The Notable Dolittles of Disney

Aurora with animals
Credit: Disney

Throughout the extensive history of Walt Disney Entertainment, we’ve had the pleasure of being introduced to multiple different kinds of talking animals. While some speaking creatures are able to converse due to having exceptional capabilities of their own, other animals remain within their normalized critter standards but find their voices, nevertheless, through onscreen interactions with some rather unique human companions. We’re referring to those protagonists in possession of abilities that enable them to speak directly with animals—those we like to refer to as the “Dolittles” of Disney. And there have been quite a few that have emerged on the scene over the years. From princesses of classic animation to live-action characters old and new alike, here are some of the most notable Dolittles of Disney.

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11. Cinderella

The character of Cinderella has been showcased time and again as being the very epitome of what a lady ought to be. She has it all—kindness, humility, and beauty both inside and out. And it is perhaps through her gentle nature working in combination with her appreciation and regard for all living creatures that have fostered her endearing ability to actually communicate with creatures of all kinds. There’s been some debate back and forth about the extent of her powers of communication amongst animal friends.

As it has been pointed out, the original animated adaptation from 1950 seems to establish that she can communicate with the mice, but is not able to confer indirect spoken language with others, like Lucifer the cat, Bruno the dog, and even her horse Major. The live-action remake from 2015 seems open-ended in establishing that Cinderella has a gift for being understood by her animal companions (and they in turn love her and help her out in their own ways) but aside from when the lizards and goose are transformed into humans, it doesn’t appear that they are actually able to speak directly to her linguistically in their usual form. The Cinderella character as presented in the 2014 musical Into the Woods seems to seal the deal in portraying Cinderella as having the ability to speak directly to animals, largely so to the birds.

Cinderella and animals
Credit: Disney

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10. Snow White

Another classic princess paradigm, this trendsetting heroine of Disney legend was not only the one who started it all, but she’s very likely the reason why Cinderella and others have had such a nurturing connection with animals and nature. While we never truly see an animal speak directly to her, Snow White confides her secrets to her woodland friends and even sings to them. It’s evident that she’s earned their trust and there is a bond—an understanding that exists mutually between all of them. And the fact that the animals show their love and protection of her speaks volumes about her implied ability to commune with them beyond what is only common one-sided interaction.

Snow White and animals
Credit: D23

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9. Aurora

Interestingly enough, it’s been commented on several times how the titular princess of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty has only 18 lines of spoken dialogue throughout the entire film, which was released in 1959. Either her actions speak louder than words or there’s a lot of aside speaking she does that doesn’t get shown because she successfully demonstrates the fact that she has the uncanny ability to converse with all sorts of woodland creatures. The most evidence and support we have to affirm this is, of course, that iconic dance scene. You just can’t explain her ability to get the animals to respond and interact with her in such accordance if not crediting it to some type of unique ability to communicate with them directly.

Sleeping Beauty Once Upon A Dream

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8. Mowgli

This young protagonist, who leads as the sole human in both Disney’s animated and live-action installments of The Jungle Book, also happens to be in possession of abilities enabling him to communicate directly with animals. But that is to be expected when you grow up in the jungle alongside animals serving as your mentors and adoptive family.

The Jungle Book
Credit: Disney

7. Tarzan

Like Mowgli, this title hero of Disney’s animated film from 1999 also finds himself in a situation in which he grows up alongside animals rather than other human beings. And it is because of these circumstances that he is naturally able to communicate with his animal friends and family first and foremost, even before he is able to do so with fellow people.

Baby Tarzan

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6. Mary Poppins

The live-action classic adaptation of Mary Poppins from 1964 presents us with a very straightforward demonstration of the title heroine’s abilities to carry on a conversation with all sorts of creatures. Being an implied magical being by nature, this isn’t so surprising. She can order inanimate objects around—alluding to the fact that she is understood by them as well. And let’s not forget her transcendence into illustrations and her ability to speak with those creatures also. But the most telling scene of proof happens when Mary Poppins carries on a direct back and forth conversation with a dog. While we as the viewers never hear the dog speak beyond a series of barks, the response and commentary in the communication drives home the fact that Mary Poppins can both understand and be understood by animals.

