The New 'Dumbo' Trailer is Something Rare

Tim Burton is looking to rediscover wonder, mystique, and magic through Disney's famous, soaring elephant.

Dumbo Trailer
Walt Disney Pictures

There are a lot of reasons to resist these Disney reimaginings of classic animated work. Several have already come and gone and are best left forgotten (no names, my mother and your mother always said that if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all). A few rekindled a little bit of that wonder found in the originals (ok, now we can say something nice, I truly dug Cinderella and thought Jungle Book was a fascinating exercise of technology). The reality is no matter what we thought of them they make a ton of cash, and there is no stopping the Mouse House. We can try to plug our finger in the dike but that dam is going to bust, and the flood is inevitable.

If Film Twitter had existed in the eighties, Tim Burton would have been its king. These days, the collective beast has turned on him and tends to focus on his disappointments rather than his successes. Yes, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was a lackluster memory of what made the director a singular vision. Big Eyes was a noble effort at Oscar gold and came close to convincing. His remakes (Dark Shadows, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Planet of the Apes) are a tougher pill to swallow. Although, we do love us the remake of his own short film, Frankenweenie.

When news first arrived that Dumbo would be next on their reboot hit-list, the hive thought was not totally negative. After all, there is plenty about the original that we wish we could excise. Only when Burton’s name was attached did the snark come out. The first trailer accomplished the task of preparing us for a CG onslaught and watering our eyes with a new rendition of “Baby Mine.”  Other than that, skepticism remained.

Does the new trailer change minds?

I must admit, I’m a sucker for a cooing, lonely Dumbo. My eyes got wet, and Michael Keaton’s diabolical twisting of P.T. Barnum and Willy Wonka got my dander up. There may not be a genuine bit of earthly landscape in sight, but the digital backgrounds and characters wormed their way into my imagination. If I’m not 100% sold, my anticipation is officially piqued.

Who are these kids and what are they doing in my Dumbo movie? They are our gateway to the poor elephant’s suffering, and with the addition of one-armed Collin Farrell and ringmaster Danny Devito, they will be the champion of the magical. Seriously, Ferrell charging through a flaming circus rubble on horseback is my movie-jam. And you would have to be a stone-cold maniac not to choke up at the sight of Dumbo and Jumbo’s trunks straining for loving contact. Don’t be a monster, get in the spirit of this titanic commercial blockbuster machine.

Keaton wraps his tentacle over DeVito’s shoulder and lulls him into joining his cold, mechanical Dreamland by praising the wonder, mystique, and magic of the little guy. We all want to be told that our creation is special, and affirmation is the best method in a corporate takeover. I get it because Disney has mastered reselling my childhood back to me, and I’ll be there opening day for Dumbo, Aladdin, Mulan, The Little Mermaid, Lady and the Tramp, Another 101 Dalmatians, and whatever else they’re cooking up in their lab.

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Trekkie, Not Trekker. Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects, co-host of the In The Mouth of Dorkness Podcast.