Dumbo is perhaps the most tragic character on this list, suffering through not only the incarceration of his mother and the absenteeism of his father, but also physical abuse, verbal abuse, and forced child labor. Then again, that probably came straight out of a 1940s guide on "Rearing Your Child the Right Way."
But the little elephant that could doesn't let a few setbacks keep him from achieving his dreams. He rockets to success as a unique and talented performer. His greatness is so awe-inspiring (and so profitable) that his mother is released from prison to enjoy the remainder of her plush circus gig from the comfort of a swanky private train car. If becoming so successful that you can literally get people out of prison is not a happy ending to be proud of, I don't know what more you want out of life.
How He Should Have Turned Out:
Dumbo's initial reaction to separation from his mother is accurately represented, but everything that comes after that is pure bullshit.
Walt Disney Studios
Yes, even by this standard.
There's very little chance that his litany of negative life experiences would lead to success and fame. The much more likely outcome -- one faced by millions of children every year -- would start off with what the US Department of Health and Human Services describes as "poorer peer relationships and diminished cognitive abilities." Other symptoms that Dumbo would be likely to experience are weirdly specific. According to this article, a frightening amount of kids develop a straight-up phobia of school, and stop going for a couple of months. Luckily for Dumbo, he had someone to physically and brutally force him to perform through his initial period of trauma.
Walt Disney Studios
Good rule of thumb: Unless his last name is "Jones," odds are a dude who needs a whip for his job is probably an asshole.
As with millions before him, Dumbo quickly turns to drugs to dull the existential pain of his miserable life. Again, in the Disney universe, this leads to a slap on the wrist (terrifying hallucinations guaranteed to ensure a life of sobriety) before the happy ending unfolds. In the not-bubblegum-sunshine-and-lollipops universe, early exposure to drugs lead to a lifetime susceptibility to dependence, and can also hinder or even halt development at certain stages.
Which all goes to show that baby Dumbo should have been shown either shutting down and retreating from public life, or taking the fast track to Juvie. Not passing go, not collecting $200, and certainly not returning to a blissfully ignorant, picturesque family life. That famous alcohol scene would have likely lasted well into his 80s, until he died of liver failure and shame. Thanks for the nightmares, Disney.
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