Everyone’s favorite floppy-eared flying baby elephant is coming back to the big screen on Mar. 29, and this time with real-life circus performers from around the world, a totally new look courtesy of filmmaker Tim Burton, and a different storyline than the one Disney fans know from the original 1941 animated classic. But one of the first things you probably noticed from the trailers is that the new Dumbo doesn’t have any talking animals. And there’s a good reason why.
OK, yes, in the classic 1941 Disney movie, Dumbo himself didn’t talk. His best friend and cheerleader, on the other hand, tiny little ringmaster Timothy Q. Mouse (Edward Brophy) was a very chatty critter. And though they’re now widely recognized as racist caricatures, the harmonizing crows also had a major musical moment when they sang what is probably the film’s most popular song, "When I See An Elephant Fly." But it looks like moviegoers won’t be seeing any CGI birds singing or mean elephants calling Dumbo names when they head to the theater to see the new live-action version.
Writer-producer Ehren Kruger explained to HuffPost that the intention was for a more human perspective to come through in this remake of the Disney classic. So in place of talking animals, we have more new human characters played by Danny DeVito, Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Eva Green, and more.
“Early on, I made the decision in the spirit of realism and because Dumbo never talks in the animated [version], Jumbo has a line or two, and they’re really the core of our story,” Kruger told the outlet. “We were going to not have this be a talking animal picture. That meant pulling back on a few characters from the animated film.”
DeVito, who is a huge fan of the original film and plays circus owner Max Medici in the remake, told journalists visiting the film set (as per Collider), "Contrary to what it was in the movie where the mouse gives the head of the circus all the ideas, this is kind of like life itself in a modern world."
The most out-of-this world spectacle in this movie’s reality will be Dumbo and his flying act. That means you shouldn’t expect a direct interpretation of the psychedelic "Pink Elephants" scene, though it’s too iconic to cut out entirely. So the producers decided to render the moment in a more grounded way.
According to HuffPost, instead of via Dumbo and Timothy getting accidentally drunk off of water spiked with champagne, the pink elephants will arrive in the form of a trippy bubble circus act. And, yes, as seen in the trailer it’ll be just as glorious (and maybe a little less nightmare-ish) as the original "Pink Elephants" sequence.
“One of the things I very much wanted to do was to be able to transport an audience to make them feel like they were part of Dumbo’s circus,” Kruger told HuffPost. “What an amazing experience it would’ve been if Dumbo were real. If there were a real flying elephant, what would it be like to be part of his family? That’s really what drove the decision to tell the classic story that we all know and love from a different perspective, through human eyes, and really involve the audience as if they were there in the golden age of the circus and witnessing the discovery of this amazing creature.”
Per Collider, Farrell, who plays single father Holt Farrier, told visiting reporters that he was drawn to the movie because he wanted to see Tim Burton’s take on the tale. "Just the idea of something as sweet and fantastical and almost otherworldly while being grounded in some recognizable world that we can relate to under the directorship of [Tim] is kind of a dream," he said.
He continued, "Tim is really good at figuring out the balancing act between honoring the sweetness of the original story or the intent or the allegorical element of what a baby flying elephant represents with real-world emotional concerns of families and friendships and damages of war without getting into it too much."
So though the new Dumbo won’t feature the wise-cracking animals you grew up with, there will be plenty of other wonders to enjoy.
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