Friday, June 01, 2018

Dumbo's Flying Elephants, May 1958

Sometimes I have wondered what sort of "Dumbo" ride the Imagineers might have cooked up if they hadn't hit upon the idea of the spinning, flying pachyderms at a fairly early point in Disneyland's development. I love the idea of a "Pink Elephants" dark ride, emulating that surreal, slightly scary, very amazing part of Walt Disney's fourth animated feature. 

BUT... "Dumbo's Flying Elephants" is what we've got, and it has been going strong for over 60 years; it's hard to argue with success. This first photo, from May of 1958, is a fun view looking down upon the Dumbo attraction from the Skyway. 

Zooming in on some details, we can see grandma waving at somebody (grandpa, armed with a camera?), while the nearby CM just wishes he had a chair.

More details! Like those water fountains on the wall of the castle. Or the bank of telephone booths, in case you had a sudden need to talk to somebody back home. Along that back wall is a selection of attraction posters that would make anyone happy.

Hungry guests order lunch at the tent-roofed snack bar ("Fan 1"! I finally have it!). I enjoy looking at the other people milling about, too. The mirror ball that Timothy is standing on appears to have a small, trapezoidal panel near his feet.

Back on solid ground, we now get this mouse-eye view as a Soviet spy carefully analyzes every tiny feature so that the Russkies can build their own park, bigger and better!


Nanook said...


What a fun angle from the Skyway. I love the bank of telephone booths, looking decidedly non-medieval.

i wonder just what is hidden inside that mirror ball-? Spare whips, perhaps.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

Currently, "Dumbo the Flying Elephant" is the only themed attraction (ride) that exists at all of the Disney "castle" parks. Even the Castles, Mad Tea Party, roto-jet rides and Carousels have variations on theme at the different parks. For example the Mad Tea Party became "Hunny Pot Spin" in Shanghai Disneyland.

Hard to believe that not even Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Peter Pan's Flight or Space Mountain exist at every "castle" park. Only Dumbo. At one time the Buzz Lightyear attraction existed at all the parks as well, but Hong Kong Disneyland closed theirs to make way for Marvel expansion in Tomorrowland.

Anyway, love Dumbo! It's one of the all-time great animated features. Being the shortest, it sure packs a great story into it.

K. Martinez said...

Sometimes Timothy got carried away when whipping Dumbo, so they agreed upon the safeword "magic feather" in case things got out of control.


K. Martinez : Shanghai Disneyland ALMOST had a Mad Tea Party attraction. I was moved over to Shanghai Fantasyland models when Shanghai’s “INTERNATIONAL STREET” was changed to “MICKEY’S MAIN STREET” ( literally toon-i-fied facades based on DIsneyland’s Main Street buildings - then it was MICKEY’S TOON AVENUE where things got really bad. That got placed on hold while the project went into another re-design and resulted in the MICKEY’S AVENUE. ANYWAY , at that point there was a toss-up on whether to have the Mad Tea Party and Alice Hedge Maze to be based on Disney’s 1953 style or Tim Burton’s stylized film - for awhile it was the Disney classic style because there was plans for a TIM BURTON’S HAUNTED MANSION ( first proposed for Hong Kong DL and evolved in Mystic Manor) when that attraction was shelved for Shanghai it was decided that the Alice attractions be based on Tim Burton’s film - then it was decided to keep only one attraction per film ... in Fantasyland and the Tea Cups got switched to Hunny Pots!

Another interesting note is that Shanghai’s Fantasia Themed Carousel was originaly to be a Mary Poppins theme in the center of the hub in the middle of a fountain that waters danced and moved to the carousel music! Dumbo is also outside the castle “walls” in an area that expanded the hub idea into a mini land .

Chuck said...

The perfect snack this morning - whipped elephant on a stick.

Stu29573 said...

I like the Pink Elephants dark ride idea...They could have had spinning cars along a hilly track to really simulate the intoxicated feeling! Coupled with glaring glowing blacklight paint and a weird sound track, I think it could be a winner!

Melissa said...

Love the pink-clad ladies in the pink-hatted pachyderm; I wonder if they chose him or if it was random? Anyway, that's a nice middy collar. Hello, sailor!

We've got the ultimate matching sisters today in that pair of nuns at the table in front of the counter. Right behind the Friday babushka, and left of the Krimson Koordinated Kids.

