Heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measure, Disney’s classic 1941 animation has been given a new lease of life. We look at what to expect from the studio’s live-action remake…
The dynamic duo: Burton and Elfman
Weird and wonderful are often words used to describe the dynamic duo and with the mention of visionary director Tim Burton and composer Danny Elfman taking the reins on this reimagining of a cinema classic, we know we’re destined for something that’s anything but ordinary.
Since teaming up in 1985, they’ve sent imaginations soaring with strange worlds and soundscapes, from Beetlejuice and Batman to Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. In Dumbo, their 17th film together, Burton takes a story about celebrating differences, following dreams and cherishing family, and deftly picks out the darker undertones of this beloved story.
A mysterious new recording of the animation’s memorably heart-wrenching track, ‘Baby Mine’, by Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora suggests Elfman’s score is happily taking the same approach.
Out with the old: what’s changed?
Prepare yourselves, this is ‘Dumbo’, but not exactly as we know it. New characters introduced, old faces lost: it’s Dumbo for 21st-century sensibilities. Dumbo’s tiny confidant, Timothy Q. Mouse, might not make a cut but the new characters Joe and Milly, children themselves, help young Dumbo accept who he is and find the courage to soar to success.
Look out for clever nods to the original. A feather still plays its part, mice are dressed in smart red uniforms, and pink elephant-shaped bubbles dance in fantastical fashion in the lofty heights of the big top.
In the spotlight: an all-star cast
Befitting the razzle-dazzle of the circus world, Dumbo features a stellar cast.
Danny DeVito brings showmanship and warmth to the character of Max Medici, owner of the struggling Medici Family Circus, and Michael Keaton takes on the role of charismatic entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere – a man with big dreams for Dumbo, and himself. Both actors are on their fourth adventure into Tim Burton’s imagination, while Eva Green, who worked with the director in 2016’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, plays charming aerial artist Colette Marchant.
It’s Colin Farrell who’s the new kid on the Burton block: a circus star who returns injured from war, Holt Farrier finds his whole life has changed, and his family’s future now includes Dumbo.
Anything is possible: special effects
Naturally, with no real-life Dumbo on the scene – in fact, with no real animals featuring on-screen at all – Disney has turned to big hitters in visual effects to blend state-of-the-art CGI with live action.
The interplay between characters and the emotion that’s packed into Dumbo’s expressions is touching. It seems the likes of MPC and Framestore (among others) have been waving their VFX wands to elevate extraordinary sets into spectacular immersive experiences too. MPC and Disney partnered up for 2016’s live-action remake of The Jungle Book, as well as 2018’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. One thing’s for sure: you’ll want a ringside seat for the action.