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Five Things to Know About Dumbo the Flying Elephant

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Based on the 1941 classic Disney animated film “Dumbo,” Dumbo the Flying Elephant is a “spinner” attraction where riders take to the air in a vehicle that looks like Dumbo. Combining nostalgia, appeal to littles, and Disney’s amazing attention to detail, it’s a ride everyone can enjoy. But if you want to fly ahead to the wheres, hows and whys, here’s your shortcut. (Don’t forget your feather!)

1. You won’t just fly – you’ll soar!

Some characterize Dumbo the Flying Elephant as a spinner attraction; others say it’s more like an aerial carousel. Either way, you sit in vehicle that looks like our favorite elephant. Sixteen ride vehicles are mounted on articulated arms connected to a rotating hub. Riders can control vertical motion by using a single joystick in each Dumbo vehicle. The elephants fly as high as 17 feet off the ground! The ride experience is mostly smooth; the spinning isn’t very fast (but to be honest, it’s not all that slow!). Your actual time in the air is around 2 minutes.

The spinner/carousel itself is designed with a heavy emphasis on circus motifs, as you’d expect. The inlays are beautiful, and you’ll see artwork panels at the bottom of the carousels that tell the story of Dumbo. There’s a water feature with lighting effects that create a special effect at night. While you fly, you’ll enjoy a variety of classic Disney songs played on a circus organ. (And remember to take a picture in the extra Dumbo vehicle usually located near the attraction as you exit.)


2. You can step right up while you wait.

Because wait times can be a bit long and the load rates are not the fastest, Disney designed a circus-themed interactive play area to keep the family entertained. Under the giant big top, kids can play on a variety of playground favorites. Slides and climbing nets are located in an area that was built to resemble the scene in the film where Dumbo leaps from the burning building. There’s even a figure of Dumbo flying overhead!

Dumbo Indoor Queue
Dumbo’s Indoor Queue © Disney

Adults (or whoever is most responsible in your group – no judgment!) are given a pager that will let them know when it’s time to fly. Maybe the best part about the queue is that it’s air-conditioned and offers plenty of spots to sit. And it’s completely wheelchair accessible. One of our readers with two preschoolers had this to say: “The Dumbo waiting area is fantastic for young kids. That’s right—what my kids look forward to most is not the actual Dumbo ride but the playground that Disney created as the waiting area.”

3. An elephant never forgets (its history).

Dumbo the Flying Elephant opened with the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971. Designed a bit differently than the 1955 version in Disneyland, there was no Timothy Q. Mouse (he finally appeared in 1972) and the elephants had no hats. Timothy and the hats both appeared shortly thereafter. For most of its existence, the Magic Kingdom’s Dumbo the Flying Elephant was positioned more towards the center of Fantasyland. The queue was not shaded, and the ride was known for long waits in the Florida sunshine.

The ride also lacked the water feature of the Disneyland version. Due to where it was located, the famous utilidors running under the Magic Kingdom didn’t allow any room for water pipes needed to operate a water feature. In 1993, the ride was updated with a new mechanism and vehicles, but still lacked the water feature.

When New Fantasyland was constructed at the Magic Kingdom, Dumbo the Flying Elephant was moved to the new Storybook Circus area. The new carousel opened in 2012. In the new location, water features could be added, as well as new fountain lights that change colors at night. A second carousel soon opened next to the first, to help with perpetually high demand. And Timothy Q. Mouse (who used to stand at the center of the carousels) now appears above the attractions’ marquee.

4. A few fast facts about flying elephants.

Nowadays, you can ride Dumbo at Disneyland Paris, Shanghai Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland. The version in Tokyo Disneyland is an exact replica of the original Magic Kingdom ride when it first opened. There are only 10 flying elephants and Timothy Q. Mouse spins atop a disco ball.

Tokyo Disneyland Resort Dumbo Ride © Disney

There’s also an original Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride car at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. It was donated June 9, 2005, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Disneyland.

In 1957, ex-President Harry S Truman (who was a Democrat) visited Disneyland. Reportedly, he declined to ride because an elephant represents the Republican party.

In the Magic Kingdom, the two carousels rotate in different directions. One spins clockwise, the other counterclockwise! That way, they sort of “meet” in the middle plaza and then head outward toward the park. I have read the carousel traveling clockwise is the only circular Disney attraction in the world that does not move counterclockwise. I can’t find three independent sources to verify, but if you can, let us know in the comments, please!

5. The Nuts and Bolts.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant is located in the Storybook Circus area of the Magic Kingdom. As previously mentioned, the queue is an indoor area with air conditioning. But since the ride itself is outdoors, it will shut down if there is lightning in the area.

Each elephant on the carousel has one hard bench seat with a back and a single fabric seat belt for riders. Each elephant can hold two people or two adults and one small child. (If necessary, larger adults can ride in their own vehicle.) We think it’s best to seat children toward the inside of each row.

To board, you’ll need to take a moderate step up over a wall, and guests must transfer from a wheelchair/ECV to experience Dumbo the Flying Elephant. There are no height restrictions, nor any health or safety warnings, so every member of the family can ride. But be aware that going around and around in a circle has been known to bother some who are prone to motion sickness.

Dumbo is open for Early Theme Park Entry and Extended Evening Theme Park Hours. And Dumbo offers Lightning Lane entry via Genie+, but this isn’t the best use of a LL to be honest. So, when is it best to ride? If not early in the morning, ride after dinner; the crowds are smaller, and the lighting and effects make the ride much prettier, kind of like the midway of a fair.

The Bottom Line.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant may not be the greatest attraction in the Magic Kingdom (our ratings show it gets 2.5 stars out of five for almost all ages), but for reasons of nostalgia, we always ride. Younger children love it; older folks may enjoy the memories that come along with a flight. Can you skip it completely? Sure, but can you really say you’ve seen it all if you haven’t seen an elephant fly?

Is Dumbo the Flying Elephant on your must-ride list? Or do you skip the flight? Let us know in the comments.

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Bob Jacobs

Bob Jacobs lives in Wisconsin where he retired as Editorial Director for a well-known catalog company. He and his wife Cristie have four children, seven grandchildren and a cocker spaniel named Penny the Dog. They’ve visited Walt Disney World regularly since 1992.

One thought on “Five Things to Know About Dumbo the Flying Elephant

  • “I have read the carousel traveling clockwise is the only circular Disney attraction in the world that does not move counterclockwise.”

    Astro Orbiter moves clockwise at both WDW and DL. You can see that in the photos and videos on the official Disney sites.


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