Disney’s Dumbo was entertaining though unnecessary

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Meredith VanSkiver

More stories from Meredith VanSkiver

Student Q&A – Ella Kelly
September 20, 2019

Disney, being the precocious, powerful, present company that it is, understands the powerful marketing tool that is nostalgia. A connecting factor that spans between cultures, distances, and generational gaps is that nearly all of us watched at least one Disney movie in our childhood. We look back at our times spent with these cartoon characters with fondness and the hazy glow of childlike amusement obscures any negative feelings.

So, being the smart, multi-billion dollar company it is, Disney has capitalized on these memories by remaking the crap out of countless old movies. Some have been all but carbon copies of their originals, like 2017’s Beauty and the Beast, while others like 2014’s Maleficent were so different from their source material that they shouldn’t be called a  remake at all.

The studio’s most recent live-action installment Dumbo seems to occupy some sort of middle ground.

It followed the same plot line as the 1941 original: a little elephant, the titular character with big ears joins the circus. Both Dumbo movies are separated from their respective mothers, and both experiencing hazing as well as the joys, and pitfalls, of learning how to fly. Additionally, Dumbo remained animated in both films. However, as opposed to being completely cartoon, the 2019 movie is live action with some CGI additions.

The biggest change to the new version would have to be the change in the character that helps Dumbo with his aerial adventures. In the original, it was a quippy mouse named Timothy that helped to instruct the elephant. However, in the new version, the job of teacher and friend befalls upon two children, Milly and Joe Farrier (Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins). Timothy was a large staple in the story of Dumbo in my personal memories, but I think the Farrier children worked well in the context of the story as well as adding a fresh ingredient to the film.

However, not only were certain characters removed or revamped, the entire plotline was given an upgrade. In the 1941 movie, the simplistic plot centered on Dumbo’s ears. The enemy were all those who teased him because of his ears and the climax (spoiler alert for an almost 80-year-old movie!) is when Dumbo is finally able to spread his wingsor in this case, earsand soar.

In the new film, Holt Farrier—Milly and Joe’s father, played by Colin Firth—discovers the elephant’s uncanny abilities earlier on in the story and uses this to the advantage of struggling circus and circus owner Max Medici’s (Danny Devito). More plot development both separated and added to the storyline that the 1941 movie first established.

This might be my biggest problem with the film. Yes, I enjoyed the whimsicalness of the whole affair, as well as the ever-present tone of Tim Burton found in every movie that he is a part of. That being said, I believe that a large part about what made 1941’s Dumbo so entrancing and long-lasting is its simplicity. It takes an extraordinary story and presents it in an easy to digest way. The new Dumbo was a little too gaudy for my liking.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. The emotional ties were great, and the acting was both silly and moving. However, for fans of the original and for anyone who’s seen the 1941 film, the 2019 Dumbo just isn’t necessary.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email