Despite some recent disappointments, Tim Burton has a strong overall track-record of adapting older family-friendly properties into successful updated big-budget films. In 2005, Burton took Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, added Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka and came up with a blockbuster that grossed $475 million worldwide. Burton worked his magic again in 2010 with his live-action Alice in Wonderland, which soared to a $1.025 billion worldwide gross. Now Disney is hoping Burton can pull off another successful makeover of an older property by crafting a live-action adaptation of the 1941 animated classic, Dumbo.
Of all of Disney’s older films, Dumbo is arguably the most dark, which should put it right in Tim Burton’s wheelhouse. The movie’s themes certainly play into his preoccupation with rejected, odd-ball, misfit characters. Now Burton must assemble the right cast to bring these characters to life.
The cast of Burton’s Dumbo is beginning to take shape, and so far the choices are what you would expect from the quirky director. Burton’s Dark Shadows and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children star, Eva Green is reportedly taking on the lead role of Colette, and now according to Deadline the movie is close to adding venerable character actor, Danny DeVito. Deadline says DeVito would be taking on the role of Medici, a circus owner whose small operation is taken over by the film’s big baddie Vandemere.
DeVito’s history with Tim Burton goes back to his appearance as Penguin, one of the most “disgusting” characters ever to grace the screen, in the 1992 sequel Batman Returns. DeVito’s one previous appearance in a proper Disney film came when he voiced the character of Phil in Hercules, though he did star in a few movies for Disney’s label Touchstone Pictures, including the classic Ruthless People. DeVito can currently be seen as the insane Frank Reynolds in season 14 of the indestructible sitcom It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
Even with Green and DeVito reportedly in place, Dumbo still has a lot of cast openings to fill before it’s ready to go before cameras. At one point Will Smith was ready to take on one of these roles but he ultimately elected to pass due to scheduling and money conflicts. Rumors had Tom Hanks being offered the villain role in the film but nothing has developed on this front yet.
Though Burton remains one of the top name-brand directors in Hollywood, there’s no doubt his reputation has taken a hit in recent years. Burton won’t exactly be run out of town if Dumbo fails to scare up Alice in Wonderland-level numbers, but it would not be helpful for him for the movie to turn out a bust. Burton no doubt wants Dumbo to work out perfectly, and a big part of that is getting the casting just right. With Eva Green and Danny DeVito, he’s certainly nailing that Burton character vibe.
We’ll let you know when Dumbo gets an official release date.