Dumbo Droppings

Apocryphal Traveler Tale

Travelling on the aircon bus from Roi Et to Bangkok Thailand in 1995, my wife and I sat next to a young Thai-Canadian fellow, who told us he was associated with the filming of the Walt Disney movie "Operation Dumbo Drop", which had just wrapped in Chiang Mai to the north. He told us three stories about the movie and the true story it was loosely adapted from. I do not remember his name. I have no idea if he was telling the truth.

His roommate was "the screenwriter", apparently one of three. He helped with translation, and showing the actors some of Thailand in between takes.

Story one concerns taking some actors (Danny Glover, Ray Liotta) out into the "jungle" near the set. They got muddy, which they thought would help with the next scene, involving mud. When he brought them back, the makeup department was aghast - that was REAL mud, not movie makeup mud. Real mud doesn't look right on film compaired to movie makeup mud. They had to clean and redress and "re-mud" the actors.

Story two concerns a side deal Disney had going with the US Drug Enforcement Agency, which was (and probably still is) the biggest US government agency in Thailand, much bigger than all the rest of the US embassy departments combined. The DEA sent undercover agents "embedded" in the film crew, who investigated and "helped" the Thai government shut down an opium growing and export operation near Chiang Mai. Our travelling companion told us that the local druglord vowed revenge on Disney and the production, promising to bomb the Hollywood opening. Nothing actually happened; when all is said and done, more is said than done. Mai Pen Rai.

Story three concerns the actual transportation of an elephant in an aircraft, as opposed to the sanitized version shown in the movie. This is my science-based retelling of that retelling. The movie depicts a live elephant in a wooden cage that is rolled off the back of a flying aircraft, to parachute down into a remote village that is inaccessable by road or airstrip.

An elephant is a pressurized vessel, with pressure relief ports at both ends. In the lower pressure air above sea level, gas must leave the elephant out the pressure relief ports. Gas leaving the rear relief port contains entrained solids. These solids were deposited on the walls of the aircraft cargo bay. When the aircraft landed back at the air base, in the afternoon of a sweltering summer day in Vietnam, the stench was terrible, dizzyingly so in the heat. The ground crew opted to let the night crew clean out the aircraft.

Unbeknownst to the ground crew, elephant effluent has a high pH - it is caustic ("base"), like sodium hydroxide. I've used sodium hydroxide is used to etch a rough surface on aluminum prior to painting; a quick dip in dilute NaOH roughens the surface nicely. Hours of caustic effluent at high temperature is far more reactive. The effluent deposits etched holes through the fuselage. They had to scrap the cargo plane.

This was omitted from the screenplay. While it might be "PG", teaching the kiddies about the effects of caustics (like many home cleansers) on aluminum could cause far more nationwide damage than a vengeful Thai druglord.

All three stories may be exaggerations or downright lies. But they are amusing lies, unlike those told by the DEA.

DumboDroppings (last edited 2017-04-14 02:45:17 by KeithLofstrom)