by Graham Pierrepoint
Disney have been hard at work resurrecting some of their most beloved animated classics as live-action masterpieces in recent years, and with plans afoot for Mulan, Aladdin and The Lion King a few years ahead, there’s no sign of this trend stopping any time soon. And why not? Both The Jungle Book and Cinderella received critical praise (while Alice in Wonderland made big money, it faltered a little with viewers), and the next movie on the block that’s really picking up pace is Dumbo, with the surprise direction of Tim Burton to boot.
Burton is one of the most recognizable directors in Hollywood history – whether in animation or live action, his name is synonymous with darkly comic and richly bleak stories, often edging on the macabre but never going too grim. He’s most famous for bringing us Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice, as well as having worked with Disney on The Nightmare Before Christmas and the first Alice in Wonderland live action remake. If you’re already familiar with his visual style, his nuances and direction, you’ll likely consider him a curious choice for Dumbo – a famously tale of an adorable baby elephant with enormous ears. However, it’s also famous for one of the most psychedelic sequences in cinematic animation – the ‘Elephants on Parade’ sketch, where the pachyderm experiences bizarre, colorful hallucinations after getting himself drunk! It will be intriguing, therefore, to see how Burton adapts this number.
Last week, talk turned to casting for Dumbo, and two big names have already been associated with the movie. Miss Peregrine star Eva Green is said to be considering a lead role, and legendary TV and film funnyman Danny DeVito is also thought to be on board as the owner of a circus. Both have worked with Burton before, meaning that they will likely thrive under his direction – and DeVito is a particularly lucrative choice as he has been undergoing a second renaissance in recent years as Frank in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
The story elements seem to be rather different to the original animation, too – while the original film largely focused on Dumbo being separated from his mother and his misadventures, this adaptation may introduce an entirely new villain – given Burton’s past casting trends, is it entirely unreasonable to predict that Johnny Depp may be a shoo-in? Who’s to say – for now, audiences can enjoy the live action Beauty and the Beast and await further Disney live action updates – though when we’ll ever get updates for Treasure Planet or Oliver and Company, who can say?