Anonymous said...

Definitely an interesting angle on a rarely seen corner of the old Park. The painted wall with attraction posters must be concealing the backstage area adjacent to the Rainbow Caverns show building.

Note the little red signs sticking out from the castle wall, these must be restroom signs. I wonder if they read "Prince" and "Princess" like the ones on the Matterhorn end. The doors are hard to see due to the perspective of the photos, behind the drinking fountain altar and just off the flower bed.

@Chuck, stirred, not shaken. Yummy, yummy elephants.

All together, a great set of pics. Thanks Major.


K. Martinez said...


That is some interesting information on Shanghai Disneyland you shared. Thanks!

I always wondered if there was a possibility Disney would ever do a Mary Poppins carousel. I like the idea and it seems like a no-brainer.

I think the "Gardens of Imagination" in the hub area is kind of a strange mix with Dumbo, Fantasia, Mickey Mouse and Marvel thrown in. I still can' figure out what the main idea of that area is?

What surprised me most of all about Shanghai Disneyland is that no Disneyland Railroad was going to included in the theme park (a first). They built a faux train station at the entrance, but with no train which I thought was strange.

To me the railroad and castle are essential components to a Disneyland theme park. Would you happen to know why Disney decided not to include the Disneyland Railroad attraction in Shanghai?

Thanks, Mike!

Tom said...

@Anonymous: correct; I just pulled the old 1957 aerial shot up for reference, and can see that the Rainbow Caverns building is just a few paces beyond that wall.

Major - thanks for yet another really cool unusual view of the park!

DrGoat said...

The phonebooths put the finishing touch on those beauties. Thanks!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I’d like to believe that there are a few people who are excited by details like the drinking fountains and the telephone booths! The mirror ball held Timothy’s guns, for when the Dumbi wouldn’t behave.

K. Martinez, I never thought about it, but that’s kind of amazing. I would have guessed that there was a “Peter Pan” attraction at every park, considering how popular it is - and how it could easily made bigger and more elaborate if more money is spent. I agree with you, “Dumbo” is one of the great films - so much charm, so beautifully made… it is one of my all-time favorites.

K. Martinez, oh man, the thought of a safeword is very icky!!

Mike Cozart, now I have to go online and see what Shanghai’s “Mickey’s Avenue” looks like. Hopefully it’s better than what I am imagining. “Tim Burton’s Haunted Mansion”… well, I don’t know; there used to be a time when the idea would have excited me, but Tim has not exactly been making great movies for a while - I can’t recall the last one that I thought was truly a good film. They all have elements that are cool, but he can’t seem to put together a complete narrative. I wonder why the decision was made to have only one attraction per film? It seems like kind of an arbitrary rule. That being said, I also like the idea of paying tribute to more films, especially those that have never had any theme park love. Doesn’t “101 Dalmatians” seem tailor-made to have its own dark ride?

Chuck, whipped elephant is even better when served in a genuine rhino horn.

Stuart Powley, oh, I like the idea of a dark ride that is on a hilly track! Not a roller coaster, just some ups and downs to add to the disorientation.

Melissa, I like the idea of those two ladies bulldozing everyone out of their way so that they could be in the pink Dumbo vehicle! Thanks for pointing out the nuns, I normally would notice something like that (I think)!

JG, I thought that it would be Adventureland behind that painted wall, but it sure looks like you are right about it being the Rainbow Caverns building. I was way off!

K. Martinez, I actually thought that there was a Mary Poppins carousel somewhere. Not sure where I got that idea. Maybe I heard about the concept for Shanghai. Every time I see Marvel thrown in with classic Disney characters, I start grinding my teeth. I like Marvel movies, they just don’t belong with the classic animated characters. Good question about Shanghai not having a railroad, I hope we hear an answer!

Tom, ha ha, I see you did the same thing that I did. You’d think that after all this time, I would be much more familiar with the layout of various features at the park….

Matthew said...

Dang! Darn! Shoot! I missed my opportunity to write my comment and then having the good fortune of Major making a merry quip about it. It's the comments on the comments that I enjoy (sick b@$%&d)! I'm always late to the party! : (

Well... here our my minor observations... first, GREAT PHOTO with FANTASTIC ZOOM INS! And love that Soviet spy photo. Second, couldn't agree more with everyone before me. I noticed the little red signs too @JG (AKA Anonymous).

