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The Ringmaster is the main antagonist of Dumbo.

Unlike other Disney villains before him, he doesn't show any signs of being a real "villain" as it seems that all he is trying to do is run his circus the best he can and he just finds himself having to deal with the movie's titular protagonist, Dumbo. But looking more carefully it becomes clear that he runs his circus in very questionable ways. While an average and human agenda, his manner of doing so is extremely dubious, with several moments throughout the film hinting at the Ringmaster's nature behind closed doors.

He was voiced by the late Herman Bing.

Role in the film[]

In the beginning, the Ringmaster and his circus troupe were leaving for their next location on their circus train pulled by Casey Jr, the tender engine with its own personality. Upon arrival, he begins to instruct his men and circus animals to construct the tent and set everything up under a terrible storm (according to the roustabouts' song, the Ringmaster is callous and cruel enough to call them with derogatory names like "hairy apes", and it's also implied by the same roustabouts and the clowns that he underpays his employees). The following morning, he leads a parade which Dumbo was featured in but he ends up tripping on his ears and being laughed at by everyone. After the parade, Dumbo is being made a sideshow attraction, and as the little elephant is being picked on and bullied by some children, the Ringmaster darts in to find Mrs. Jumbo throwing a harmless hay bale to the bullies in order to drive them away and protect Dumbo and he begins to show a more "villainous" side as he immediately starts to ferouciosly whip her and orders his men to strip Dumbo away from his mother to make sure it doesn't happen again (at least looking at some concept during production) and to hold her mother down with many ropes and chains. During the process, he is snagged by Mrs. Jumbo's trunk and thrown into a water barrel due to the excessive and ferocious whipping on her that only contributed to provoke her further. He emerges, soaking wet and enraged, begins to grumble and has his own shirt swat him in the face as it shrinks. Furious and humiliated, after the incident, he locks Mrs. Jumbo away in a separate circus car, labeling it "Mad Elephant" via wooden sign. He then goes on to talk with one of his men about a new act: the Pyramid of Pachyderms, a trick where he would construct a pyramid of elephants balancing on a single ball. His plans are overheard by Timothy and Dumbo, who soon want to get in the act and Timothy manages to slip Dumbo into the act by giving the Ringmaster the idea as he is sleeping. During the act (executed with no rehearsal), Dumbo is all set to go. But his own ears trip him up and he ends up missing his jump and colliding with the ball and not only knocks all the elephants down, but tears apart the circus tent and sends the patrons fleeing from fear. The Ringmaster becomes so furious that he punishes Dumbo by recasting him as a clown (as implied by the elephants, the Ringmaster first considered or threatened to physically punish Dumbo, and this implies it wouldn't be the first time to happen in the circus), letting the little elephant be humiliated by his fellow clowns and forced to do crude, dangerous and abusive slap stick comedy at his expense and risking even his own life. The Ringmaster does not reappear onscreen until Dumbo discovers his ability to fly and shocks him during his act by flying over his head. He receives his comeuppance via public humiliation, as Dumbo uses his ability to fly by running the Ringmaster in a water-filled barrel (echoing what Mrs. Jumbo did earlier) then throwing one of the clowns' elephant mask atop his rear. During the film's end and despite his public humiliation, it seems the Ringmaster has redeemed himself and makes Dumbo his number one star and partners with Timothy who's now Dumbo's manager (though it is not even shown as the film finishes on Dumbo and his mother waving goodbye to the Crows in the distance).

In Disney's Villains' Revenge, the Ringmaster tries to make the audience laugh at Dumbo, but the player impresses the audience by making the correct positions and the Clowns got hit and went through the heights and the audience cheered and Dumbo flies once again. They meet for the second time because he, Hook, the Queen and the Queen of Hearts stole the story endings and the player defeats Circus Guards and the jack-in-the-boxes. As the Ringmaster tries to throw a pie at him, the player throws a pie at him and the audience laughed at the Ringmaster and he fainted in defeat.

Trivia[]

  • The Ringmaster's original voice actor, Herman Bing, actually worked as a circus clown at one point in his life.
  • The Ringmaster is one of only two humans in the animated movie whose face is clearly visible at some point: the others are hidden or with low details. The second character is Smitty the bully.
  • The Ringmaster releasing Mrs. Jumbo is revealed in the various novelizations of the film such as the 1977 book by Golden Shape. However, the part of Timothy becoming the new manager of Dumbo and signing a contract with Hollywood, implying also him running the circus or having a main role in its management, is completely omitted from the books.
  • Even considering the separation of Dumbo from Mrs. Jumbo and the imprisonment of the latter as "well-intentioned", the Ringmaster's most villanous and cruel actions seem to happen when he is offscreen, like the treatment and the terrible working conditions of the roustabouts and the elephants described during the dramatic and passive-aggressive "Song of the Roustabouts" and the "punishment" of Dumbo by sending him to be physically humiliated and abused as a baby clown at the expense of his safety and exploiting his already "funny" appearance.
  • There is concept art showing the Ringmaster mad at Dumbo for the failed act of the elephant pyramid before sending him to work with and be ridiculed by the clowns, but it was cut along with many other scenarios (like Timothy training Dumbo) due to the time and budget constraints and limited pace the film is famous for. When the injured elephants ask Catty concerned if the Ringmaster did beat Dumbo as punishment for the disaster at the circus after she said that they "fixed him good", this may be a nod to the deleted scenario. In some book adaptations, it can be read that the Ringmaster verbally scolded and humiliated Dumbo before sending him to work with the clowns after calling him a "bumbling, bungling clown", and in others it can be read that he first threatened to send Dumbo to a zoo. Like many other films of the Golden and Silver eras, many scenarios and character situations are implied and left to the viewers' deduction or interpretation.
  • In most book and comic book adaptations after the release of the film and also in the mobile game Magic Kingdoms, the Ringmaster is given a more sympathetic treatment. For example, the merit for freeing Mrs. Jumbo is given to him and not Timothy, and Timothy being the manager of Dumbo and thus having an important role in the management of the circus if not even the complete management is not even mentioned at all. He is also shown to aggressively whip and lock up Mrs. Jumbo to protect the visitors of the circus, while in the film he separates Dumbo from his mother due to the little elephant suspected to be the cause of Mrs. Jumbo's protective reaction (at least according to concept art), and Mrs. Jumbo throwing the Ringmaster in a vat full of water causing humiliation and rage in the Ringmaster is completely omitted. Also, in a book adaptation, unlike the film, the Ringmaster, after the failure of the pyramid of pachyderms, first threatens to send Dumbo to a zoo and not to physically punish him as hinted by the other elephants.
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