Seeing the Elephant Fly


Courtesy of Walt Disney Productions.

Riley Hurlburt, Columnist

The highly anticipated Tim Burton movie of 2019, “Dumbo,” has finally come out, but the reviews have so far been mixed. Many found it depressing, with much of the material toeing the line between dramatic and dark. But, visually, the movie was outstanding. Sandie Angulo Chen, a critic from Common Sense Media, explains that Tim Burton’s colorful reimagining of Disney’s 1941 classic is impressive and the adorable CGI star Dumbo melts the hearts of any audience.

“Dumbo” is about an elephant in a circus that loses his mother and is bullied for having big ears. Two children named Millie (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) work with their father, Holt (Colin Farrell), to help Dumbo learn to use his ears, encouraging him to literally take flight. An amusement park called Dreamland, more influential than Dumbo’s struggling circus, buys out the circus to utilize Dumbo’s star factor. Dumbo must overcome the obstacles set for him by Dreamland’s owner, Vandemere (Michael Keaton), to reunite with his mother.

I thought the movie was overall a fun view. However, the CGI was mediocre; while the elephants were mostly realistic, the eyes felt cartoony and detracted from the realism of the animation. This detail made the animation uncanny, because they caused the elephants to look a little too human. While they were used to create expression so that the audience could better empathize with Dumbo and his mother, it ended up being more unsettling than sweet. However, one part I liked was Tim Burton’s classic dark undertones included throughout the movie. For example, the majority of the movie was shot with dim lighting, giving the movie a ghostly vibe.

I enjoyed the ending because, despite the characters undergoing extreme hardship at times, the film finishes out on a happy note. Also, the subplot of the family who helps Dumbo adds depth, detailing the traumas of World War I and the effects on the families of the veterans. Holt returns changed by his experiences both physically and mentally, but despite his difficulties, the connection between him and his children is developed further throughout the course of the movie.

The 2019 “Dumbo” remake certainly pays homage to the original 1941 “Dumbo,” but does stray from the original in some key ways. The new “Dumbo” misses a lot of the other circus animals that makes the story so magical. The crows, despite being controversial, were important in the original version because they were the one that gave the feather to Dumbo that allowed him to fly; in the new version, Millie and Joe give Dumbo the feather. Timothy Q. Mouse also helped Dumbo on his journey in the original and creates both humor and heart, but in the remake, the closest thing to Timothy was a cage with mice that was shown in the movie for two minutes, which didn’t impact the plot in any way. All of these moments, so charming and effective in the original, were skipped over where they might have enriched the story.

The original conflict between Dumbo and the elephants that bullied him also inspired his name, but here the crowd dubs him Dumbo. In both versions, Dumbo’s mother, Mrs. Jumbo, is separated from her baby until Dumbo rescues her, which creates a heartbreakingly sweet storyline. But the recent version creates a new level of drama. She not only separated but also sold to Dreamland, where she is nearly exterminated. The conclusion also differs greatly; in the first, it ends with Dumbo flying through the skies above the circus train, while his mother is treated as royalty. The new movie shows the circus members living a happy life as Dumbo and his mother return to the jungle to meet new elephants.

The movie itself is an entertaining watch, with high-quality production and a heartwarming storyline. Although it does differ from the classic 2D animation and plot that we all know and love, the 2019 “Dumbo” does a great job of showing off the elephant that could fly.