Disneyland's flying Dumbo elephants are grounded, and the reason's kind of shady – Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

One of Disneyland’s most popular rides in history has shut down temporarily, but don’t panic: It will be back up and flying again soon, with a new and improved queue that will make life a bit better for those who stand in line for an hour at a time.

“The Dumbo elephants have packed their trunks for now,” park spokeswoman Suzi Brown joked, describing the rehabilitation efforts that started Jan. 8, which will include moving the lines to the back of the ride and installing – are you ready for this – shade canopies that have been desperately needed for decades.

One of the earliest rides built at Disneyland, Dumbo’s flight only lasts around 90 seconds, but people line up for an hour sometimes to board the popular pachyderms. The summer heat in Fantasyland, reflecting off the pavement, can get intense, and park patrons often work up a sweat waiting for their chance to board. Several of the original rides in Fantasyland have little or no shade available.

Park creator Walt Disney planned to have Dumbo ready for opening day in July 1955, but engineers had trouble making the flying elephants’ mechanical ears flap up and down as they’d hoped,  according to David Koenig, author of “Mouse Tales” and other historical books about Disneyland.

Ultimately, Disney decided to just open the ride anyway in August 1955, Koenig said. Attempts to make the ears flap up and down continued intermittently, without much success, and were eventually abandoned. Regardless, it proved wildly popular and remains so to this day, despite its relatively simple technology.

The ride was totally remodeled in 1990 with new Dumbos and mechanism, according to official Disneyland archives.

Koenig attributed its popularity to the fact that people just like the sensation of flying, and kids have the feeling of actually piloting the ride, since they can use a lever to make their Dumbo go up and down. The appeal of cute flying elephants can’t be ignored either. Today, there are Dumbo rides at Walt Disney World and Disney parks in Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

The lines to board the attraction are being relocated to a lesser used area behind the main walkway, which will “help us improve the flow around that area,” said Jim Slagle, director of facilities for Disneyland. Meanwhile, wooden barriers cover the work underway. January is a typical refurbishment season when the parks close rides for repairs and updates.

A couple rooftops rise above a barricade in front of Dumbo the Flying Elephant. The soaring attraction is currently closed for refurbishment at Anaheim's Disneyland. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register/SCNG)A couple rooftops rise above a barricade in front of Dumbo the Flying Elephant. The soaring attraction is currently closed for refurbishment at Anaheim’s Disneyland. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The elephants and ride arms that lift them into the air will get a fresh coat of paint, and the entire experience will be spruced up. It’s slated to reopen in the spring.

“You’ll see a generally refreshed area with planters and concrete,” Slagle said. “I think we’ll have some nice surprises when you come to visit.”

Leave a Comment