The circus comes to town this weekend when Disney releases Tim Burton’s adaptation of the Disney animated classic, Dumbo.
In this live-action telling, we see the titular pachyderm experience a different kind of adventure when his oversized ears that help him fly become the new star attraction of an entrepreneur’s new larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. And with help of his trainer Holt Farrier (Colin Ferrell), his kids, Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins), and aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), they will help Dumbo find the courage to soar higher than ever. However, they all soon discover that within the theme park’s shiny veneer, lies dark secrets.
ThatsItLA was recently invited to attend the film’s press conference where Burton talked about his approach to making the film, expanding upon the story, exploring new themes, and staying true to the spirit of the original.
Burton explains that “the idea of a flying elephant and the character that doesn’t quite fit into the world and how somebody with a disadvantage makes it an advantage,” was what attracted him to the project. He adds that he felt “very close” to the project because of its “very pure simple image.”
While the idea of a flying elephant requires the audience to suspend their belief, he found that the Disney fable had a lot of human parallels. “Like all the old Disney fables had that kind of simple symbolism for real emotions.”
The human aspect comes from the idea that the characters are like the orphaned pachyderm. They are lost or have lost a part of themselves, and are now simply trying to find their place in the world. However, they use their disadvantages to their advantage.
Another reason why Burton wanted to do the film is that it explored real concepts and themes like joy, humor, death, and “stuff that are taboo subjects.”
Although, Burton assured that he tried to address those themes “without overdoing it” and made sure to do it “in a fable-like way.” While some films are transparent in their delivery of those them, the director wanted to convey that organically. “Let it present itself and not just sort of dictate it and just show these people for what they’re going through and who they are,” Burton said.
Audiences will see the idea of disadvantages as an advantage through the characters, who are, in a lot of ways like a family. And just as the characters in the film are family, the cast spent a lot of time together like one. “It was very special to me to work with people that I’ve worked with. Michael, Eva, Danny, and Colin, I feel like I’ve worked with him for many years because he’s got the same kind of spirit” Burton said. “And meeting Nico and Finley. Everybody, and Alan Arkin. Having like a family, a weird dysfunctional family, like a film is and like the movie circus is, which is very beautiful and important.”
He then added, “The spirit of all of them really meant the world to me in terms of what the movie is and the spirit that they all put into it.”
Dumbo opens in theaters on March 29, 2019.