Cautions: drunkenness, mild violence, mild ethical confusion, and some minced oaths, slang and name calling
Dumbo’s message of the hidden potential of the misfit may feel a little less profound since it became the universal kids’ movie moral, but its melodramatic tale of a little animal terrorized by unfeeling humans, separated from his mother, and disowned by the rest of his species, restores the Disney movie’s indispensable one-of-a-kind-ness. Dumbo is not without its flaws, but it makes for good, classic entertainment for both children and adults who know better than to laugh at drunkenness or believe in magical feathers.
1941 | Ben Sharpsteen | 64 min Watch Trailer
Dumbo and his adult mouse friend are accidentally intoxicated. This scene is initially played in a comical fashion, with slurring and staggering, but transitions to hallucinations that are alarming and unpleasant to the characters (and possibly to sensitive younger viewers).
Negatively-portrayed clowns inflict pain on one another and on Dumbo, for laughs. Less negatively-portrayed is Dumbo’s revenge at the end, when he strafes his former enemies with peanuts.
Dumbo’s mother goes after humans who harass him. She spanks one of them and throws bales of hay at others. This scene may be intense for some young children.
Some Ethical Confusion
Dumbo’s friend encourages him to try flying by giving him a “magic” feather. Later, he confesses that it was “just a gag”.
Some Minced Oaths, Slang and Name Calling
overstuffed hay bags
All of the major characters in Dumbo are animals, portrayed with human emotions. None of the human characters are positively portrayed, but Dumbo’s primary antagonists are fellow animals, and the moral of the story is kindness toward the social outcast, rather than specifically human kindness toward animals.
In one scene, a character stands behind a makeshift pulpit and is mockingly addressed as “Reverend” (despite never using religious language) while he speaks about the “cold, cruel, heartless world”s treatment of Dumbo - a possible influence from the social gospel movement.
There are a couple of racial caricature segments in the film. The more subtle one involves circus workers (who happen to all be black) singing a song that includes lines about how happy they are to work all the time, how they never learned to read, and how they are irresponsible with money, etc. This song is not a focal point in the movie, however. A flock of crows is more obviously caricatured after the black pop culture of the day, though not necessarily in a demeaning way.
The drunken vision sequence involves brief, non-sensual images of elephants belly dancing.