Director Tim Burton was once the ultimate outsider: an artist with an instantly recognizable aesthetic and an unmistakable quirk to his sense of humor. In his 40-plus year career, Burton has directed: a ghostly mischief-maker, summoned by thricely uttering his name; an orphaned automaton with scissors for hands and a crime-fighting vigilante with a penchant for black tights and pointy ears. So, getting Tim Burton to direct Disney’s “Dumbo” seems like a natural fit right?
The latest in a long line of Disney animations which are getting the (largely) live-action treatment, “Dumbo” tells the tale of a baby elephant whose excessively over-sized ears grant him the gift of flight. His place in the circus affords him the opportunity (if not the confidence) to hone his skills, but as it turns out, the circus isn’t always the most welcoming environment for its animals. Or their immediate family.
All of a sudden, the 1941 Walt Disney animated classic about an ostracised and exploited lil’ elephant does seem like a logical fit for Burton. At least on paper. The notion of a Tim Burton ‘reimagining’ used to evoke an excited response, suggesting a darkly gothic but well-humored film featuring all of the auteur’s classic calling cards. But then came 2001’s “Planet of the Apes,” followed by “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and then, “Alice in Wonderland.”
On the plus side, “Dumbo” 2019 stars Danny DeVito as the ringmaster Max Medici alongside his old “Batman Returns” nemesis, Michael Keaton, as antagonist and entrepreneur, V.A. Vandevere. With Eva Green as trapeze artist Colette Marchant and Collin Farrell as a war vet and former circus star, the cast certainly is worthy of a marquee movie.
It also seems reasonable to say that you could lock long-time Burton collaborator Danny Elfman in a walk-in fridge and he’d appear an hour later with an unforgettable musical score performed purely with pork products. However, Burton’s recent record of stifling the beating heart in his films still leaves several question marks hanging. The main one being, will “Dumbo” be the film to restore Tim Burton to the (big) top of his game? Having a look at the trailer is a good way to find out. The new trailer is below.