Dumbo (2019 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tim Burton|
|Screenplay by||Ehren Kruger|
|Music by||Danny Elfman|
|Edited by||Chris Lebenzon|
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Studios|
|Box office||$353.3 million|
Dumbo is a 2019 American fantasy period adventure film directed by Tim Burton, with a screenplay by Ehren Kruger. The film is a live-action adaptation and re-imagining of Walt Disney's 1941 animated film of the same name, which is based on the novel by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl. The film stars Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green and Alan Arkin. The story follows a family that works at a failing traveling circus as they encounter a baby elephant with extremely large ears who is capable of flying.
Plans for a live-action film adaptation of Dumbo were announced in 2014, and Burton was confirmed as director in March 2015. Most of the cast signed on for the feature in March 2017 and principal photography began in July 2017 in England, lasting until November. It was the first of four live-action adaptations of prior animated films that Disney released in 2019, along with Aladdin, The Lion King, and Lady and the Tramp; it was also the first of five live-action Disney movies that released in the same year, alongside the three and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.
Dumbo premiered in Los Angeles on March 11, 2019, and was theatrically released in the United States on March 29, 2019.  The film grossed $353 million worldwide against a $170 million budget, which was not as commercially successful as Aladdin or The Lion King. It received mixed reviews from critics, who praised its ambition but said it did not live up to its predecessor.
In 1919, equestrian performer and World War I amputee Holt Farrier returns after the war to the Medici Brothers' Circus, run by Max Medici. The circus has run into financial troubles and Medici had to sell the circus' horses after Holt's wife and co-performer, Annie, died from the Spanish flu outbreak, so Medici reassigns Holt as the caretaker for the circus' pregnant Asian elephant "Mrs. Jumbo". Mrs. Jumbo gives birth to a calf with unusually large ears and Medici orders Holt to hide the ears before allowing the public to see the calf.
However, the calf accidentally reveals his ears in his debut performance in Joplin, Missouri, and the crowd laugh and mockingly name the calf as "Dumbo" while pelting him with peanuts and other objects. Mrs. Jumbo, horrified and enraged by her son's mistreatment, rampages into the ring, causing extensive damage and accidentally collapsing the big top, which results in the death of abusive handler Rufus. Afterwards, to prevent a public relations problem, Medici resorts to selling Mrs. Jumbo. Holt's son and daughter, Joe and Milly Farrier, comfort Dumbo and discover that he can fly by flapping his ears. The children also discover that feathers are the key to Dumbo's willingness to fly.
In another performance, Dumbo plays the role of a firefighter clown to put out a fire with water sprayed from his trunk, but the performance goes awry, and Dumbo is trapped on a high platform surrounded by flames. Milly delivers a feather to Dumbo, giving him the confidence to fly. The audience is astounded when Dumbo flies and word of his talent begins to spread. V. A. Vandevere, the entrepreneur and owner of a bohemian amusement park called Dreamland in New York City, approaches Medici and proposes a collaboration; Medici would become Vandevere's partner and the Medici Brothers' Circus' troupe would be employed to perform at Dreamland.
Later, Vandevere demands that Dumbo should fly with French trapeze artist, Colette Marchant. Colette and Dumbo's debut performance at Dreamland goes awry with Dumbo nearly falling off a high platform leading to him trumpeting in alarm since there is no safety net. Dumbo hears his mother's call in response and realizes that his mother is in an exhibit (Nightmare Island) elsewhere in Dreamland. Dumbo flies out of the circus ring, reuniting with his mother, much to the disappointment of the audience. Fearing that Mrs. Jumbo may become a distraction to him and ruin his reputation, Vandevere orders her to be terminated. Vandevere also fires all the Medici performers from Dreamland.
When Holt and the rest of the Medici troupe learn that Vandevere intends to kill Dumbo's mother and it's no longer safe for the two elephants to live with them, they resolve to set both her and Dumbo free. The circus performers utilize their various talents to break Mrs. Jumbo out of her enclosure while Holt and Colette guide Dumbo to fly out of the circus. Vandevere attempts to stop them, but starts a fire triggered by the mismanagement of Dreamland's electricity system, which spreads and destroys the park.
