Jim Crow acts as the unofficial leader of the flock, and carries himself with a slick, self-assured and stylish flair; Fats gets his name from his rotund appearance; the refined Deacon from his attire resembling that of a church deacon; Dopey from his sloppy posture and appearance; and the zestfully youthful Specks from the oversized glasses that he dons. As a group, they are fairly easy-going and friendly towards each other, referring to themselves (and others close to them) as "brothers".
The crows are generally good-natured, albeit with tendencies towards jokes and teasing, as was the case of Timothy and Dumbo. Ashamed of their initial behavior, however, the crows proved themselves to be excellent mentors by teaching Dumbo to fly through the use of psychological encouragement. Alongside Timothy, they provide Dumbo with much needed confidence and support, and it is their involvement that ultimately leads to Dumbo's rise to stardom, and reunion with his incarcerated mother.
The crows first appear in the woods where they spot Dumbo and Timothy sleeping in a tree. The crows are utterly confused at the sight, and so their leader, Jim Crow, flies down to investigate. Jim Crow wakes up Timothy with his smoking. The minute Timothy mentions pink elephants, Jim and the crows begin to laugh about this; even when Timothy asks them "what they're doing down here" and "to fly back up a tree where they belong." When Jim says: "Hey, look here there, Brother Rat...", Timothy gets up angry and quotes he ain't his brother and no rat to which Jim replies: "Oh. And I suppose you and no elephant ain't up in no tree either?" Timothy replies that him and no tree... until he finds out the truth for himself. Timothy and Dumbo awaken, and Dumbo's panic at being in the tree causes the two to fall out of the tree, landing in a puddle. The crows laugh as Timothy and Dumbo walk away. As Timothy, thinking out loud, wonders how they ended up in the tree, Jim Crow then playfully suggest they flew.
After a moment of thought, Timothy believes it and realizes that Dumbo's ears were perfect for flight. The crows laugh at this and start to sing the show stopper, "When I See an Elephant Fly". After the musical number and continuous laughter, Timothy furiously berates them and tells them of Dumbo's background and sad story.
The crows immediately start crying, regret their mockery, start to have sympathy for the two, and apologize to them; explaining that they had seen the light. Jim Crow then explains that they will help Dumbo learn how to fly. Jim whispers to Timothy that the plan involves psychology. Gathering with the crows, Jim and Timothy form a plan that involves Timothy being given a feather from Specks. Timothy gives the feather to Dumbo, calling it a "magic feather" that will allow Dumbo to fly; in reality, it is merely a token to encourage and increase Dumbo's confidence.
The crows take Dumbo to a nearby cliff, where he attempts to take off. After the dust clears, the crows realize that Dumbo is actually flying and excitedly proclaim that they've seen everything, thus, singing a reprise of their song, When I See an Elephant Fly. The crows see Dumbo back to the circus and talk about how surprised the people will be to see Dumbo.
Afterwards, Dumbo becomes famous as a result of his flying skills. The crows are later seen singing a final reprise of "When I See an Elephant Fly" and flying with Dumbo, who is flying to a private train car that houses him and his mother (who was in solitary confinement earlier in the film and is now free after Dumbo's fame). The crows wave good-bye to Dumbo and wish him the best; with Jim Crow remarking that he never got his autograph until Fats assures him that he himself got his autograph to which Jim joyfully replies to Dumbo: "Well, so long glamour boy!"
In the animated series, the crows appeared as recurring guests, usually seen flying with Dumbo in crowd shots.
Their most notable role is in the episode "Donald Wants to Fly", where Donald Duck tries to fly. Upon seeing this, Jim jokes with the other crows that he's seen nearly everything fly, but he may never see Donald fly.
The crows make a cameo appearance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. They are seen playing the background music of Jessica Rabbit's song "Why Don't You Do Right?". Jim Crow, Deacon and Specks can also be spotted during the final scenes, hidden amongst the crowd of toons.
- In the original novel, an owl named Professor Hoot was the one that taught Dumbo how to fly.
- None of the crows' names were given in the film, though their names can be seen on model sheets used by the animators and in scripts.
- Jim's name was changed to "Dandy Crow" in later years in attempt to avoid controversy. However, the name never caught on, and thus "Jim" remained as is.
- Jim's voice actor, Cliff Edwards, was also the voice of Jiminy Cricket in one of Walt Disney's earlier features, Pinocchio.
- Dopey shares his name with the youngest of the seven dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
- The crows' developed relationship with Dumbo from wise-cracking hecklers to supporting allies would later inspire an identical relationship in The Jungle Book, with the vultures and Mowgli. On the audio commentary for the DVD release of The Jungle Book, Richard Sherman compared the two, calling the concept "classic Disney".
- Dumbo is often criticized as racist for the inclusion of the black crows as African-American caricatures; specifically the naming of Jim, which is a reference to the infamous Jim Crow Laws. However, many critics, pundits and personalities reject these criticisms, noting that the majority of the crows are portrayed by African American actors (with the exception of Cliff Edwards) and their lead animator described them as being spoofs of many black entertainers at the time, with their clothes being based on 1930-40s fashion, such as Jim's bowler hat and spats. The crows are sympathetic towards Dumbo's plight - it is in fact Timothy whom they mock with their song, for taking Jim's joke seriously, and there's no way they could have known about Dumbo's tragic history before Timothy's lecture.They are not only likeable characters, but we are encouraged to like them in the context of the movie.
- When accepting her Disney Legends award in 2017, Whoopi Goldberg expressed her desire to see the crows appear on more merchandise by Disney.
- ↑ Dumbo: Big Top Edition DVD commentary