Visionary storyteller and Disney alum Tim Burton is back with a live-action recreation of the beloved 1941 film Dumbo. The Disney classic, although previously animated in pastels and bright shades, delves into dark and at times disturbing themes. Enter acclaimed director Tim Burton. The Alice in Wonderland director, in a way only his films can, quaintly combines gothic elements with conventions of the fantasy genre to create something both visually aesthetic and strongly structured. Alongside compelling storylines and visual detail, Burton has never shied away from altering a story or adding in his own flare of quirkiness. The Dumbo trailer seems to nod to the director’s stylistic traditions.
While the trailer created immense excitement for the 2019 release, many were quick to notice some definite changes from the original film. Here are 6 of the key differences between the 1941 Dumbo and Burton’s live-action remake.
Dumbo is Not the Protagonist
In the original Disney classic, Dumbo was the focal point of the film from his deliverance to Mama Jumbo to his exhilarating flying scene. While Burton’s live-action remake kept the title Dumbo and is certain to orbit around the misfit elephant, it will follow the human characters much more closely. This includes the new protagonist, Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), Dumbo’s caretaker. Some critics have praised Burton for the new approach to the story, calling it clever.
No Talking Animals
Simultaneously with the announcement of the Dumbo live-action remake were the rumors that the animal characters wouldn’t speak. A notion that was confirmed in the first trailer for the upcoming film. This was especially a surprise for individuals who were simply expecting a CGI replica of the 1941 film. However, exact remodels have never been the style of the artistically inclined director Burton.
Besides, not all the animal characters spoke in the original movie. Dumbo himself was mute which is still rare for the central character in film today. That meant that in the 1941 classic, viewers had to turn to other characters to help move the story along. The only help from the lead were facial expressions that conveyed sadness, worry and happiness. Also, the story mostly came from the other animals, like the widely controversial crows, because the humans were so feared.
With the new human protagonist, who cares for Dumbo, the audience may get a clearer idea of how the little elephant began to trust humans.
Unlike the original film, the live-action Dumbo will include far more backstories and detail about the human characters, including the villainous businessman V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), but especially Farrier (Farrell). According to the new movie’s summary, Farrier was once a circus star but went off to war. The former star and veteran returns from battle terribly altered. Circus Max Medici (Danny Devito) hires Farrier to take care of Dumbo, a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him the laughing stock of the struggling troupe. The story progresses as Farrier uncovers some of the dark truths of Dreamland.
Perhaps the best part about the animals not speaking in Burton’s Dumbo is that this almost guarantees to avoid the crows entirely. The crows, specifically the leader named Jim Crow, were of Disney’s most controversial characters as the actors even noted that they were told to “talk jive.” The winged characters act as flying instructors to Dumbo in the original film but clearly possess racial overtones that feel completely out of place in a modern-day film. An attempted update for the characters of any kind would be difficult and something the director probably should avoid.
No Timothy Q Mouse
Despite his small stature, Timothy Q Mouse (Jesper Klien) is brazen and fearless. In the original film, Timothy acts a protector to Dumbo after his mother is taken away and deemed a “mad elephant.” One of the most iconic sad Disney scenes is when Timothy takes Dumbo to his chained mother and she rocks him in her trunk while he sobs.
For most of the original film, Timothy is Dumbo’s only friend. He wants to see Dumbo succeed in the circus and to use his uniqueness to do it. With the determination that the little mouse is famous for today, the pair does just that as Dumbo unveils that his ears that once made him an outcast could carry him to new heights.
However, in Burton’s direction, Timothy’s character is apparently replaced by his human caretaker and his children, Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe. At the end of the Dumbo trailer, Milly is even shown giving the newborn elephant with giant ears his magic feather — a pivotal scene that originally belonged to Timothy.
It can be assumed from both the plot summary and trailer for the live-action Dumbo, that the elephant takes flight much sooner than in the original. In the 1941 animated film, Dumbo does not use his ears to fly until the end of the movie. Rather, in the 2019 adaption, it seems that Dumbo doesn’t attract the villain created conflict until he flies.
The struggling circus makes an impressive comeback with their new flying attraction and pop-up on Vandever’s entrepreneurial radar. Dumbo’s new venture with Dreamland places him alongside a spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green). Green’s character also adds all-new depth through Dumbo’s interaction with more developed human characters.
Dumbo will be released in theatres March 29 2019.