After Dumbo saves Holt and his family from the fire, Holt, Colette, the kids, and the troupe bring Dumbo and his mother to the harbor, where they board a ship back to their native home in India. Some time later, the renamed Medici Family Circus is re-established and flourishes with Colette as the newest troupe member, Milly as host of a science lecture exhibit, and performers dressed as animals in line with the circus's new policy of not using wild animals in captivity for entertainment.
Meanwhile, Dumbo and his mother reunite with a herd of wild elephants who applaud their newest members as he flies with joy for their future to come.
- Colin Farrell as Holt Farrier, an amputated World War I veteran and former circus equestrian performer from Kentucky who is reassigned by Medici as handler of the circus's elephants.
- Michael Keaton as V.A. Vandevere, a ruthless and enigmatic entrepreneur and amusement park owner who buys Medici's circus to exploit Dumbo for his bohemian amusement park, Dreamland.
- Danny DeVito as Maximilian "Max" Medici, a boisterous ringmaster and owner of the Medici Brothers' Circus who is loosely based on the ringmaster from the original film.
- Eva Green as Colette Marchant, a sassy and good-spirited French trapeze artist and Vandevere's faux girlfriend who performs at Dreamland.
- Alan Arkin as J. Griffin Remington, an investor.
- Nico Parker as Milly Farrier, Holt's daughter.
- Finley Hobbins as Joe Farrier, Holt's son.
- Roshan Seth as Pramesh Singh, a snake charmer.
- DeObia Oparei as Rongo, a strongman who also works as the circus accountant.
- Joseph Gatt as Neils Skellig, a South African hunter and Vandevere's right-hand man.
- Sharon Rooney as Miss Atlantis, a mermaid performer.
- Miguel Muñoz Segura as Ivan the Wonderful, an illusionist.
- Zenaida Alcalde as Catherine the Greater, an illusionist and Ivan the Wonderful's wife.
- Michael Buffer as Baritone Bates, a Dreamland ringmaster.
- Ragevan Vasan as Pritam Singh, a snake handler and Pramesh's nephew.
- Frank Bourke as Puck, an organ grinder.
- Phil Zimmerman as Rufus, an abusive elephant handler. He was inspired by Smitty the Bully, from the original film.
- Zelda Rosset Colon as Annie Farrier, a circus equestrian performer, the late wife of Holt, and the mother of Millie and Joe.
- Benjamin "Bendini" French" as a contortionist at the circus.
- Jana Posna as a poodle trainer at the circus.
- Jo Osmond as a cook at the circus.
- Jewels Good as Mademoiselle Flambé.
- Edd Osmond as the motion-capture for Dumbo, a young Asian elephant with big ears that grant him flight.
Development and writing
Early development for a live-action adaptation of Dumbo began in 2014, when Ehren Kruger gave producer Derek Frey a script for the film, which Frey gave the greenlight to. On July 8, 2014, it was announced that the film was in development for Walt Disney Pictures. Kruger was confirmed as the screenwriter, and Justin Springer as a producer along with Kruger. On March 10, 2015, Tim Burton was announced as the director. On July 15, 2017, Disney announced Dumbo would be released on March 29, 2019. The film features a different storyline from the original film's, though as star Colin Farrell described, "[t]he one central thing that holds true in both the original animation, the original cartoon" and the 2019 film, is the message of "believing in yourself and finding something inside you that allows you to become the best version of what you thought you could even be, and that we're all, regardless of the things that sometimes society says, should arrive us at being outcasts; they're the things that make us all individual, special, and beautiful regardless of how crippling a certain thing may be or how polarizing a certain physical attribute even may be."
The film does not feature talking animals, focusing instead on the human characters. Kruger wrote the script so that it "offered a way to tell that story in a framework that expanded it, but without redoing the original [film]", and a story that "was simple, with an emotional simplicity, and didn't interfere with what the basic through line of the original is about." As in the original film, Dumbo depicts the protagonist as a symbolic figure who does not fit in and uses their disabilities as an advantage. Kruger wrote the script in order to "explore how the people of the circus world would relate to Dumbo's journey", while Springer said that "[the production team] really wanted to explore the human side of [Dumbo's] story and give it historical context. In the animated feature, Dumbo flies for the world at the end of the film. [They] wanted to find out how the world reacts when people learn that this elephant can fly". The group of crows from the 1941 film that had been criticized as being racist were excluded from the film, and their dialogue was instead said by a ringleader character.