Specifically, I wanted to call out how wonderful it is that the benches surrounding the trees were striped painted. I loved that they went so far as to attempt to continue a theme... sure they could have painted the whole thing white... but where is the fantasy in that??

I also appreciated seeing those early "show lighting" on the pole to the the left of Timothy the mouse. Lighting an entire land can be difficult.

Finally, @Mike Cozart we may have a common friend who was the Art Director on Mickey Avenue. Chris and I became friends when he came to work at Disneyland on the Jungle Cruise. I was his lead many, many, years ago.

Always your pal,
Amazon Belle

Patrick Devlin said...

It's looks like all the various Ears are in about the same, slightly raised position. I wonder if there are really early shots with the Ears in an assortment of poses?

Melissa said...

Although I dislike the idea of a Tim Burton Haunted Mansion and the Haunted Mansion Holidays overlay, I've always thought The Nightmare Before Christmas was ripe fodder for a dark ride of its own. The ride vehicles could be Santa sleighs, operating like the flying ships in Peter Pan's Flight. Or not. Then, you'd fly (or not) through the doors in the different holiday trees, chasing Oogie Boogie through all the holiday lands. The Imagineers could go to town on the show scenes for holidays not shown in the movie. A lot of Disney parks fans are into spooky stuff, and if there were more spooky attractions maybe they'd be more inclined to stop tinkering with the Mansion.

@Amazon Belle, everything's better when it's stripey!

Nanook said...


“I’d like to believe that there are a few people who are excited by the details like the drinking fountains and telephone booths!” Well, as a friend of mine said [decades-ago] now, “There are fans... and there are fanatics”. I think it’s safe to say if you’re among those taking the time to both read [and contribute] to these ‘pages’, you can safely be called a ‘fanatic’ - but, in a good way, for gosh sakes-! And besides: The devil is always in the details-! And what better place than Disneyland to discover the multitudinous number of such things-?

@ Matthew-
Consider yourself “fashionably late” - which, of course, makes you very special-!

Nanook said...

@ JG-

I was able to locate an image from 1964 showing a “Princess” sign for the Women’s restroom. So, would presume that naming convention was at-play back in 1958 too.

JC Shannon said...

Like Matthew, I am late to the Fantasyland Fair. Dumbo is iconic in Disneylore. I love the old snaps. One can imagine Walt walking the Park and getting all kinds of new ideas. I remember Disneyland was one-of-a-kind back in the day, when people were a little easier to please. It's hard to imagine the Rainbow Caverns being a few feet away from Dumbo and company. Very cool. Thanks for the great photos Major.


K. Martinez: when the first concepts for Shanghai were being done there were plans for a “DL RR” and after that a similarl idea with trolleys ( something to help transport guests about thus very large park) however early on the Chinese were uninterested in either a railroad or a trolly system . The Chinese don’t have a romantized view of railroads like Americans and Europeans do. Even Japanese have a strong rail-fan base. Most Chinese never rode a train for pleasure most are used for freight - but there was no interest in it.

In many of the master plans for Shanghai there was a “right-of-way” kinda left in - at least a some spaces where a railroad could be easily added later . There was also a space for a future addition of a FRONTIERLAND/OLD WEST TERRITORY ( originally in the first master plans ) but a larger Adventureland/Pirates area evolved . At a certain point the space for a future Frontierland got squeezed out. It’s location was between Fantasyland and Pirate Cove. Fantasyland was pushed father out to the right and the Pirates themed area expanded upwards.

I think the more refined “Imagineering planned” Park got muddled and weakened as Disney corporate and merchandising (who really had too much input) cheapened the whole layout.

Merchandising became concerned there wasn’t enough traditional Mickey and the Gang presence nor Pixar type characters - this was totally to sell merchandise to the Chinese who in general were unfamiliar with almost all Disney characters . Anyway that “decree” started a change reaction causing Shanghai Disneyland to loose some of its original themed lands and attractions/areas get replaced by a mish-mosh of attractions. Eventually International Land became Internstional Street and then there was Internationsl Street with Disney characters ( film and traditional characters) then it was a toon Main Street etc etc . Toy Story Land was squeezed in at the last minute - the hub was re-formed as other lands and attracts for ousted. A disgusting “fireworks viewing area” in front of the castle basically placed a drive-in-movie theater parking lot in the castle forecourt .


