5 Surprising Facts About Dumbo the Flying Elephant

by | May 20, 2024 | Disneyland, Disneyland Parks, Magic Kingdom, WDW Blog

Dumbo the Flying Elephant is a classic – and much-loved – attraction for kids and adults alike at Disneyland Park and Magic Kingdom Park. But we bet you don’t know these surprising facts about the ride!

Dumbo may be the shortest film in the Walt Disney Studios’ feature-length collection, but it’s one that few forget. With a story that tugs at absolutely everyone’s heartstrings, the movie inspired an attraction of its very own in Disney theme parks, starting with two at Disneyland Park in 1955 and growing into Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, and other international parks.

No matter which theme park you’re at, Dumbo the Flying Elephant is a must-visit attraction in Fantasyland – one that frequently draws crowds and impressively long lines. But do you know how this attraction came to be, or how it’s changed over the decades since it first welcomed guests? Get ready to fly high on these surprising facts about Dumbo The Flying Elephant!

1. Disneyland’s Version is the Only One That Wasn’t an Opening Day Attraction

While Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California might be the original version of Dumbo the Flying Elephant, it holds a bit of a unique distinction. It did open in 1955, the same year Disneyland opened to the public – but it didn’t open on the park’s opening day.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant actually opened just shy of one month after Disneyland on August 16, 1955. It was meant to be an opening day attraction, but flaws in the ride’s prototypes (including hinged elephant ears that were meant to flap in the wind) caused a delay. While it’s easy to assume that this is one of the park’s opening day attractions, it’s actually the only version of the ride that is not one.

Every other version of Dumbo the Flying Elephant that exists is an opening day attraction at its designated theme park. The attraction opened along with Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World in 1971, and the pattern followed suit as more versions of the ride opened at Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Park in Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Shanghai Disneyland on each park’s official opening day.

2. Dumbo the Flying Elephant Has Grown – and Moved Around – Quite a Lot

Dumbo the Flying Elephant, ride vehicles in mid-air over water feature at Magic Kingdom

Photo by Cliff Wang

With such a lengthy history at both the original Disneyland Park and Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, it’s no surprise that Dumbo has changed over its years in operation. But what you might not realize is the ride is now much bigger at both parks – and it’s also in a totally different location.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant has been expanded and undergone a significant change in location at both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom.

At Disneyland, the ride originally opened with 10 elephants and was located off to the right (when facing the backside of Sleeping Beauty Castle from inside Fantasyland), right where you can now walk from Fantasyland into Frontierland near Red Rose Taverne. In 1983, Disneyland’s Fantasyland underwent a massive reimagining, and the entire area was transformed. As part of this overhaul, Dumbo the Flying Elephant was relocated and took over Skull Rock’s location. It still sits here today, just behind King Arthur Carrousel.

Just a few years later in 1990, the attraction was changed once again. It grew from its original 10 elephants to 16, increasing the ride’s capacity significantly.

Over in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Dumbo underwent some near-identical changes. When the attraction first opened, it too featured 10 flying elephants and was located behind Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel (or, as it’s now known, Prince Charming Regal Carrousel), right in the heart of Fantasyland. In 1993, it was updated to match Disneyland’s version and expanded to 16 elephants.

Nearly a decade later, Magic Kingdom’s own Fantasyland underwent a massive reimagining, and with this a big location change came for Dumbo the Flying Elephant. As Fantasyland was expanded and transformed into New Fantasyland, a Storybook Circus area was added, taking over the area once dedicated to Mickey’s Toontown Fair. Dumbo relocated to Storybook Circus and expanded once again – the original attraction was moved, and a second one was built next to it, bringing the total number of elephants to 32.

3. The Magic Kingdom’s Version Lacked a Lot of Original Elements

Dumbo the Flying Elephant, elephant vehicle with hat

Photo by Laurie Sapp

While the version of Dumbo the Flying Elephant at Magic Kingdom is pretty much identical to Disneyland’s (and, as a result, all of the other versions you’ll find at Disney’s international theme parks), it’s had a number of original elements missing since its opening day.

For example, the Disneyland version of the attraction has featured elephants wearing colorful hats since its opening day back in 1955. Riders and their elephants soar over a water feature – a river of water and a series of fountains runs around the attraction’s central mechanism, where Timothy Mouse sits atop a ball and “conducts” the elephants’ flight.

However, when the Magic Kingdom version opened in 1971, it didn’t have Timothy… or hats on any of its 10 elephants. It also didn’t have the same water feature, thanks in part to the utilidors running underneath the ground of the theme park.

Eventually both Timothy and the hats appeared relatively soon after the ride opened. But even after its big overhaul in 1993, Magic Kingdom’s version still lacked the same water features as nearly every other version of Dumbo the Flying Elephant (yep, even most of the international parks followed Disneyland’s design!)

It wasn’t until the attraction was moved to Storybook Circus that a water feature was finally added. However, Timothy wound up moving, too – he’s no longer atop the ride itself, but on its marquee.

If you miss the original version from Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, good news: It’s actually been recreated at Tokyo Disneyland! Tokyo’s version is meant to be an exact replica of the Magic Kingdom’s on opening day… though Timothy has been added to the center of the attraction and the elephants are wearing their iconic hats.

4. All Dumbo Rides Fly Clockwise – Except One

Dumbo the Flying Elephant, ride vehicles spinning at night at Magic Kingdom

Photo by Cliff Wang

If you ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant at Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland, Shanghai Disneyland, or Disneyland Park in Paris, you might have noticed that you fly clockwise in your elephant. That isn’t too surprising; after all, each version of the attraction follows the same setup, mechanisms, and overall design as the original from 1955.

But there is one exception, and it’s the Magic Kingdom version of Dumbo. In this Disney theme park, there are two versions of the attraction: the original from 1971, and a new duplicate, which was added soon after the ride relocated to Storybook Circus. While one spins clockwise like all of the others, the second actually spins counterclockwise, making it a bit extra-special.

5. President Harry Truman Refused to Ride Dumbo

Okay, this last fact is a bit of a silly one. Back in 1957, former President Harry Truman visited Disneyland for the first time. He was offered a chance to ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant – but he declined.

No, he wasn’t afraid of the ride’s 17-foot height or its (not-so) fast flying speed. He demurred because of his political affiliation! As a Democrat, President Truman didn’t want to take a spin inside an elephant… the symbol of the Republican Party.

Posts by Heather Adams

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Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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Authored by
Heather Adams

Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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