In January 2017, it was announced that Will Smith was in talks to play the father of the children who develop a friendship with the elephant after seeing him at the circus. However, Smith later passed on the role due to scheduling conflicts with Bad Boys for Life, among other reasons. He went on to be cast as the Genie in Disney's live-action film adaptation of Aladdin. Bill Hader, Chris Pine and Casey Affleck were also offered the role, but passed on it before Colin Farrell was cast. Farrell, a fan of Burton, chose to work on the film because "[t]he idea of [acting in] something as sweet and fantastical and otherworldly, while being grounded in some recognizable world that we can relate to, under the direction of [Burton], was a dream ... I've always been looking for something of that ilk."
In March 2017, Burton's frequent collaborators, Eva Green and Danny DeVito, joined the cast as Colette, a trapeze artist, and Max Medici, the circus' ringmaster, respectively. Due to her fear of heights, Green trained with aerialist Katherine Arnold and choreographer Fran Jaynes in order to prepare for the role. In April 2017, another veteran of Burton's films, Michael Keaton, joined Dumbo, to complete the casting of prominent "adult" roles. Tom Hanks was reportedly in discussions for the role before Keaton's casting. Hanks would instead sign on for the role of Geppetto in Disney's upcoming live-action movie Pinocchio. In the summer of 2017, DeObia Oparei, Joseph Gatt, and Alan Arkin joined the cast. DeVito said that "[he loves] Tim and [he] would do anything to be in a movie with him." He also said that Burton is "[a]lways spirited, always an artist, always thinking about the craft, always painting with his mind," and that he felt like "part of some kind of palette, a color scheme" while filming the movie.
Principal photography had begun by July 2017 in England, with most of the filming taking place at Pinewood Studios and Cardington Airfield. Two elephant props were used during filming "to give [the production team] an idea of his size and his shape in the scene; an idea of the lighting, and that kind of thing; where he's going to be for camera." Creature performer Edd Osmond used a green suit to represent the character while filming certain scenes, as well as an "interactive reference" for scenes that required the actors to be in contact with the character, and as a guide for Burton to use; with Burton later providing information of his performance to the animation team. Unlike most remakes of Disney animations, Dumbo mostly used practical sets during filming.
Production designer Rick Heinrichs designed the film's scenes in a way that represents both the film's story and the period setting. He stated that the film's story "provided a very specific period, but at the same time, having worked with Tim many times in the past, [he knows] that [Burton is] a little less interested in giving a history lesson as he is in the emotional story being told." The "Dreamland" and circus scenes were designed differently in order to contrast them. The production design crew were heavily influenced by the works of Edward Hopper, with Heinrichs stating that the team tried to create something similar to "[Hopper]'s reductive process of looking at environments and reducing it to its essence."
Heinrichs also said that the production design team had "to push the reality—the live action—a bit into the storybook world. [They] certainly make the baby elephant look believable, but [they] also stylized our world, pushing it into an expressive direction with all of the lighting, costumes, props and environments." Burton filmed the remake in sound stages, stating that "[f]or this kind of movie, shooting all indoors obviously helps with weather concerns and all those things. It's one movie where [they are] not sitting around, talking about the weather all day long." The production team also created a full-scale version of the train "Casey Jr." from the original film, though it was visually redesigned in order to reflect the circus' state. According to visual effects supervisor Richard Stammers, a motion base, which he described as "essentially a hydraulic round gimbal rig," was used for scenes in which Green's character flies with Dumbo, with hydraulic pistons used to simulate Dumbo's flying.