Major: regarding a 101 Dalmatians attraction ; there was actually a concept for one at Shanghai Disneyland . Originally INTERNATIONAL LAND / INTERNATIONAL STREET was to feature areas /blocks from areas around the world - kinda like a Epcot World Showcase and Tokyo’s World Bazaar with its center and surrounding streets. When a Disney character overlay was redesigned over this area NEW ORLEANS ( Square ) section was redone as the New Orleans of the Frog Prince with Tianas Showboat Restaurant & Nite Club - this was actually a very cool looking area and a full 1/4”= a foot model was constructed and is still on display at WDI. A Lady & the Tramp restaurant went into the Italy area etc etc- in the London streets a 101 Dalmatian attraction concept had guests going around London and surrounding areas finding the list pupies - you basically tagged them and tallied up how many you found ( saved) but I think it had the overall feel you were “shooting” the puppies lol. When the MICKEY’s TOON MAIN STREET concepts replAced INTERNATIONAL LAND all that stoff got shelved . But they fought to keep the Tiana’s Showboat Club as it’s iwn area between “ MICKEYS TOON MAIN STREET” ( eventually MICKEY AVENUE) and “Adventureland” ( eventually Adventure Ise)

AMAZON BELLE : yes I’ve known Chris since college - we were even roommates at one time. But I was on other projects when Chris came in to pick up the stalled and messy “Toon Main Street” area.

Patrick Devlin said...

Say, Matthew, would that be Chris Tietz?

K. Martinez said...


Thanks so much for all that information about the Railroad not being included into Shanghai Disneyland. Very fascinating. Didn't realize that even a trolley was under consideration and right-of-way was included in case of installing one later. And yes, the massive viewing area in front of the castle is not attractive at all from what I've seen online.

Also that's some really great info on Mickey Avenue and it's various designs that morphed through the planning process. The "International Land" with it's various streets of New Orleans, Italy and London sound like it would've been pretty cool. Too bad, it didn't come to pass.

Again, much thanks for answering my question about the Railroad and the other details. All great stuff.

Nancy said...

Melissa, I love your The Nightmare Before Christmas idea....when will it be ready??

Dumbo is such a classic, but I can never get used to seeing the original number of elephants. We always wanted the pink hat, too

Fun post today, Major!! 8-)


Amazon Belle / Matthew!!
Yes I remember you - you gave Chris and I a walk thru on Big Thunder Mountain RR one evening!! Howdy!


TokyoMagic! said...

I am super late to the party! (I've been having internet connection problems for a few days now.) I enjoyed these pics and all of the comments. I just wanted to add that I remember in the seventies/early eighties, there was a mosaic set into that recessed arch above those drinking fountains. It was of Aurora and Prince Phillip and it was beautifully done. Instead of being composed of little flat tiles, it was done with little squares or cubes of colored stone. It was removed during the New Fantasyland construction, but now I'm wondering when it was added. I wish I had taken a picture of it!

Anonymous said...

@ Nanook and Matthew.

Little touches like the "Prince" and "Princess" signs stick with you over the years.It would have been so easy to just get standard signs from the shop, but no detail was too small to overlook.



Matthew said...

WOW! What a thread... I've been away for a while but catching up one post at a time only to see this one really expanded.

First, thank you @Nanook for making me feel very special with your "fashionably late" comment. YOU ROCK!

Also, @Melissa your "stripey" comment is so true!

Additionally @Melissa and @Nancy you will find your Nightmare Before Christmas attraction here designed by the same Chris we have been discussing.

@Patrick Devlin, Chris Merritt is who we are referring to.

Finally, @Mike Cozart! WOW! What a memory. I remember touring you through Big Thunder after hours with Chris now too... totally forgot your name. Ha! Too funny my friend. Glad to reconnect! Hopefully we will catch up face to face sometime soon.

Thanks Major for bringing us all together at this happy little place called, Gorillas Don't Blog.

Always your pal,
Amazon Belle

Chaz said...

These pictures are GREAT!
You should have a post called Nuns at Disneyland. They seem to pop up enough.