Dumbo could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like ignorance and intolerance. For example, Dumbo is excluded and bullied just for being different, which causes him and his mother a lot of pain and distress.