The visual effects were provided by Moving Picture Company, Framestore and Rise FX, with the help of Rising Sun Pictures and Rodeo FX. At Rodeo, to achieve the effects for the opening sequence of the train travelling through the country, augmented aerial footage was merged with matte paintings and computer-generated imagery. They would also do the effects of Holt's amputated arm by digitally recreating the character's costumes and the backgrounds obstructed by the sleeve. The Third Floor, Inc., tasked primarily with creating the animals of the film, achieved the effects of humans flying on Dumbo using a 3D mold of the character and an animatronic mounted on a 6-axis gimbal.
|Dumbo (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Film score by|
|Released||March 29, 2019 (Digital)|
April 26, 2019 (CD)
|Danny Elfman chronology|
|Singles from Dumbo (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
On October 4, 2017, Danny Elfman was announced as the composer for the film's score. He said that "[he and the production team] knew [they] would have to find a musical identity for Dumbo that was purely Dumbo." Elfman developed "a very simple [main] theme" as Burton "feels it's a simple story." Elfman also wrote background music for the film's scenes in the circus, and themes based on the characters' experiences. He also wrote a theme for Medici and Vandevere which he described as "a bit of a wicked thing." The score plays homage to Frank Churchill and Oliver Wallace's score from the original film.
Norwegian singer Aurora performed a cover of the original film's song "Baby Mine" for the remake's trailer, though it was not featured in the actual film. Sharon Rooney, playing "Miss Atlantis," performed the song in the film. Additionally, Arcade Fire performs an end-credits version of "Baby Mine" for the film, which was released as a single on March 11, 2019. Instrumental versions of the songs "Casey Junior", "When I See an Elephant Fly", and "Pink Elephants on Parade" from the original Dumbo are also included in the 2019 film. The soundtrack, featuring Elfman's score and Arcade Fire's version of "Baby Mine", was digitally released on March 29, 2019 and physically released on April 26, 2019.
All music is composed by Danny Elfman, except where noted.
|1.||"Logos / Intro"||0:59|
|2.||"Train's a Comin'" (quotes "Casey Junior", written by Frank Churchill and Ned Washington)||2:05|
|4.||"Meet the Family"||2:29|
|6.||"Baby Mine"||Frank Churchill and Ned Washington||Sharon Rooney||1:44|
|12.||"Goodbye Mrs. Jumbo"||1:40|
|13.||"Photographs / First Flight"||2:25|
|15.||"Pink Elephants on Parade (2019)"||Oliver Wallace and Washington||1:48|
|20.||"Dumbo in Hell"||1:10|
|21.||"Holt in Action"||0:52|
|22.||"Searching for Milly"||2:29|
|24.||"Rescuing the Farriers"||1:40|
|25.||"The Final Confrontation"||4:58|
|26.||"Medici Circus / Miracles Can Happen"||4:21|
|27.||"Baby Mine"||Churchill and Washington||Arcade Fire||2:57|
Dumbo was released in the United States and the United Kingdom in 2D and RealD 3D by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures on March 29, 2019. It held its world premiere at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Los Angeles on March 11, 2019. The Japanese premiere was held in Tokyo on March 14, 2019. The French premiere was held in Paris on March 18, 2019, and another European premiere was held at the Curzon Mayfair Cinema in London on March 21, 2019. The film plays in RealD 3D, IMAX, IMAX 3D and Dolby Cinema.
In a collaboration with Accenture Interactive, Disney set up a photo booth, using photography facial recognition, would give attendees at the 2019 South by Southwest festival an experience that would be based on the emotion expressed by the attendee.
Dumbo was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and Ultra HD Blu-ray on June 25, 2019. The film was amongst several of Disney's then recent releases available to watch exclusively on their streaming service, Disney+, which was launched in November 2019.
Dumbo grossed $114.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $238.5 million in other territories, for a worldwide $353.3 million. It was estimated the film would have had to gross more than $500 million worldwide in order to break-even, and with a combined production and advertisement budget of $300 million, Deadline Hollywood reported it ultimately lost money. The film is the lowest-grossing live-action Disney remake of 2019, whereas Aladdin and The Lion King grossed over $1 billion dollars each at the box office.
In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside The Beach Bum and Unplanned, and was projected to gross $50–65 million from 4,259 theaters in its opening weekend. The film made $15.3 million on its first day, including $2.6 million from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $46 million, topping the box office. The start was considered disappointing, given the $170 million budget and the Disney brand, with the blame put on the original film being 78 years old and the middling critical response versus poor marketing. In its second weekend, the film dropped 60%, to $18.2 million, finishing third, behind newcomers Shazam! and Pet Sematary, and then made $9.2 million in its third weekend, finishing fifth.
