Disturbing Disney #4: Dumbo loses his mother (1941)


When I was compiling a list of ‘disturbing’ moments in Disney films, a particular scene in Dumbo (1941) immediately jumped up to almost the top of the list.

The film tells the story of a baby elephant named Dumbo who is born with overly large ears, a feature which earns mocking and scorn from the other circus elephants. Despite this, Dumbo is relatively happy because he has his mother, Mrs. Jumbo, with him.


But this happy pair isn’t going to be together for long, and that is why the following scene is on the list of ‘disturbing’ Disney moments.

Mrs. Jumbo is taken away (Dumbo, 1941)

The circus has come to a new town, and after taking part in a big parade, the circus animals are on display in a big tent for the curious public, including Mrs. Jumbo and Dumbo. Everything is fine until a goofy kid comes by and takes special interest in Dumbo’s big ears. The baby elephant doesn’t quite understand what’s going on, but his mother certainly does, so she pushes Dumbo away and turns her back to the crowd. From here things only go downhill.


Dumb kid

Against all reason, the kid goes into the enclosure and begins pulling Dumbo out by his tail, further messing with his ears in the process. Now Mrs. Jumbo is getting upset; she takes Dumbo away again, but the kid just won’t let it be (he clearly hasn’t heard the rule that says you must NEVER come between a mother animal and her young). He grabs Dumbo again and THIS time Mrs. Jumbo has had enough. He picks up the kid with her trunk and gives him a good shake and that’s when everything goes to pieces.


The crowd reacts with panic and there are cries of “mad elephant!!!” Instead of the kid getting punished for riling up Mrs. Jumbo in the first place, the circus workers move to tie up Mrs. Jumbo for doing what any mother would do: protecting her baby!! I find this scene so heartwrenching and so horrifying, I eventually found myself unable to watch, because I would get so upset. There’s so much happening at once: Mrs. Jumbo is being tied with ropes from all sides; the ringmaster is WHIPPING her, and worst of all, Dumbo is grabbed by a couple of workers and carried away from his panicked mother. She only wants her baby, but now the ropes are replaced with chains, and it will be a long time before Dumbo sees his mother again.

I find this scene disturbing because of the unfairness of it all. Mrs. Jumbo didn’t do anything wrong, she was simply defending her baby from a dumb kid who was trying to hurt him. If anything, it’s the kid who should’ve been punished, what right did he have to go in the enclosure with the elephants in the first place?? And the whole scene with Mrs. Jumbo being forcibly tied up while her baby is being taken away, it just rips my heart to pieces. It’s a messed up, disturbing moment, and one that is hard to forget.

What do you think of this scene from Dumbo? Let me know in the comments below, have a good rest of the day 🙂

For more Disturbing Disney see also:

Disturbing Disney #1: The Coachman in Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #2: The truth of Pleasure Island in Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #3: Escaping Monstro from Pinocchio (1940)


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7 thoughts on “Disturbing Disney #4: Dumbo loses his mother (1941)

  1. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #5 The death of Bambi’s Mother | Film Music Central

  2. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #8: The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met (from Make Mine Music, 1946) | Film Music Central

  3. Pingback: Disturbing Disney #7: Cruella wants to do WHAT?? | Film Music Central

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