Friday, August 08, 2014

Dumbo Ride Controversy

Dumbo, 1958 (click to enlarge)

The Dumbo ride looms large in my family’s lore. Mom always loved telling the story of the first time we went to Disneyland in 1958, three years after the park opened, and how she got stuck loading my sister Vicki and me onto the ride.

There were five of us that day: Mom, Dad, Vicki (3 years old), me (4 years old), and Uncle Louie. Unc was so excited about flying in Dumbo (he’s the handsome devil above, seated in the elephant behind my sister and me), that he completely abandoned Mom as she was trying to get us on the ride. In all the commotion, Mom tripped and fell, while Uncle Louie sat laughing in his Dumbo. Dad must have been in charge of taking pictures, because he didn’t help either. My mother never forgave either of them.

Well, I was attending the annual Disneyana convention a couple of weeks ago when one of the speakers mentioned the Dumbo ride and the problems it had early on. The first Dumbos had hinged ears that were supposed to flap when they flew, but never really did. Plus, he said, there was no opening into the body, so riders had to jump or be lifted into the Dumbos. Ah ha! Could that be why Mom had such a difficult time getting us onto the ride?

When I told my sister about this, we both immediately dug-up our copies of the now legendary photo above. There we are, smiling away, while Uncle Louie looks on innocently in the background. There, too, are the hinged ears, which I never noticed before, despite looking at this picture a million times. But also, there’s very clearly an opening on the lefthand side of the Dumbo. Mom didn’t have to lift us into the ride.

So what was that Disneyana guy talking about? According to Wikipedia, as well as my Disney reference books—yes, I own a bunch of Disney reference books—the original Dumbo ride wasn’t upgraded until many years later, so obviously the guy was wrong—unless, of course, someone out there knows differently. Do any of you remember Dumbos that didn’t have an opening? Regardless, I’m just thrilled we have such a great photo of Dumbo’s hinged ears!

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