It seems like yesterday when Disney released the box-office behemoth that was “Alice in Wonderland” in 2010. The astounding return— $10.25 billion— secured the future of the company’s cinema, as we currently witness the everlasting impact of that seminal picture. To be fair and honest, the film wasn’t all that remarkable to begin with, despite the direction of Tim Burton and the stellar cast. Yet is scale and modernized connection with a newer audience established a firm formula to be followed in the years to come.
The steady stream of live-action Disney re-imaginings is nearing its fatigue. We’ve had lush and elegant productions, Kenneth Branagh’s “Cinderella” and Jon Favreau’s “The JungleBook,” but in-between, the majority of these films have been decorated in a glossy sheen for a technological showcase, and hollowed out for a soulless interior. The most recent example, “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” is perhaps the most indicative and egregious of this trend, which doesn’t intend to slow down anytime soon, as we expect Guy Ritchie’s “Aladdin, “Jon Favreau’s “The Lion King,” “Lady and the Tramp,” “Mulan,” a sequel to “Maleficent,” and more. Despite such a congested slate, there is still room for Disney magic to be conjured, which is why Tim Burton’s “Dumbo” remains a promising and enthusiastic picture to expect.
Following in the footsteps of the 1941 animated classic, the “loosely-inspired” storyline goes as:
A young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly, helps save a struggling circus. But when the circus plans a new venture, Dumbo and his friends discover dark secrets beneath its shiny veneer.
More-so then the CGI construction of “Alice in Wonderland,” this is a world fit for the magical macabre inherent in the touch of Tim Burton. Besides Spielberg, few filmmakers are able to capture the essence of heightened fairy-tales like Burton does. He is able to frighten in the vein of a Mario Bava or Alfred Hitchcock, yet at the same time, surround the fear with a whimsical, childish atmosphere that speaks to the innocence in all of us. Simply put, he is a sorcerer of storytelling.
Thus, the circus realm— filled with its twirling tents, trapeze acts, and odd characters— fits Burton’s approach like a glove. He has assembled a wonderful cast that plays like a clash between the old and the new. Colin Farrell leads the father-figure role alongside recent-Burton muse, Eva Green, and there is also a “Beetlejuice“/”Batman Returns“/”Edward Scissorhands” reunion with the helpful additions of Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, and Alan Arkin.
From what has been seen so far, albeit very limited, “Dumbo” has the potential to be a splendid, family film. The only doubts to be had is not only the looming factor of Disney and its intervention with a filmmaker’s creative control, but also of the script, which is penned by Ehren Kruger, who is known for writing the most incoherent of “Transformers” films, the poor remake of “Ghost in the Shell,” and some inspired entries in the horror genre.
Regardless, we will see what’s really inside Tim Burton’s circus tent on March 29, 2019. Watch the new trailer and let us know what you think.