Everything we know about Disney’s Dumbo live action remake

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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The trailer has just been released and, warning, it will make you cry. 

On 29 March 2019, the live action remake of Disney’s 1941 animation Dumbo will hit cinemas.

Directed by the wacky, wonderful filmmaker Tim Burton, it tells the story of the baby circus elephant Dumbo, separated from his mother, whose elongated, flappy ears give him the ability to fly. In the original cartoon version the story focused only on the animals of the circus, but in Burton’s live action remake the story will be split between animals and humans.

Enter: Colin Farrell, who plays a one-armed circus employee called Holt Farrier, his two onscreen children Milly and Joe who befriend the loveable elephant, circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito), trapeze artist Colette Marchant (Eva Green) and V. A. Vandemere (Michael Keaton), a nefarious businessman trying to make a quick buck out of Dumbo.

The first trailer was released this week, and it is every bit as magical as you could imagine it would be.

Here is everything we know about Tim Burton’s Dumbo remake:

Don’t worry, it’s still a weepy

Fans of the 1941 original will remember that, like Bambi before it, Dumbo was a heartbreakingly sad movie about the separation of a mother and child. In the cartoon, Mrs. Jumbo is isolated from her infant son and kept under terrifying lock and key in solitary confinement by the Ringmaster.

In Burton’s adaptation, Dumbo’s mother is shown being carted away in a cage, but it’s not clear exactly why or for what reason, and whether or not she will return by the end of the movie. 

What is clear, however, is that you will absolutely bawl your eyes out when that moment happens in cinemas. We know this because we bawled our eyes out just watching the scene in the trailer.

The casting has been a process

So many actors have cycled in and out of Burton’s Dumbo over the years. Before the final cast of Farrell, Green, DeVito and Keaton were locked down, several other names were thrown in the (circus) ring.

Will Smith, at one point, wanted to play the beleaguered circus employee Holt Farrier, but withdrew because of scheduling conflicts. The best Hollywood Chris (Chris Pine) and Casey Affleck were both offered the part but they declined, making way for Farrell. Tom Hanks was also in talks to play the villainous role that eventually went to Keaton.

Colin Farrell with Finley Hobbins and Nico Parker in Dumbo

Farrell’s onscreen children will be played by Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins. The latter is a British child actor making his feature film debut in Dumbo and Parker is the daughter of Thandie Newton and writer Ol Parker.

“Having a mother and father in the industry… she’s been on endless sets,” Newton said earlier this year. “It’s not that she takes it for granted, but it’s not a world that she feels she’s not entitled to be in… [Plus] she has her mum right there like a lioness checking that everything is looked after.”

The story is close to Burton’s heart

Film director Burton feels that the message of Dumbo is at one with the messages of his extended filmography.

“It was always one of my favourite Disney stories and one I had fond memories of,” he told People magazine. “It’s a very sweet story and also very simple and primal – I think that’s why people like it so much. It’s about an outsider, someone who is misperceived, and I’ve always been drawn to stories like that.” 

A scene from the live action remake of Dumbo

The movie reunites Burton with some of his creative favourites

DeVito and Green are both longtime Burton collaborators, with DeVito’s work with the director dating all the way back to Batman and Beetlejuice days. Green has been part of the Burton crew since 2012’s Dark Shadows.

Behind the scenes, too, are a handful of Burton favourites. Composer Danny Elfman, who used music to craft the atmosphere in Burton films from Edward Scissorhands to The Nightmare Before Christmas, is back on board to write the score for Dumbo. (Some of the original songs from the cartoon version, like the lullaby Baby Mine, will remain in the Burton remake, albeit in updated form.) 

Michael Keaton and Eva Green in Dumbo

From an artistic perspective, costume designer Colleen Atwood, the designer on Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, is back to create the sartorial look of the film. Production designer Rick Henreichs, also from Sleepy Hollow days, worked on the film’s circus-themed aesthetic. 

There won’t be any talking animals in this remake

Unlike the 1941 original, Burton’s Dumbo won’t feature talking animals. In the cartoon Dumbo himself didn’t speak, but all the animals around him did, like his best friend Timothy Mouse and, on one occasion, his mother Mrs. Jumbo. 

The lack of talking animals is a sign of the storytelling shift from the perspective of the circus animals to, well, the circus humans. Farrell’s character, and those of his children, will serve as the film’s protagonists. Accordingly, it’s Milly and not Timothy Mouse who gives the elephant his magical flying feather, as seen in the trailer, in Burton’s Dumbo.

Danny DeVito, Nico Parker and Colin Farrell in Dumbo

So, when can we see it? 

29 March 2019. Set your iCal now. 

Images: Disney


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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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