Disney Canon-Forgotten/Minor Characters #4: The Roustabouts

Journeying along in my project, we arrive at our 4th Disney feature, “Dumbo”!  Released in 1941, the film was a cheap (inexpensive, rather) way for the Disney Studios to regain its losses from “Pinocchio” and “Fantasia”. And the film was the highest grossing Disney film of the ’40s, despite the infamous animators’ strike occurring during its production.

Everybody knows the story of the big-eared baby elephant who learns to fly. The movie comes with great, memorable characters such as Timothy Q. Mouse, Mrs. Jumbo, The Ringmaster, the Crows, etc. It also has great, memorable songs such as the famous, “Baby Mine” and “When I See an Elephant Fly”! However, my favorite song in this film is probably the least remembered song in the film as well as the song featuring our forgotten characters for today: The Roustabouts!

The song plays when the circus workers, i.e. roustabouts, are shown setting up the tents for the forthcoming circus with the help of the elephants. The song itself is a great song with a simple, catchy tune. It explains the job description of the roustabouts as well as their feelings and personal struggles that they go through. That alone is a great achievement and a rewarding point of the song. I especially love how the pounding of the hammers on the stakes meshes perfectly in line with the beat and the animation to go with it.

These characters, although mainly unseen, aren’t given the credit to the movie that they deserve. After all, they’re the ones doing all the work setting up (in the rain), pretty much slaving away for the enjoyment of the children. They’re said to “throw their money all away” and that they get their pay “when children say with happy hearts, ‘It’s Circus Day today!  “ Yes, we do not see them again after this scene/song, but their efforts lay the foundation for the rest of the movie to follow. And that is why they’re my pick for the forgotten/minor characters of Disney’s 1941 classic, “Dumbo”!

5 thoughts on “Disney Canon-Forgotten/Minor Characters #4: The Roustabouts”

  1. Watched Dumbo again a couple of weeks ago. That song “Baby Mine” is so pretty. I’ve added it to my list of songs to sing to my kids some day…


  2. I’ve always had a soft spot for elephants, going back to when I first saw a documentary about them when I was 15 months old. Possibly for this reason, DUMBO ranks among my favorite Disney animated animal pictures.

    On a related note, from the moment I first saw the film, I knew that the title character couldn’t possibly be an Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), like his mother and aunts- his rounded head, sparse head of hair and large ears are indicative of the African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana); when you think about it, his full name, Jumbo, Jr., implies that he’s the son of Barnum’s signature star, Jumbo, who was African. However, I’ve recently begun thinking that perhaps Dumbo is an African/Asian elephant hybrid, like Motty (born at the Chester Zoo in 1978).

    More information on Motty can be found here: http://karlshuker.blogspot.com/2011/03/elephant-of-surprise-remembering-motty.html

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