Despite early reports that they would be cut, the 1941 Dumbo movie that's streaming on Disney+ does features the group of controversial crows. The crows were cut from Tim Burton's 2019 remake of Dumbo, but Disney+ has elected to leave them in the original animated classic.
Dumbo follows a young elephant who is teased for his large ears but ultimately learns to fly because of them. Near the end of the 64-minute classic, Dumbo and his mouse pal, Timothy, meet a group of five crows who were clearly designed to conveniently match racial stereotypes of African-Americans, at least in retrospect. The leader of the group is even named Jim Crow, an obvious reference to the so-called “Jim Crow” segregation laws in America that were enforced through 1965. The term “Jim Crow” derives from "Jump Jim Crow” - a parody song about African-Americans that was performed by a white man in blackface. Dumbo’s crow characters are indeed song-and-dance figures that say things like “What’s cooking around here? What’s the good news? What’s frying, boy?” White actor Cliff Edwards voiced Dumbo's Jim Crow.
Disney+ kept the Dumbo crow characters in the original film. Under the “Details” tab, Disney includes the warning that “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.” While the wording could be more specific, rather than using broad language that implies some viewers might be offended by the crow characters, the new streaming service at least acknowledges the racial insensitivity associated with a more naive time in America cinema.
The 1955 Lady and the Tramp movie also includes the same exact warning about “outdated cultural depictions.” The film includes a Siamese cat sequence, full of Asian racial stereotypes, that was significantly altered for the Disney+ launch film Lady and the Tramp 2019. In fact, “The Siamese Cat Song” was replaced entirely with a new track called “What a Shame.”
The 1941 Dumbo movie includes more than just one problematic sequence. The first act includes “Song of the Roustabouts” which has faceless African-American characters working on the railroad, and using language that fits racial stereotypes. In addition, the Dumbo crow scene is preceded by a sequence where Dumbo and Timothy accidentally get drunk on champagne and proceed to hallucinate and see pink elephants. The moment is briefly referenced in Dumbo 2019 but not wholly re-created.
Dumbo 1941 includes a strong amount of questionable content. The name “Jim Crow” is the most obvious, of course, and the pack of controversial crows also sing a song called "When I See an Elephant Fly,” performed by Edwards and the Hall Johnson Choir. From a 2019 perspective, the Dumbo crow characters don’t hold up especially well, but it's worth noting that a full 27 years passed - after the initial release - until film critic Richard Shickel publicly scrutinized the infamous sequence in the book The Disney Version. Whereas Dumbo viewers and critics may have debated the questionable crow characters prior to the '60s, the Disney tradition and legacy seemingly overpowered the heaviest scrutiny.