The Clowns are the teritary antagonists in Disney's 1941 film Dumbo. The clowns work for their boss the Ringmaster for a circus. They are first seen in the parade on the circus' opening day, doing various goofy acts.
The clowns are not exactly antagonistic through evil or maliciousness, but more of insensitivity towards animals, most notably Dumbo. They take great pride in their jobs as comic entertainers, believing it will earn them respect from their audiences. However, they are also easily scared, as when they see Dumbo finally flying and soaring at them, they immediately panic and run for cover, assuming he will attack them as revenge for the previous act that left him humiliated.
The clowns are mute during their act, but seem to be generally loud-mouthed otherwise.
It is unknown what they look like without their costumes, as they are only seen as shadows.
The clowns first appear during the circus parade, and start a fireman act as Dumbo's first performance as a clown. During the act, one of the clowns wears an elephant mask and a dress pretending to be Dumbo's mother shouting "save my child!", and the other clowns appear dressed as firemen, with one wearing the uniform of a fire chief. The only clown that talks during the act is the "mother." The clowns perform goofy acts such as dousing a fire with gasoline, roasting hot dogs in front of a burning building, or throwing water on a flowerbed instead of the fire. For the climax, Dumbo, who is dressed like a baby and wearing clown makeup, is made to jump from the building, where he is to land in a gigantic pie. He resists, but one clown sneaks up from behind him and whips him with a wood board. He ends up landing in the pie, much to everyone's amusement. The other animals consider Dumbo to be a disgrace to the circus animals (despite Dumbo had no choice in the matter and was doing the job as best he could). Following the act, the shadows of the clowns are shown in their tent changing into casual clothes and celebrating with a bottle of champagne over the popular act. They believe they will earn a lot more money by making the height greater and thus more death-defying. One of the dumber but more sympathetic clowns comments that they may accidentally hurt Dumbo if they make the act much too extreme, only to be brushed off by two others who reply that "elephants don't have feelings" and that they are "made of rubber". As they leave to tell their boss of their idea for thier next act, their champagne bottle is knocked into Dumbo's water bucket, resulting in Dumbo and Timothy Mouse getting drunk.
The clowns ultimately get their comeuppance (along with the Ringmaster) during the second act when Dumbo flies off a thousand-foot-tall cardboard building instead of landing in the pie. This scares the clowns, who either take cover in water barrels (one clown who was standing on a ladder loses his balance and falls into the pie himself after Dumbo soars at him, the spash soaking four of the clowns) or drive their fire engine into the burning building only to reemerge with scathed rear ends screaming. They are not seen for the rest of the film. What happens to the clowns after the circus is renamed "Dumbo's Flying Circus" is unknown, although it is assumed that they either lost their jobs, or reformed after witnessing Dumbo flying during the act.
- The clowns' requests to get a raise from their boss is a reference to the Disney animators that went on strike in 1941 (during the creation of the film), demanding higher pay from Disney himself. Moreover, some of the clowns are caricatures of those animators.