Dumbo's Circus (1985– )

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Live action TV series based on Disney's classic Dumbo, an elephant with the ability to fly (with the help of his trusty feather). The characters were all costumes (with the help of '... See full summary »

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Series cast summary:
Phil Baron ...
 (1985) (unknown episodes)


Live action TV series based on Disney's classic Dumbo, an elephant with the ability to fly (with the help of his trusty feather). The characters were all costumes (with the help of 'puppetronics', I believe, radio-controlled mechanisms pioneered by Jim Henson's "Fraggle Rock" and Disney's "Welcome to Pooh Corner". This series didn't produce too many episodes but ran for quite a while and was pretty popular for a cable series. Written by The Puppet Avenger

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Plot Keywords:

elephant | lion | koala | dog | circus | See All (8) »




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Release Date:

6 May 1985 (USA)  »

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Spun-off from Dumbo (1941) See more »


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Written by Robin Frederick
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User Reviews

A legacy of mirth and music
18 October 2009 | by (Southern California) – See all my reviews

It is truly a pity that not every children's television show has proved to be as enduring or memorable as "Howdy Doody," "Sesame Street," or "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." Adults (particularly younger adults) do tend to be picky, but kids will accept just about any brand of entertainment as long as it's presented good-naturedly and with the aim of charging up their imaginations. This is not to say that all kids' shows are inherently equal, though: some are genuine masterpieces that even adults can hail as ideal examples of the fusion of art, commerce, and socialization; others are not quite so substantial in their themes, but tend to contain some element or another that encourages viewers to remember them fondly years or even decades after they are broadcast.

"Dumbo's Circus," a short-lived but aggressively syndicated "kiddie" show with puppets that aired on the Disney Channel in the 1980s, is a program whose quirks I remember with great joy despite not necessarily valuing the program as highly as I once did. Ostensibly a spin-off of Disney's 1941 animated movie DUMBO, this series placed the titular pachyderm (here voiced by successful voice-over actress Katie Leigh) among the denizens of a traveling circus that roamed the environs of an unidentified country. Dumbo served as a "Pegasus" of sorts for a magical flying wagon, drawing his friends through the sky to each new performance. These friends included Fair "Dink" Dinkum (voice of Patty Maloney), the Australian ringmaster; Lionel (voice of Jim Cummings), the troupe's Brooklyn-accented barker and magician; Lily (Patricia Parris), a glamorous lady trapeze artist; Q.T. (Caleb Chung), the shy but friendly strongman and calliope player; and others. All of these characters were rendered on the TV screen as startlingly lifelike puppets so impressive that even Jim Henson (of "Muppets" fame) might have been envious.

The adventures of the circus people involved countless other characters, some of whom were mere spectators at their shows and others intriguing personalities in their own right. (One especially enchanting episode had Dumbo and friends encounter a village inhabited by people who spent most of their existence sleeping and awake for short periods only once every one hundred years, in a sort of nod to BRIGADOON.) The typical episode featured one or more of the cast members confronting a challenge of some sort, though each problem was generally resolved by the end of the story. Sometimes the plots dealt with naive childhood fears, such as not wanting to go to the doctor or being lost in a mysterious forest. Other plots were much more comical but still imparted useful lessons, such as the one in which Lily is found to be nearsighted but refuses to wear eyeglasses because she fears they will make her unattractive; as the episode progresses, she commits a string of "Mr. Magoo"-style blunders that finally convince her of the error of her ways. "Dumbo's Circus" indeed dealt with mundane and even pat situations more often than not, but never in a propagandistic way and always with kindness.

The most wonderful aspect of "Dumbo's Circus" was its music! The program's creative staff included a stable of very talented and creative composers and lyricists whose genius is attested by the fact that I can still recite their songs by heart 20 years later! The show's opening theme song was a brassy, "circus-y" number that immediately got kids tingling in anticipation of the fun to come. I also enjoyed the calypso-tinged "I'm an Elephant, Too" and the Halloween-themed "The Day the Spooky Circus Came to Town" (with a bass line, believe it or not, that sounded like it was straight out of Michael Jackson's "Thriller"). "The Big Parade" was probably my favorite because it was the catchiest: if you ever hear it, you will NEVER get its infectious marching tune out of your head! And then there was the wistful "I Love a Circus," which was written by world-famous songwriter and guitarist Dan Crow - a man whom I was privileged to meet at a children's concert when I was seven. Less stirring but just as touching to the soul were various smaller, character-based songs like "Too Big" (Dumbo's lament about his weight problem) and "Matilda" (in which Dink sang passionately about his twin sister back in Australia).

Sensitively crafted children's fare such as "Dumbo's Circus" can affect the kids watching at home in amazingly profound ways, often even after they have grown to adulthood. Whenever I used to run the treadmill at my local fitness center, for example, I would sing "The Big Parade" in my head to encourage myself to lift my knees high while jogging in place. You simply can't buy a memory like that with all the riches in the world. I sincerely hope that I will be able to view reruns of "Dumbo's Circus" in the future, if only so I can approach them with a newfound appreciation born of nostalgia and gratitude.

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