Dumbo is one of the cornerstone cartoons of Walt Disney Pictures. It is the movie that helped them rebound after Pinocchio and Fantasia both lost the studio money in 1941.
Dumbo is almost as iconic as Mickey Mouse. He is one of the characters that is readily recognizable from just a silhouette. That is one of the reasons I was surprised Disney decided to make a live action retelling of Dumbo.
Patrick and I were both indifferent to Tim Burton’s Dumbo. Even with a star studded cast of Danny Devito, Colin Farrell, and Michael Keaton we were not enamored with the movie. There were several references to the original movie, the best one being the dancing pink elephants. Disney also let Tim Burton poke a little fun at Disneyland with his theme park called “Dreamland”. Disney is usually really strict about any mention of or allusion to their intellectual property, so I was happy to see they allowed this.
For us, there just was no emotional connection to any of the characters in the movie. I fully expected to start ugly crying when they separated Dumbo from his mother. When that moment occurred in the movie my eyes didn’t even water up. For me the whole movie just seemed very flat and unemotional.
After talking to the audience we found we were in the minority. Most of the movie-goers gave the movie high praise and really enjoyed it. We did notice that nearly all the people we spoke to had NOT seen the original Disney Dumbo cartoon. Not sure if that has any direct correlation, but it was just a weird fact we noted.
Online review sites are putting Dumbo around 50% approval. Closer inspection reveals most of the reviews are either very high and glowing reviews or the are very low and scathing reviews. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. It seems you either love or hate Dumbo. I judge a movie by what I would do if it was playing on TV. If I was flipping through the channels and came across Dumbo… I would keep flipping channels.
Our take is, this version of Dumbo was made for those who are unfamiliar with the original. This movie will introduce Dumbo to a new generation of movie goers. This is likely the plan Disney had all along. Instead of re-hashing the old story again, shake it up and make it modern so it appeals to the new generation. This is how Disney will remain a powerhouse in the entertainment field. They are replenishing their audience base. For old fogies like us…. the original still exists. I ain’t mad at ya Disney, but I still prefer the original. According to the audience members we spoke to I can highly recommend this movie for families to take the kiddos to. Maybe show them the original first.
Did you see Dumbo? Did you like it? Did you see the original? Let us know in the comments.
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