Flying to the top


By: Alexis Peck, News Editor

From tiny mice to flying elephants, the live action Dumbo hit all the points. In 1941, Ben Sharpsteen’s rendition of “Dumbo” was a low budget film that made the audience cry every type of tear. Its simplistic cartoon animation and watercolor backgrounds contrast greatly with the complexity of Tim Burton’s “Dumbo.” The animation, the plot and the characters are all different from the beloved original, but beautifully done.

Image result for dumbo 1941 vs 2019
The live action Dumbo movie has been in the making for over 5 years. The movie came to everyone in the United States on March 29, 2019. “The computerized Dumbo is a marvel of cuteness and technical wizardry who steals every scene he’s in,” Peter Travers, critic from Rolling Stone said. Dumbo, the main character of the film, does not have any dialogue so, the character designer, Michael Kutsche, had a difficult task in making his facial expressions convey what he was feeling. Kutsche, though had a hard job, made this little baby elephant show every thought in his mind through his eyes, mouth, and body movements perfectly. Photo Credit: YouTube

In 1939, Sharpsteen was given the task as head director to create a movie out of the children’s book, “Roll-A-Book.” Disney was in a financial crisis at this time because of the war in Europe, so this film had to be low budget. The animation lacks the detail that Disney is famous for and designed it to look more like a cartoon. They used drawings for backgrounds and recycled those for different scenes. The 2019 live-action film brought all of those animated details to life. Dumbo looked like a real elephant with the wrinkles and minuscule hairs on his body. The realistic animation pulls out more pathos from the audience. Even though he is not a cute little cartoon anymore, he looks real and appears that this adorable realistic elephant has a soul which makes every feeling in the audience stronger. The animators brought this dorky looking cartoon animal to life rather skillfully.

Many fans of the original heartwarming story were worried about this version being completely different and not doing the original justice. Burton found a creative way to incorporate tie backs from the original  while still making it his own story. With the new family, the Ferriers, being protagonists in this movie Timothy was booted out of a main role. He did appear as one of Millie Ferrier’s, Nico Parker’s, pet mice in the film. Timothy’s magic feather appears as a tool to help Dumbo fly. As in the original, Dumbo’s big debut happens when performing with the clowns, the live action makes this scene much more intense. The infamous scene of Pink Elephants was transformed from a drunken hallucination to a just as satisfactory magic bubbles trick. In both movies, Mrs. Jumbo, Dumbo’s mother, gets angry because people are making fun of her son’s ears and gets hauled off for it.

“The new Dumbo tells the story of a baby elephant who is pulled away from his mother to join a small circus with one-time horse-riding star Holt Farrier, Colin Farrell. The drama carries well beyond Dumbo’s first triumphant circus flight, where the original movie ended, to explore the joys and perils of instant fame,” reported USA Today.

Burton changed basically the whole plot and many critics were not happy about the significant changes. Instead of the movie being driven by confidence for an animal, it is about people making money for the circus and attempts to get Dumbo’s mother back. Another change is that absolutely none of the animals utter a word, while Dumbo 1941 is mostly made up of animal dialogue. Dumbo does not speak in either of the films though. Dumbo gets his name from humans, not mean elephants in 2019 film. This movie was a live action so it was much more realistic: no storks delivering baby animals, no talking animals, none of that fantasy. The sequence of when events happen is pretty mirrored, but this movie is 48 minutes longer so of course they added scenes, made scenes longer, and cut scenes. There were undoubtedly many ways to go wrong with this film, but Burton and everyone else did a wonderful job in making the cartoon come to life.