Meet the Creative Minds Behind the New “Dumbo” at the Film’s Press Conference

On March 29th, Director Tim Burton and Walt Disney Studios brings to live-action life everyone’s favorite long-eared elephant, “Dumbo.”

Dumbo Poster ©Disney

To talk about bringing the famous baby elephant to the big screen once again were actors Michael Keaton (“V.A. Vandevere”), Colin Farrell (“Holt Farrier”), Danny DeVito (“Max Medici”), Eva Green (“Colette Marchant”), Nico Parker (“Milly Farrier”), Finley Hobbins (Joe Farrier), Director Tim Burton, Screenwriter Ehren Kruge, Producer Justin Springer, Producer Derek Frey, Producer Katterli Frauenfelde, Production Designer Rick Heinrichs, Costume Designer Colleen Atwood, and Composer Danny Elfman.

Video selections from the two filmmaker panels:

Panel highlights:

Dumbo Press conference panel–creatives
Dumbo Producer Derek Frey

Frey on reimagining “Dumbo”:  “It just seemed like a story that could be expanded upon–the original’s 63 minutes, and Tim was aware that technology had reached a point where you could successfully render an elephant into a live-action environment.

“…Dumbo is one of the original outsiders, in a way, and Tim’s films are populated with outsider characters.  So, I think for Tim, it was a combination of knowing the technology was there to render this character, and that pulled upon all of his strengths as an animator, with his Disney background.  It’s almost like Dumbo is a personification of himself, in a way, you know, which is interesting.”

Dumbo Composer Danny Elfman

Elfman on the process of working with Tim Burton:  “You know, it’s funny–this is our 17th film, and I still don’t know what to expect from Tim at all.  People think that, ‘oh, you must have this shorthand which is real simple,’ and I go ‘no, actually working with Tim is a lot less simple than a lot of other directors.’  His mind is strange and interesting and I learned many years ago never to take for granted what I think he’s gonna want.

“…Most of my favorite scores that I’ve written–I’ve done over a hundred films–most of my favorites have been Tim’s movies.  But I won’t say that many of those were without great challenges…but I don’t care.  If I like the result, whether it was like a slam dunk easy thing or really took a long process to find is irrelevant to me.  It’s only the end-product that matters, really.  It’s all you remember later, anyhow.  Kind of like having kids:  If you remember the first year, you’ll never want to look at another kid again.  But then they’re so cute and so great, you forget all that part and you go ‘kids are great!’  I find film scores to be somewhat similar.”

Dumbo Screenwriter Ehren Kruge

Kruge on relating to Dumbo:  “Why is Dumbo a universally loved character?  Everyone sees themselves in the story of a character who has self-doubt, who has flaws, who is defined as one thing by someone else and has this mouse inside them, telling them maybe you’re more than that, maybe that negative is a positive.  So we worked very hard to create a menagerie of human characters, a circus family, around Dumbo who all, in some way, were wrestling with uncertainty about themselves and their place in the world and, in fact, in the circus’ place in the world, so that Dumbo could be, for each one of them, an inspiration like he is to audiences worldwide.”

Dumbo Press Conference — Director Tim Burton, actors Colin Farrell,  Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins, Eva Green, Danny DeVito and Michael Keaton
Director Tim Burton and Colin Farrell

Burton on what he loves about Dumbo: “Just the idea of it.  The idea of a flying elephant, a character that doesn’t quite fit into the world, and how something with a disadvantage makes it an advantage… it just felt very close to the way I felt about things.  It was just a very pure, simple image… all those great old Disney fables had that kind of simple symbolism for real emotions.”

Colin Farrell

Farrell on what kids can take away from “Dumbo”:  “The same thing adults can take away from the film:  The importance of not just accepting the inherent difference that people have in relation to each other, but celebrating it.  I just think, as Tim was saying, there are simple messages that are very complex, it seems, to live in, as we go on through our lives, and those messages are messages of kindness and inclusion and all those kinds of things, so that’d be cool.  Or else if they’re just entertained for a couple hours, I’ll take that as well.”

Burton:  “But also, just with the Disney movies, for me, the reason I wanted to do it…the old Disney movies had all these elements.  They had joy, they had humor, they had…death, you know, everything.  They had…”

Farrell:  “You skipped so deftly between joy and death.”

Burton:  “Did I emphasize that one too much?”

Eva Green, Danny DeVito and Michael Keaton

DeVito on working with Keaton again:  “When Tim called a year ago or whenever it was and said he was making a movie, I was really thrilled to be able to be part of it, and you know, the joy factor went up through the roof when I heard that Michael was in it with me, ’cause…”

Keaton:  “Part of the joy factor was the first thing he reminded me, was that he got to be the hero and I got to be the bad guy.  He was just thrilled with that.”

DeVito:  “You,know, once in a while…’how does it feel to be the bad guy?’  Him in the mask and the whole Batman thing–it was just too much for me.  And me always being the gross Penguin, grunting and groaning…”

Also on display at the press conference were some of the film’s sumptuous costumes:

“Dumbo” costumes
“Dumbo” costumes
“Dumbo” costumes
Dumbo

“Dumbo” opens in U.S. theaters on March 29, 2019.

In case you’ve missed it, here’s the teaser trailer for the new film:

Want to learn more about Dumbo? Check out these other posts:

Are you ready to see this new live-action version of the Disney classic? Let us know if you plan to see Dumbo in the theater with a comment below.

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Jeanine resides in Southern California, pursuing the sort of lifestyle that makes her the envy of every 11-year-old she meets. She has been to every Disney theme park in the world and while she finds Tokyo DisneySea the Fairest Of Them All, Disneyland is her Home Park... and there is no place like home.

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