Walt Disney Pictures is releasing Cinderella this Friday, but has several other live-action/CGI renditions of its famous animated features in the pipeline. One that was announced last year is Dumbo, a new big screen rendition (also blending humans with digital characters) of Disney’s 1941 animated film – based on a story by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl – about a young elephant cruelly nicknamed Dumbo and ostracized by his fellow circus animals, due to his abnormally-large ears… which, as he eventually learns, also allow him to fly.
We’re now hearing that Tim Burton is lined up to direct the new Dumbo film, based on a screenplay penned by Ehren Kruger (The Brothers Grimm, Transformers: Age of Extinction). Burton has a long history with the Disney company that goes back to his early career as an animator at the studio in the 1980s; more recently, the filmmaker and Mouse House collaborated on the stop-motion animated feature Frankenweenie (based on Burton’s short) back in 2012, as well as the billion-dollar grossing Alice in Wonderland in 2010.
Oscar-winning Alice, of course, was the film that kicked off Disney’s trend of turning its animated classics into modern live-action/CGI hybrids; it even has a sequel due next year (not directed by Burton), as titled Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass. Meanwhile, Jon Favreau is putting together The Jungle Book, also for release next year; Bill Condon is turning Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast into a live-action musical; and now, Walt Disney Pictures president of production Sean Bailey has confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that Burton is set to helm Dumbo.
Burton is currently working on the fairy tale-esque novel adaptation Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, starring Eva Green (whom Burton previously directed in Dark Shadows), Asa Butterfield, and Samuel L. Jackson. Dark Shadows scribe Seth Grahame-Smith recently indicated that Burton may begin shooting the long-awaited Beetlejuice 2 shortly after he finishes post-production on Miss Peregrine’s Home, but this Dumbo announcement suggests that’s probably not going to happen after all.
Disney’s live-action/CGI takes on its classic animation filmography have generally been criticized for providing visually-stunning, yet also hollow cinematic experiences. Similar complaints have been raised about much of Burton’s studio film work over the past decade (see: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland), which was why his indie feature Big Eyes (released in late 2014), was regarded by many as a breath of fresh air. However, now that the filmmaker is headed back to his Disney home, it’s hard to not be concerned that any Burton “renaissance” will be short-lived.
Curiously enough, Dumbo does lie in Burton’s wheelhouse. Consider: it’s about a social outcast estranged for being physically different; the tale is set against the strange and quirky world of the circus; and if Burton does a version of the “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence from the 1941 feature, it could be exceptionally trippy. If nothing else, the Dumbo live-action movie is now shaping up to be darker (and weirder) than you were probably expecting before.
Dumbo does not currently have an official release date; we’ll let you know when that changes.
Source: The Wall Street Journal