Dumbo – Live and in Color
(I know. It was in color last time, too). Ever since I first heard that Disney was working on a live action Dumbo, I have been anxiously awaiting its arrival, gobbling up every piece of concept art, every teaser trailer, and every tiny clip we were teased with before Dumbo once again graced the big screen. Finally, last Saturday, I got to see my favorite Disney character take flight again, and steal away my heart once more.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge Dumbo fan. He’s my number 1 buddy and I literally don’t remember not loving him. Beyond personal bias toward Dumbo, I feel like his story was a good choice to re-tell with a live-action adaptation. The original Dumbo holds the award of shortest Disney film, clocking in at a mere 64-minute run time. The story was beautiful, but it was truncated and audiences were left with a half-story for 78 years.
Directed by Tim Burton, I expected this movie to be bizarre, dark, and a bit scary. Instead, I found it to be beautiful, uplifting, and inclusive. While there is a semi-spooky scene (there’s a location called “Nightmare Island”), and the film does recognize the poor treatment of performance animals, I was not brought down by this movie. Quite the opposite, actually.
The new Dumbo starts with the same story as the original film — a tiny baby elephant arrives at a circus, surrounded by much anticipation, but those who revered the idea of him are disgusted by him when they lay eyes on his abnormally sizable ears. (Really, though, what’s the big deal???) Soon, a kind soul (in this case, budding scientist Milly Farrier (Nico Parker)) discovers that Dumbo’s ears give him the gift of flight and he becomes a huge success at the circus. The live-action version takes our story much, much further though. We get to see where Dumbo’s incredible abilities take him next.
Dumbo, and the rag-tag troupe of the Medici Brothers’ Circus, enter the big leagues when they join V. A. Vandevere’s (Michael Keaton) Dreamland. This performance arena seems larger than life as Dumbo’s act grows in grandeur and danger — plus, he shares the sky with another flier, Colette Marchant (Eva Green). While this place isn’t as magical as it first seems, the film does a great job of showcasing the impressive talents of real-life acrobats and performers through some stunning choreography.
Of course, not everything is as it seems and some friends end up being enemies, and our lovable group of characters are bounced around quite a bit. I will say that a few of the twists were a bit predictable, but I didn’t mind. I was still content to watch our characters go where I knew they would.
(WOW – it is really HARD to review a movie without giving away any spoilers. Movie reviewers, I applaud you.)
All-in-all, I really enjoyed Tim Burton’s Dumbo, and would gladly go see it again. The CGI was spectacular (I fell in love with Dumbo all over again), the acting was entertaining (even though Colin Farrell’s southern accent is amusing at best), and the movie left me feeling the full rainbow of emotions — joy, hope, sadness, heartache, nervousness, and triumph. The film was digitally stunning, kept me engaged, and had a great score to help tie the whole thing together.
I feel like Disney, as a production company, offers lifelong fans countless opportunities to connect back with their childhoods through the inclusion of seemingly useless details that can mean the world. Dumbo was no different. Here are a few of the ties back to the 1941 Dumbo that I noticed, though I know there are more that I may not catch without another re-watch (or 17).
- “No booze around the baby” – The original Dumbo had more than its fair share of questionable content, including the overindulgence of a baby elephant and his buddy, Timothy. Sneeze and you’d miss it, but when the Medici Brothers troupe is celebrating, Max Medici (Danny DeVito) quips “No booze around the baby” when a bottle of champagne gets a bit too close to Dumbo.
- The Pink Elephants – After Dumbo and Timothy have imbibed, they witness one of the most bizarre (and mildly terrifying) presentations of enormous dancing pink elephants. Don’t ask me why; don’t ask me how. Confusing as the scene was in the animated version of Dumbo, it was still iconic, and I’m extremely pleased with how the concept made its way to the big screen again.
- The stork – In the original Dumbo, a stork brings Mrs. Jumbo her beautiful baby. The night that Mrs. Jumbo gives birth in this movie, a single stork pauses on his journey right on top of her train car.
- Timothy – It’s brief and he doesn’t speak, but he’s there and Dumbo wouldn’t be the same without him.
As for the downsides of the movie… Colin Farrell’s accent. Ok, ok, I shouldn’t keep poking fun. I can’t fake a southern accent either (but it’s not my job to do so…I’m done now. I swear).
I really only have one major complaint about the movie: they packed a LOT into this movie. While I appreciate that we got to see a lot more of Dumbo’s story, it felt like seemingly difficult things came together abnormally quickly. One second, Milly is discovering that Dumbo can fly, and the next, he’s able to do so on command – no problem! One second Dumbo is tasked with a huge, new performance at Dreamland, and the next, he’s taking off without a hitch! Then, as quickly as it comes, everything comes crashing right back down in what feels like maybe a week’s time. I had a very skewed sense of time in this movie, because it felt like everything happened in quick succession: challenge, joy, twist, crash, resolution – boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.
As a self-proclaimed (and proud) Dumbo freak, I have a lot of Dumbo accessories, and you had better believe I wore them all to the theater. Even away from Disney, I try my best to keep Disney with me. Dressing up and accessorizing for something as simple as a movie can be just the trick. Here are some things I collected to show my Dumbo pride:
It definitely wasn’t “strapless-shirt” weather, but I had this Dumbo Disneybound shirt from a prior trip to WDW and just had to wear it. To put it together, I stitched the yellow ribbon to the red and the red to the shirt — instant Dumbo-bound!
The bow is also a recycled accessory from a park trip (crafted through the use of ribbon, a clip, a feather, and a lot of hot glue (use with caution)). The elephant was a lucky accident — an adorable birthday present I got from a friend years ago!
More Dumbo!!! I’m a pin addict. I love to collect, trade, and display them. I wear them in the parks as well as at home (though I really need to get more locking backs, because I’m so paranoid about losing them). I have a sizable collection of Dumbo pins, so it was difficult to pick which to wear. Honestly, though, there was no wrong choice. He’s cute in any form! I hooked my little Dumbo key chain on to my bag and I was movie-ready.
I’ve seen a lot of polarizing reviews of Dumbo online, so I’d love to hear what you think! Did you love it or hate it? Or are you just waiting for it to end up on some streaming service? Let me know in the comments or on Instagram: @castleboundkim!