Mary Poppins talks to a dog
Credit: Vintage Everyday

5. Ariel

Our next example may be slightly debatable, given the fact that the protagonist of Disney’s The Little Mermaid isn’t entirely human. But even so, during the scenes when she is in human form, she still maintains her abilities to understand Sebastian, Flounder, and Scuttle, as well as the other creatures who come to her rescue during the movie’s climax. As for whether or not Ariel possesses any abilities beyond what any humans can tap into, however, can be debated.

Because she does not have a voice throughout most of her interactions with Max the dog, we cannot confirm whether or not she can speak to or understand him as well as the aforementioned species. And then there’s that whole bit during the “Kiss the Girl” musical number when Sebastian whispers Ariel’s name into Eric’s ear and he clearly hears it. So maybe, in the realm of The Little Mermaid, it isn’t a matter of possessing some sort of abilities that no one else is in possession of; perhaps it’s just a matter of animals deciding who to trust and open up to.

Kiss the Girl scene
Credit: D23

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4. Tiana

Again, we find ourselves with another debatable example, largely due to the fact that this title princess from The Princess and the Frog cannot normally understand non-human species. The fact that she is able to speak to a frog in the first place can be summed up to the fact that she is really talking to a human prince, who has been transformed into a frog. But once she herself takes the form of a frog, she and Prince Naveen are both able to commune quite companionably with other creatures they acquaint in the bayou—all of whom have never been formerly human. So, for better or worse, whether you credit being temporarily turned into a frog as the reason for her capabilities, Tiana does demonstrate an onscreen ability to speak with and understand animals. And in all fairness, we can give credit where it is due to other human figures in the film as well, like Dr. Facilier and Mama Odie.

The Princess and the Frog
Credit: Disney

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3. Giselle

We can’t forget about the princess in Disney’s (primarily) live-action blockbuster hit Enchanted from 2007. Presented as a Disney Princess come-to-life, Giselle represents all of the best qualities we know and love so well in Disney’s most adored heroines. And among her seemingly endless attributes is the fact that she joins the lineup of those favored characters who are able to converse with animals. Even though we learn that animals from Andalasia are mute in our world, per Pip the chipmunk serving as the example, we are still witnessing to the uncanny communication she keeps with animals of all kinds—of this world and from her own. We see this best played out in her ability to summon animals from our world to help her clean and by instructing birds to make a delivery.

Credit: Disney

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2. Antonio Madrigal

Our youngest and most recent addition to the long line of Disney Dolittles is this young member of the magical Madrigal family from Disney’s Encanto. Released in 2021, Encanto introduces us to a very versatile family with varying members of its household gifted with unique capabilities. When Antonio is bestowed with his own gift, it ends up being none other than an ability to communicate with animals.  

Credit: Disney

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1. Dr. Dolittle

Now that we’ve showcased so many Dolittles from Disney, we can’t overlook the most obvious Dolittle of all—the one and only Dr. Dolittle character. The first classic onscreen representation of this title figure, gifted with the ability to talk to and understand animals, came about with the musical adaptation of Doctor Dolittle from 1967—produced by 20th Century Studios and starring Rex Harrison. The same studio rebooted the story into the nonmusical comedy of the same name in 1998, with Eddie Murphy starring in the title role. This movie also had a follow-up sequel along with several direct-to-video spinoffs featuring Dolittle’s daughter, who has also inherited the gift of animal communication.

Dr. Dolittle
Credit: Disney

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Throughout the history of Disney Entertainment there have been many animals who have been able to find their voices, develop unique personality traits, and find new outlets of expression. Sometimes through anthropomorphic displays and other times by way of human interaction and assistance, Disney demonstrates time and again that all creatures great and small have plenty to say. And thanks to the Dolittles of Disney, many are actively able to do just that.

About Laura

Laura Catherine aka “LC” is a writer who resides in Maryland with her family and several pets. She visits Walt Disney World whenever she can. Additionally, she is a published author of three novels, a children’s book, and has a passion for gardening.

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