Over the last few years, Disney’s efforts in live-action have mined the company’s early days of animation. Now, with Dumbo, the studio is breathing new life into its fourth-ever animated feature film with the help of legendary director, producer and artist Tim Burton. With an appreciation of the original film and a perennially strange onscreen representation of the world as we know it, Tim Burton is the perfect fit to bring this elephant-size tale back to life. And if you ask the cast of Dumbo — including Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito and Joseph Gatt — they’ll tell you that they can’t picture anyone else for the gig, either.
“Genuinely, when I heard he was doing it, I was like, ‘Oh my god. What a dream gig to do,'” Farrell said on the set of Dumbo. “And that was before reading the script. And then I read the script and it’s so sweet. And Tim’s really good at figuring out the balancing act between honoring the sweetness of the original story or the intent of the kind of allegorical element of what a baby flying elephant represents with kind of real-world emotional concerns of families and friendships and damages of war.”
For Gatt, Burton’s stress-free set environment was really significant. “I don’t think I’ve worked with a director that cares about everything so much. He cares so much about the actors being comfortable in what they’re doing and feeling safe. He’s put together such a great cast. And we’re all the same. Sometimes, you have to kind of like catch yourself, because you’re sitting there and Tim’s there and Danny DeVito and Michael Keaton and Colin [Farrell] and you’re hanging out and you’re having fun. Should it be this easy? Should it be this much fun? But it is. It really is.”
If you ask longtime collaborator Danny DeVito, however, he’ll tell you that Burton is a director whose world he has always wanted to inhabit, regardless of the story.
“I’ll get emotional thinking about like, how much I care about him,” Devito said. “Always spirited, always an artist, always thinking about the craft, always just painting with his mind and so, I feel like I’m part of a kind of, some kind of color scheme in Kandinsky’s world or something, where I just feel like you want to go. And you see him work. Right from the very beginning, even with Batman [Returns]. … From that, he’s never changed, not a bit.”
Farrell was also highly effusive about Burton’s level of care and his engagement in every single facet of the filming process; Burton wants to be as heavily involved in the making of this movie as he possibly can be.
“He’s so invested emotionally and intellectually, obviously, but physically invested in the making of the film,” Farrell says. “To watch him on the set and how engaged he is and how frenetic at times his energy can be, and how he moves and it’s just a joy and he’s just really kind to everyone. And I think any of the crew would jump through hoops for him. I certainly know I would, and the cast would.”
Dumbo is slated for a U.S. release on March 29.