Disney has officially confirmed the start of production on director Tim Burton’s live-action Dumbo movie. It was Burton’s own live-action Alice in Wonderland adaptation (which was released in 2010) that kicked off the current trend of the Mouse House re-making its animated classics in live-action. Since then, the Mouse House has released such movies as Maleficent, Cinderella, The Jungle Book and most recently Beauty and the Beast to big returns at both the domestic and global box office, as well as a strong critical reception in the case of Cinderella and The Jungle Book in particular (with Jungle Book picking up an Oscar for its groundbreaking visual effects too).
Based on the 1941 animated Disney classic of the same name, Dumbo reunites Burton with a few members of his trusted acting ensemble; including, Michael Keaton, making this his first film with Burton since Batman Returns in 1992; Danny DeVito, who costarred in Batman Returns and last worked with Burton on Big Fish in 2003; and Eva Green, who collaborated with Burton on Dark Shadows in 2012 and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children in 2016. Also teaming up with Burton here, for the first time, is Colin Farrell in a leading role.
All four of the aforementioned actors are now confirmed for the Dumbo cast, along with young newcomers Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins, as well as Roshan Seth (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), DeObia Oparei (Independence Day: Resurgence), Sharon Rooney (Two Doors Down) and Douglas Reith (Downton Abbey) in supporting roles. In addition to confirming that production is underway now, Disney released the following synopsis for Dumbo, along with a picture of Burton on the film’s set (see below):
Disney’s new live-action feature film Dumbo introduces Holt Farrier (Farrell), a former circus star who finds his life turned upside down when he returns from the war. Circus owner Max Medici (DeVito) enlists Holt to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when Holt’s children (Parker and Hobbins) discover that Dumbo can fly, persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Keaton) and an aerial artist named Colette Marchant (Green) swoop in to make the peculiar pachyderm a star.
This official Dumbo set photo shows Burton aboard the Casey Jr. – the famous train that transports the residents of the circus to which Dumbo and his family belongs, in the original 1941 animated film. “Casey Junior” is even the name of a song in the 1941 version of Dumbo’s story, though there has yet to be any indication that Burton’s live-action remake will carryover those musical elements. It seems unlikely though, as the director’s take on Alice in Wonderland didn’t include any of the songs from the Disney animated version of that fairy tale either. That being said: here is to hoping that the live-action Dumbo includes some version of the “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence from the 1941 animated film, if only so that audiences everywhere can watch Burton put his own idiosyncratic spin on that infamously trippy musical number.
Dumbo is also now set for a March 2019 release date, as was announced during Disney’s live-action film panel at the D23 expo. The live-action Beauty and the Beast opened in theaters just this past March, on its way to a worldwide gross of $1.26 billion to date. Although the Mouse House would no doubt be pleased if Burton’s Dumbo were to scale similar commercial heights as Beauty and the Beast or Jungle Book (which grossed $966 million worldwide), that will depend to some degree on how receptive both critics and moviegoers are to Burton’s own iteration of the circus story.
Alice in Wonderland, as mentioned before, was a runaway box office smash, though it earned a middling reception from critics. By comparison, Burton’s last two films (Big Eyes and Miss Peregrine’s Home) were both more warmly-received critically, with Miss Peregrine’s Home in particular faring quite well at the global box office (see its $296 million take). How Dumbo fares by comparison remains to be seen, especially since it will have competition from the likes of Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel and the MonsterVerse’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters when it arrives on the scene in Spring 2019.
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