The universe of Disney movies it has fueled the fantasy and imagination of entire generations. But not all his stories are full of that magic that films show. In fact, many of them hide events marked by tragedy behind the mask of fiction. One of them is the story of the Disney Jumbo. Surely you will remember the film that tells the story of the sad little elephant with big ears, separated from his mother, who later becomes the famous flying elephant. Well, this character that Disney called Dumbo, comes from the unfortunate experience of a real animal. Join us in Supercurioso to learn the real story of Dumbo.
The true story of Dumbo
Many fictional characters are inspired by the real world. And although children’s movies seem like pure fantasy, they also find food in the tangible world. Disney’s Jumbo is proof of this. And it is that Dumbo, the small and tender elephant that was born with huge ears, and that generated the ridicule of his circus companions, was inspired by a real life character. The real story of Dumbo is actually that of Jumbo, who was known worldwide as “the king of the elephants”.
He was captured in Abyssinia, Africa, in 1861 when he was about a year old. and on his journey around the world he first came to Paris, then to London and finally traveled with the circus to the United States. His life was plagued with pain, from the very moment of his capture. What she tells about her is that the hunters, when they come across an elephant, start throwing spears at her until they kill her. Once dead, they extract the tusks to sell her ivory, and take her baby, which remains terrified next to her corpse.
That would have been the experience of the little Disney Jumbo. Jumbo means “hello” in Swahili and it was the elephant’s keeper, Matthew Scott, who named it. After a few years in Paris, he was exchanged for a rhinoceros with the London Zoo. When he arrived at the London Zoo, he exposed Abraham Bertlett, the director of it, who was in terrible condition. Once there and due to his good nature, he was used as a recreational mount for the children who came to the Zoo. Many illustrious personalities climbed on Jumbo’s back during his childhood, including Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt, as well as child members of European royal houses.
The change in his character
Until now, the real story of Dumbo, beyond his cruel orphanhood, could have been pieced together. The emotional bond between the elephant and its creator was powerful and nurtured them both. But the fame of the Disney Jumbo came at the same time as the invention of photography. So, as it was a remarkable attraction, everyone wanted to take photos on the animal’s back, which he spent the entire day supporting the weight of hundreds of people on his back.
Upon reaching puberty, Jumbo’s behavior changed, as do many of his kind. Living conditions are believed to have had a significant influence on this. He would not let anyone else approach him other than his caretaker, becoming considered a dangerous animal. Scott himself, his caretaker, was believed to be the only one capable of controlling his reactions. He had not behaved violently with the public, but at night, in his room, he would get angry. He broke the fences and smashed his fangs against the bars until they broke. Then Scott gave him high doses of whiskey, which seemed to be the only thing that managed to calm him down.
Dumbo’s real story had changed. So much fear began to develop about the possibility that the elephant would attack the public, that in each presentation a weapon was prepared. If Jumbo attacked, the order was to shoot. So, given these circumstances, the Zoo decided that it was best to sell it. They received a succulent offer for him from the Barnum circus and he was sold..
Despite the outrage of the British public, Disney’s Jumbo jet set sail for the United States in March 1882. Jumbo could not be trained to juggle, as only Asian elephants are capable of learning this skill, but they displayed it to great acclaim next to a dwarf elephant, Tom Thum, and used it again to transport children. Unfortunately, he was run over by a locomotive in what seems to have been an error in the switch. When he died he was 5 meters tall, 11 meters long and weighed just over 4 tons.
Disney’s Jumbo, after his death
Phineas Taylor Barnum, the owner of the circus to which the Disney Jumbo belonged, he donated his bones to the New York Museum of Natural History and had the elephant stuffed. With the dissected corpse he created a traveling show that was very successful. The circus director used the stories that spread after his death as a hook to attract the public. One of them said that the point guard forgot to change them, since he was fascinated looking at the elephant, and the most popular, that Jumbó died when he pushed his little dwarf companion Tom Thum off the train track, at the last second, when the engine was about to overtake him and dying in his place. Finally, he delivered it to the Barnum Museum of Natural History where it was completely burned in a fire in 1975.
The true story of Dumbo became so popular, that served to give name to the protagonist of the fourth feature film of the Disney factory based on a short story. Dumb in English is a derogatory way of calling the dumb and also means “bobo”. This is how the other inhabitants of the circus nicknamed the big-eared elephant to make fun of him, and whose real name was Jumbo Jr.
And you, Did you know the true story of Dumbo? What do you think about animals in circuses and in captivity? Dare to leave us all your opinions in a comment. And if you are a fan of Disney movies and would like to know their darkest side, don’t miss this article in which we tell you about the original version of Rapunzel’s story. Now, if what you want is to feed the fantasy a little, have fun with these adorable disney quotes. See you in an upcoming supercurious article!