In other territories, Dumbo was projected to earn $80–90 million from 53 countries in its opening weekend, for a global debut of $137–155 million. Similarly to its domestic market, the film underperformed, grossing $73.5 million for a worldwide $119.5 million. Its largest markets were China ($10.7 million), Mexico ($7.2 million) and Japan ($2.4 million). It earned $39.6 million in its second weekend overseas, for a running total of $137.5 million. As of June 2019, its largest markets are the United Kingdom ($32.5 million), China ($21.9 million), Mexico ($21.6 million), France ($16.9 million), and Italy ($12.5 million).
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an approval rating of 46% based on 364 reviews and an average rating of 5.50/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Dumbo is held partly aloft by Tim Burton's visual flair, but a crowded canvas and overstretched story leave this live-action remake more workmanlike than wondrous." On Metacritic, the film has an average score of 51 out of 100, based on 55 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale, and those at PostTrak gave it 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Writing for The A.V. Club, Katie Rife gave the film a "B−" and wrote "...characters are just there to keep the story moving, to provide awestruck reaction shots as we move from oddly muted spectacle to agreeable callback to the heartwarming happy ending. And yes, these are all symptoms of the same relentless conformist drumbeat the film is critiquing in its script. But what's more Disney than Disney controlling the ways in which a filmmaker can critique Disney?" David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "The hopes of diehard Burton fans might have been stoked by the recruitment of Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito, totems of the director's more consistent days. But this is another frustratingly uneven picture, with thin characters—human and animal—that fail to exert much of a hold, reclaiming the story only toward the end. Up to then, the filmmaker's overstuffed visual imagination and appetite for sinister gloom all but trample the enchantment of a tale that, at heart, is simple and whimsical. The central failure to recognize those virtues lies also in Ehren Kruger's cluttered screenplay." James Berardinelli from Reelviews called Dumbo "a perfectly adequate family film", rating it 3 out of 4 stars.
Conversely, Owen Gleiberman of Variety lamented disappointment in the film, stating that the film "transforms a gentle and miraculous tale into a routine story by weighing it down with a lot of nuts and bolts it didn’t need". For IndieWire, David Ehrlich gave split opinions on the acting, praising DeVito and Keaton's performances but criticizing Arkin's as "hilariously lazy" and stated it would invite the audience to "stop caring about the plot". The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw gave the film one star out of five, lamenting that "Tim Burton's new Dumbo lands in the multiplex big top with a dull thud. It is a flightless pachyderm of a film that saddles itself with 21st-century shame at the idea of circus animals, overcomplicating the first movie, losing the directness, abandoning the lethal pathos, mislaying the songs and finally getting marooned in some sort of steampunk Jurassic Park, jam-packed with retro-futurist boredom."
|AACTA Awards||Best Visual Effects or Animation||Richard Stammers, Hal Couzens, Hayley Williams, Dennis Jones, Corinne Teng||Nominated|||
|Alliance of Women Film Journalists Awards||Time Waster Remake or Sequel Award||Dumbo||Nominated|||
|Art Directors Guild Awards||Excellence in Production Design for a Fantasy Film||Rick Heinrichs||Nominated|||
|Golden Trailer Awards||Best Animation/Family||Walt Disney Pictures, Wild Card||Nominated|||
|Best Animation/Family TV Spot||Nominated|
|Best Animation/Family Poster||Dumbo||Nominated|
|Best Motion Poster||Nominated|
|Saturn Awards||Best Fantasy Film||Nominated|||
|Best Production Design||Rick Heinrichs||Nominated|
|Best Music||Danny Elfman||Nominated|
|Visual Effects Society Awards||Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature||Sam Hancock, Victor Glushchenko, Andrew Savchenko, Arthur Moody (for "Bubble Elephants")||Nominated|||
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But soon, real trouble arrives: the female Indian elephant Jumbo, who has just given birth to a calf with comically oversize ears, accidentally kills — yes, kills — a sadistic animal trainer (Phil Zimmerman), and Mom is sold off as a “mad” animal, leaving Dumbo, as her son has been nicknamed, disconsolate.
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