Derek Frey Interview: Dumbo Home Release

The live-action Dumbo is the latest Disney reimagining to have a home video release, and the bonus features are as magical as Dreamland itself. Much like Tim Burton's visionary direction permeated the film, his personal touch can be found in various segments that detail the experiences of the cast and crew. Derek Frey, a producer on the film and the current head of Tim Burton Productions, sat down with Screen Rant last week to explore the heart of the story. With over two decades of experience working with Burton, he was well-equipped to explain why Dumbo is so dear to the director, as well as what fans can expect from the DVD and Blu-Ray.

Many people have said that [Dumbo] is the most Time Burton film of his career. As someone who’s worked with him for so long, what do you think makes it so special?

Derek Frey: Yeah. Well, it really started with the initial idea of reimaging such a classic animated film. Initially, when I read the script, instantly I understood that he’s an outsider. He’s kind of one of the first outsider characters in Disney’s filmography, and Tim’s career is full of being a champion for outsiders and people who feel like they don’t belong. Or characters who feel like they don’t belong, from Frankenweenie to the Mad Hatter.

He’s got this amazing way of being a champion, and people that maybe feel that way in their own life, they love anything that Tim does. So, Dumbo seemed to fit in perfectly with that in my mind.

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I thought Dumbo himself was the most beautiful part of the film. He really felt like the most human element, even though he was surrounded by actual humans.

Derek Frey: It’s great that you say that, because for Tim, he kept saying that. Seeing Dumbo rendered fully was one of the last things we saw [come together] in the film. Tim kept saying, “It’s about Dumbo, his perspective.” You’re seeing things from his perspective: the pink elephants on parade, the bubble sequence, it’s through the eyes of Dumbo. You can kind of have a little bit of fun and go, “How would an elephant… What’s an elephant thinking he’s seeing?” It kind of gave you a little liberty to have fun with sequences like that.

The pink elephants kind of reminded you of the original animated sequence. Speaking of, the home release is coming and with that means Easter Eggs. So, can you tease maybe in what vein we can expect them? Other Disney movies, other Tim Burton movies?

Derek Frey: Well, there’s so many great things on this DVD. Personally, I’m really excited about it. You’ve some deleted scenes, which – for the sake of pacing and keeping the focus on what we needed to keep focused on, there are things that didn’t make it into the film. But I think in a home video release, people will find it really interesting because they give you more backstory and character of what’s going on.

Most of the Easter Eggs in the film are nods to the original film. And I think in repeated watchings, you’ll pick up a little bit more on Timothy Mouse and little nods that you see in the original film that maybe you didn’t pick up when you saw in the theater. There’s so many, and I think there’s a whole running list that you’ll see on the DVD.

Speaking of repeated viewings, is there any aspect of the film that you think demands rewatch? What’s your favorite part that you just want to go back to?

Derek Frey: For me, I love the third act. I love the escape from – I don’t want to reveal too much, but when our group comes together. When our circus troop comes together to kind of reunite two of our main characters, I get swept up into the story at that point. Even though I helped make the film, when we get to those scenes, I still get really excited by it. And you get lost in the character, because he’s so adorable.

That’s really true. It sounds like, based on what I’ve learned today, one of the reasons Dumbo was so lifelike was because of Edd Osmond’s physical performance. Can you talk about the merging of the amazing animation and his work?

Derek Frey: Well, it became clear that when we filmed, you would need something there to serve as an eyeline for the other live-action actors to play off of. But then we realized, no, you need something also for the animators to work off of in terms of the space that Dumbo occupies. And also if there’s contact between the actors and Dumbo, you need something serving that purpose.

We had a number of different suits that Edd Osmond could wear. We ended up using a couple of them one of them, I think you’ll see in the bonus features, kind of looks like an insect. We were a little worried about how the actors would play off of that. But he made such a convincing Dumbo that I think the actors adapted quite quickly to that, and they were able to kind of respond to him emotionally. He made it really convincing. And I think that really helped everybody in rendering the final realization.

It’s almost impossible to believe there wasn’t really a little elephant there.

Derek Frey: Exactly. We did our job!

Finally, what’s next for you professionally? Are you helming your own work, or are you working on the next Burton project?

Derek Frey: Tim has his touring exhibition, which has been going on for 10 years now. It’s coming to Las Vegas next, in the Fall. Within Tim’s company, we’re kind of gearing up for that. There’s a show, kind of like a VR exhibit, right now in Brasilia. And I’m sure – Tim doesn’t sit idle for long. He’s taking his time seeing what’s next, we’re not sure what that’ll be. And maybe I’ll fit in a couple of projects of my own between now and then.

Dumbo is now available on Digital, 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray™ and Movies Anywhere.

More: 30 Things You Missed In The Live-Action Dumbo

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