Since being little and riding on the ‘flying elephants’ ride at Disneyland Paris, Disney’s 1941 animated film ‘Dumbo’ has been one of my very favourites! As an animal lover and also a lover of the magic and mystery of the circus, it really bought me so much joy. The film is so charming and I love how it tells the story of baby Dumbo; becoming a star, with the help of best friend Timothy Mouse, and eventually being re-united with his beloved mother Mrs Jumbo.
When I heard that Disney was joining forces with Tim Burton to create a live-action version of ‘Dumbo’, I had mixed feelings. I knew that Tim Burton’s worlds were always quite dark, and the first trailer that Disney released for the film almost made the upcoming ‘Dumbo’ look like a horror movie! I decided to hold judgement until I got a chance to see the it myself. I knew that whatever happened the film would be good, as it was being made by Disney, and they always do a good job with everything!
Well last night I got to see the new live-action ‘Dumbo’ at the cinema. I got my usual popcorn as well as one of the ‘Dumbo’ souvenir cups that they were selling for £3 (I am a sucker for Disney merchandise!) and took my seat, not knowing what to expect.
The film began with the Casey Jr train whizzing across America, with various circus posters being shown, and some great music playing in the background (it wasn’t the lovely Casey jr song from the original movie, but a great score, nevertheless).(Image credit – Disney Facebook)
Soon we are introduced to the central family; the dad named Holt, played brilliantly by Colin Farrell and his children Milly, a smart budding scientist and Joe, the younger brother. When I saw the trailers for the film I thought that the family would be an annoying distraction from Dumbo and his journey, however after having seen the film I actually really enjoyed their part and how caring and compassionate they were towards little Dumbo, when most of the other characters just saw him as a ‘freak’ or something to make money out of. I loved how strong-minded the little girl Milly was, like lots of Disney’s other recent leading ladies. Even though she had grown-up in the circus and seen how famous it had made her parents and friends, she seeked a different life for herself; one full of science and new discoveries. I’m not sure if it was intentional by Disney, but the scene where Milly visits the ‘wonders of science’ exhibit, it really reminded me of such Disney attractions as ‘The carousel of progress’ and ‘Horizons’!
(Image credit – Radiotimes online.)
I also enjoyed the character of Collette (played by Eva Green), as she is very talented and willing to become friends with Dumbo, and trust him (they end up flying together in the circus, amid roars of applause). She actually became a mother figure to Milly and Joe in the end, which was nice to see. I would have loved if they had expanded in her character a bit more and to have more of an insight into her backstory. Also, Miss Atlantis, the mermaid lady, was a great eccentric character, and I felt it was nice to see her portrayed by a plus-size lady, as apposed to the usual slim silhouette.
There are a lot of ‘baddie’ characters in the film too though, and I felt quite frightened by them, so this is something to keep in mind when seeing the film with small children. The truly nasty Rufus treats Mrs Jumbo and baby Dumbo horribly, but does get his karma in the end! Also Vandevere’s co-worker Neils is seriously determined to catch the children at the end, as he chases them into a burning big top, thankfully he is dealt with too, by a brave Dumbo who drags him away from the frightened siblings.
Vandevere himself is quite fantastically played by Michael Keaton, and he is very strange and somewhat sinister. He is the owner of the world of ‘Dreamland’, the location for the huge circus bigtop, and a grand amusement park, reminiscent of Coney Island. It is vast, bright and wonderful! I loved the attention to detail and how there was something going on everywhere you looked. From the spooky ‘Nightmare Island’, to the dazzling rollercoasters and space imagery, it is certainly the type of place that I would love to visit.(Image credit- Disney Facebook)
‘Dumbo’ was definitely a treat for the eyes (as all Disney live-action films tend to be), and the characters were good, I felt a little underwhelmed and felt that this version was missing a lot of the charm and emotion of the 1941 original.
The ending of the film took a different turn, and one which I wasn’t expecting. Whilst Max, Holt and the other performers went on the create a new lovely circus (one that felt much less grand than ‘Dreamland’, but much more cosy and gave off a lovely family atmosphere), we see them take a conscious decision to not have any performing animals. Mrs Jumbo and her darling Dumbo are now roaming wild in the rainforest, surrounded by many other elephants. Whilst this is nice to see, I felt it was very 2019 and politically correct and kind of made it feel like the original film’s ending was wrong, when there was nothing wrong with it at all – Dumbo got to be re-united with his mother and became the star of the circus and finally won the love and respect of everyone around him. I love this ending; it is simple and happy .(Image credit- Disney Facebook)
One other thing that I was a little disappointed about was the absence of Timothy Mouse, as he is such a huge part of the original, and in fact Dumbo’s only real friend. I also missed the joyful musical numbers, such as ‘when I see an elephant fly’, ‘look out for me stork’, etc. Danny Elfman’s score is atmospheric and typical of his usual style, I’m just not sure it was best suited to a family Disney film. You have to take this film as what it is; and that is something completely separate from the original which it takes it’s name and inspiration from. One thing I said to my mum was that ‘it was a really good film, I just wish they would have called the elephant something else!’. It’s not Dumbo as we know it, but it is still a film to be enjoyed by all ages (and maybe to remind us to dig out that vhs and re-watch the original again).
Also, I seem to be the only person that has watched this film and not cried! And I cry at everything! The emotion in the original ‘Baby Mine’ scene is so gorgeous to me, and I am a mess every time I even hear that song, but somehow this version didn’t do it for me with the tears. Don’t get me wrong, Dumbo was blinking adorable, I just felt the emotional parts were all a bit rushed.(Image credit – Disney Facebook)
Have you had a chance to see the new ‘Dumbo’ yet? What were your thoughts about it? Tell us below!