The legacy of Walt Disney Animation’s 1941 feature Dumbo is nothing if not complicated. These 77 years on, many of us remain duly freaked out by the film’s trippy-as-all-hell “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence, rightfully vexed by its racially problematic Jim Crow character, and exceedingly overwhelmed with grief by the scene of Dumbo’s mother rocking her baby to sleep from inside a jail cell. Whatever new measures Disney’s live-action Dumbo remake intends to take in reviving the time-worn story, they’ll likely need to involve an overhaul of some of these concerns.
Our first look at the new film, directed by Tim Burton, is admittedly brief, but it does leave a taste of the sort of melancholy that enveloped the original Dumbo—but hey, maybe I’m just triggered by the sight of an elephant eye peeking out into the moonlit world through a tiny barred window (honestly, that cartoon did a number on me).
What we can expect is that our new Dumbo will experience a bit more kindness than his hand-drawn predecessor, as Burton looks to be painting his human characters with a more sympathetic brush than did Dumbo OG; Colin Farrell plays the calf’s hired caretaker, and Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins play Farrell’s two kids, and the whole family seems like good people. That isn’t to say that Michael Keaton’s circus owner or Danny DeVito’s ringleader won’t provide some expected cruelty, but we have yet to see what either one is planning to dole out.
In any event, we’re looking forward to more from Disney and Burton’s live-action Dumbo. Hopefully not drug trip scenes and racist characters, but whatever else they’ve got in store.
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