Dumbo Disappoints


Harrison Le, Staff Writer

Besides the two Rated-R movies currently out, Us and Pet Sematary, the only other option when my brother once again dragged me off the computer was the latest Disney live action adaptation Dumbo. I had high hopes for the movie. I made an effort not to watch the trailer but from the thumbnails depicting a sad elephant and the little snippets I got from Spotify when I’m trying to play “Old Town Road” I could tell it was going to be a sappy, feel bad movie just like the original.

Dumbo is everything wrong with Disney right now.

In fact, the latest Dumbo is a disgrace to the original 1941 animation.

The original movie was one of the films that helped Disney to become what it is today. Each individual frame was painstakingly drawn and colored, hundreds of thousands of them were put together by a team of artists in a field that did not even exist. While the animations were simple and cartoony, it played to the overall circus atmosphere and childish tone of the film that taught a good lesson. But this is not a review of how great the classic Dumbo was, instead how the 2019 “reimagining” fell flat on its back.

Tim Burton is a legendary director who produced hits that depicted fantasy lands and talking animals that would be tough for any other director to tackle, so it only made sense for Disney to reach out to him to direct Dumbo. And yet, Dumbo lacks the soul and the heart the original had. There are scenes such as the circus tent coming down and the aftermath of Mrs. Jumbo being taken away that really did make me think of the original, but this feeling was short lived. The main problem is the elephant. Tim Burton’s decision to mute the elephants and instead focus on the “human aspect” of the Dumbo storyline gave way to useless subplots and annoying digressions from the focal point of the movie. That’s right folks, Dumbo doesn’t talk.

We are introduced to a former circus star who has lost an arm due to a war and who returns to his kids to find his wife dead. Then we have the monotone queen of the century, the daughter who insists on doing science and testing experiments and hypothesis. Her voice is so emotionless and dead I honestly worried if the real-life actor was okay. Then we have the boy, who is probably given less lines than the mute elephant and who serves no purpose other than probably being another extra in the background. The film focuses on useless characters, I don’t care that the war hero lost his wife and horses or that his daughter wants to test experiments. I want to see the elephant. We are left guessing what Dumbo is thinking and it’s almost like the elephant is the backdrop for the humans’ story.

There are some great visuals that remind you this is a Disney movie. The horribly feel-good ending and major plot holes were forgiven for being a kids movie. Dreamland burning down had great use of fire and camera work and I was particularly impressed with how they animated Dumbo to really make you feel bad. During those scenes, we feel something other than distaste. The animation, even when over-the-top, was well done and obviously had great production quality. These wow moments are completely flipped on their back as soon as they return to the useless humans’ problems or the depressing daughter opens her mouth. I quite literally laughed out loud when the daughter runs into a science museum and the father has a heart-to-heart talk about her science future in a whopping two minutes. I want. To see. An elephant.

I suspect Dumbo to be the first of many live-action failures in the coming years. The live action films just do not work compared to the originals and have way too much to live up to. Is Disney running out of ideas? These movies are simple easy cash grabs; save your money and watch the originals. I loathe the idea of the upcoming live action Lion King.

And again, if that actor says we must test an experiment one more time, Walt Disney himself is going to rise from the grave and stab someone.