Colin Farrell has explained the difference between Tim Burton's Dumbo and The Jungle Book, as far as their use of CGI is concerned. The original Dumbo hit theaters back in 1941 and told the tale of a young elephant who is bullied over his gigantic ears, only to discover that they allow him to fly. Like the vast, vast majority of animated films released in the 20th century, Dumbo was animated using traditional 2D techniques in the pre-digital era of cartoon features. And now, like a growing number of classic Mouse House 'toons, it's getting a remake for the 21st century.
Much like Disney's animated Jungle Book (save for protagonist Mowgli), the original Dumbo features a mostly animal cast, with humans largely relegated to being supporting players in the movie. However, unlike the live-action/CGI Jungle Book remake that Disney released in 2016, Burton's Dumbo retelling really changes things up by adding several human characters to its ensemble. The two films differ in other important aspects too, right on down to their use of digital effects and imagery.
According to Farrell (who stars in the film as former circus star Holt Farrier), Burton's Dumbo differs from Jungle Book when it comes to its use of CGI and practical sets. To be specific: Dumbo features several real-world sets, whereas Jungle Book's settings were created almost entirely during post-production. As Farrell explained to us during our Dumbo set visit:
Yeah, I mean, to be honest with you, it's all practical sets. I mean, we couldn't get our hands - they didn't have time to get their hands on a flying elephant; they couldn't seem to locate one of those. So, there's the old look-at-the-tennis-ball-as-it-flies-through-the-tent thing, which is fine. But I would... I was talking to somebody. (Who was I talking to?) They said they were on the set of The Jungle Book. (The Jungle Book...? No...) The Lion King! And there's no human characters in The Lion King. I'm sure the film [Jon] Favreau is directing is going to be so clever. He's so bright. And I'm sure the film will be extraordinary; it'll look beautiful, and Jungle Book was mind-blowingly beautiful. But there's nothing on the set. There's nothing. There's a f***ing cameraman. Like a camera... man. I don't even know if there's a cameraman. And just blue or green, whatever their color of choice is. And this, at least, we arrive on the set and you can see - it's all practically built.
As Farrell briefly touched on in our interview, Jungle Book director Jon Favreau is now calling the shots on a live-action/CGI remake of The Lion King for Disney. However, the latter project has already stirred up debates about what, exactly, constitutes live-action and whether the term applies to the new Lion King (since, unlike Jungle Book, its characters are entirely CGI animals). Dumbo, on the other hand, is a pretty straight-forward blend of human actors, practical sets, and CGI elements that vary from digital backdrops to the titular flying elephant. An increasing number of tentpoles have attempted to balance practical scenery with CGI along these lines in recent years, with examples that range from Disney's Star Wars movies to some of the studio's other live-action remakes of its animated classics (in particular, Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast).
At the end of the day, certain movies require more CGI than others, as is the case with Jungle Book and Dumbo. Both films include CGI animals, yet the majority of characters in the new Dumbo are human and - unlike the animated movie before it - there aren't any talking animals in Burton's retelling. That makes it relatively easier for the film to integrate digital characters like Dumbo into its real world sets than it would've been for Favreau to shoot Jungle Book on practically-built jungle sets and add the movie's animals in post-production. That's to say, it's not a case of one being better or worse than the other; on the contrary, as Farrell pointed out, The Jungle Book was a visually gorgeous film and - if the trailers are any indicator - Dumbo looks to be the same, different they may be.
- Dumbo (2019) release date: Mar 29, 2019