The following contains SPOILERS for the new live-action Dumbo.
A great deal of Disney's new Dumbo takes place inside a theme park. While the one in the movie technically predates Disney's first park by over 30 years, you can't have a Disney movie that includes a theme park and not have audiences thinking about the fact that a large part of Disney's global popularity comes from its theme park division.
This makes it really not much of a shock to discover that V.A. Vandevere's Dreamland includes more than a few references to Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Some are obvious, some are a bit obscure, some might not even have been intentional, and at least one is absolutely brazen, but they were all there nonetheless. Here are a few of Dumbo's theme park shout-outs.
Carousel Of Progress
We don't get to see too many of the attractions inside V.A. Vandevere's theme park beyond the Coliseum where Dumbo performs. However, one that we do see is called Wonders of Science. Milly Ferrier remarks upon it when she sees it upon first arriving at the park. Later we get to see inside it and realize just how much it owes to a classic Disneyland and Walt Disney World attraction, the Carousel of Progress.
The first Carousel of Progress was created for the New York World's Fair in 1964. After the fair closed, the attraction was moved to Disneyland, where it operated until 1973. Following that, it was moved to Walt Disney World, where it still exists today, though it has been updated several times. The attraction contains a series of vignettes where animatronic characters show us how technology has changed over the decades. The version in Dreamland appears to be a walk through-style attraction, rather than the rotating theater design of the Disney version, but it still includes segments where basic animatronics show us how different things will be in the future. Like the Disney versions of the past, accuracy leaves a little something to be desired.
Rocket To The Moon
At one point in the new Dumbo, Alan Arkin's character, J. Griffin Remington, references the idea that one day man will travel to the moon. While it wouldn't happen for about a half century, space travel was a frequent topic of fiction in the early twentieth century. This is best exemplified by an attraction at the Dreamland theme park called To The Moon.
While the To The Moon attraction appears to be some sort of roller coaster or possibly something akin to the Astro Orbiter, we never really get much of a look at it. It has a very similar name to Rocket to the Moon, an attraction that arrived shortly after Disneyland first opened in 1955. Rocket to the Moon was an early motion simulator experience, an ancestor to something like Star Tours today, though very simple. The attraction hung around until 1975 when it was updated to become Mission to Mars, since man had already been to the moon by then.
Dumbo's Circus Land/The Mickey Mouse Club Circus
Disneyland was conceived by Walt Disney in large part because of the problems he had with the then modern circus. He didn't think it was the best atmosphere for family entertainment. Having said that, he still loved the concept of the circus, and so the idea of putting a traditional circus inside a theme park, as we see in Dumbo, is something that Disney himself had also done.
The Mickey Mouse Club Circus was a very traditional circus, with both human and animal performers that opened shortly after Disneyland did, in the fall of 1955. The big top was put up approximately where the Matterhorn exists today. It didn't last long, but the circus theme very nearly came back with Dumbo's Circus Land, a land that would have put several of Disney's animal characters, including those from The Jungle Book, in a traditional circus atmosphere. The land never happened, but it shows how the link between theme park and circus has never really disappeared.
Actual Disneyland Merchandise
There may be no company in the world better at merchandising that Disney. Nearly every theme park attraction has you exit through a gift shop, and you can be sure with every new movie release there will be a host of toys and other cool stuff available for fans to buy. However, Dumbo actually takes this in a slightly different direction. Why create new merch for the new movie when you can just literally promote the stuff you already have in the film?
At a couple of points during Dumbo, we see shots of kids buying cute little plush dolls of Dumbo from a concession stand. Since it is a theme park, that's not exactly going to shock anybody. However, the twist here is that the stuffed animals the kids are walking away with are literally the same one that you can buy at Disney theme parks right now. Disney just stocked the shot with the toys that were already on hand.
The name of the theme park in the new Dumbo is pretty simple. It's called Dreamland. A perfectly reasonable, if not particularly creative, name for a theme park. At first, it might seem like it's a generic name that doesn't mean all that much. It's certainly got a similar name to Disneyland, but beyond that, it's probably just the first thing that came to mind. However, the name Dreamland is more connected to the name Disney than you might realize.
Following the opening of Disneyland in the 1955, a Japanese businessman named Kunizo Matsuo visited the park. He loved it and wanted to build a similar location in Japan, specifically in the nation's former capital of Nara. He worked directly with Walt Disney on the project, who was very interested in a foreign location and a park designed in the same hub and spoke pattern, with many of the same Disneyland attractions, including Sleeping Beauty's castle, spinning tea cups, and more, was constructed. However, a disagreement between Matsuo and Disney over licensing fees eventually caused Walt to pull support for the park. Everything was reworked to remove the Disney branding, and the park, which was going to be called Nara Disneyland, was renamed Nara Dreamland. The park was actually quite successful for a number of years, until the early 1980s when an actual Disneyland was built in Tokyo, at which point attendance died off and the park eventually closed.
Dumbo's history with theme parks goes back to the earliest days of Disneyland when the Casey Jr. Circus Train was an opening day attraction, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant came shortly thereafter. For Disneyland fans the rides may be more iconic that the movie that they're based on.
CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.
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