When it came to Disney animated movies that were likely contenders for the live-action treatment, Dumbo didn’t seem like a likely candidate for me. Sure, it’s one of their many classics, but in terms of live-action movies, it seemed like one of those movies best suited to the animation medium. You can look at other movies like Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, and it’s easy to see the live-action potential, but for Dumbo, the thought of seeing it in that form was a little harder to do.
And yet, that’s exactly what director Tim Burton did. The man decided to tell the story about a little elephant who could fly. But, as with all projects, one has to ask “why?” Why did Tim Burton see this as a movie worth getting remade? LRM Online had a chance to attend a press conference for the film, and when asked that question, producer Derek Frey gave a variety of reasons.
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“From I think Tim’s perspective, when we were handed the screenplay from Ehren [Kruge], it just seemed like a story that could be expanded upon. The original is 63 minutes. Tim was aware that the technology had reached a point where you could successfully render an elephant into a live action environment. And it just seemed like for Tim, he’s obviously done some reimaginings in the past. And every film that he takes on, it’s not like a simple decision. And he knows that Disney has been going back into their catalogue of films. But Dumbo is one of the original outsiders in a way. And Tim’s films are populated with outsider characters.”
“So I think for Tim, it was the combination of knowing that the technology was there to render this character and that pulled upon all of his strengths as an animator with his Disney background. It’s almost like Dumbo is almost like a personification of himself in a way which is interesting. In terms of the time, so much time has gone by since the original. And it’s a simple story. It’s a beautiful story. And I think a lot of the themes in the story that Ehren created, they’re universal things. It’s about family. It’s about believing in yourself. It’s about overcoming judgment and people looking at you in a certain way. Dumbo is kind of a bullied character. I know that’s something that we’re dealing with socially right now. To place it back in a time period and have this heightened reality, I think we can learn a lot now by looking back, you know, and it’s such a beautiful world that Tim’s created and [production designer Rick Heinrichs] has created and [costume designer Colleen Atwood] and everybody and [composer Danny Elfman]. Yeah.”
Of course, the easy takeaway that one would expect has to do with visual effects. Burton has always been about using visual effects to help push his unique style, but to me, the coolest part has to be the “outsider” nature of Dumbo as a character. Burton has always told stories about outsider characters, and it makes sense that he would continue that tradition here. It’s a little touching that the producer actually calls Dumbo a “personification” of Burton, and hopefully it gives the movie an added weight.
What do you think of Frey’s comments? Let us know down below!