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Disney disappointment

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Disney disappointment

Dumbo remake flies far afield from its source material

Dumbo was always likely to be the most difficult of Disney’s classic animated films to adapt for live action. The original ugly duckling tale of a little elephant who discovers that his big ears are his biggest asset was a perfectly contained, one-hour delight that even the youngest viewers could follow. Try to expand that to nearly two hours, however, and the story (not to mention little attention spans) starts to stretch thin.  

Unlike Disney’s princess stories, Dumbo has no romance to orchestrate. It also boasts no villain obsessed by grand, murderous schemes. Sure, a few circus bullies crack wise about the ears, but that’s a far cry from one very specific monster plotting to, say, eat you, à la Shere Khan, and thus doesn’t call for much of a final showdown.

The one trump card Dumbo had over the others was its larger-than-life animal characters like Timothy Q. Mouse, a pack of gossipy pachyderms, and a flock of singing crows. While it certainly made sense to excise the bird band, which traded on some uncomfortable racial stereotypes (one was literally named Jim Crow), the studio inexplicably decided to forgo any of the talking animals long beloved by kids of all ages.

It also dropped the most recognizable, toe-tapping tune from the 1941 version—“When I See an Elephant Fly.” It’s a bit like trying to do The Jungle Book without Baloo and “The Bare Necessities.” Bring in all the dazzling Tim Burton visuals you want—and there are plenty—audiences are still going to be a little disappointed.

That’s not to say this Dumbo isn’t entertaining, but it flies far afield of its source material. To start with, the PG rating comes with some minor language and a PETA-style moral about not caging animals. And instead of a hilariously imaginative rodent manager with a Brooklyn accent to kill, we get the same old undistinguished child allies facing down corrupt corporate greed. It’s fine but far too familiar and doesn’t hold a candle (or a feather) to the original little elephant that could.

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  • DS
    Posted: Fri, 03/29/2019 12:39 pm

    I haven't seen this movie (not planning to either), but I did see the new Jungle Book one. I hadn't read the book at the time, but I had seen the old one, and was expecting the new one to be an entirely new take on the story. however, it was nothing but a badly acted, live action copycat of the original. On top of that, they got the story wrong, missed the point of the story entirely, ruined most of the characters, and made a cheesy mess (no pun intended). 

    The Jungle Book (the book, not the movie) is a masterpiece. The part about Shere Khan is very minor, only an introduction, and Mowgli kills him very early on. That is after (not before) he goes to the "manpack". They skip Kaa almost entirely for the movie, make him a bad guy, and make him a her! Baloo is not the idiot he's made out to be; he is actually very old and very wise. Bagheera is just Mowgli's friend and the one who vouches for his life at the beginning, not his trainer. They skip Mowgli's four wolf brothers completely.

    For the storyline, they never seem to be able to get past the Shere Khan bit. They don't even seem to realize that there is Red Dog, Spring Running, How the Tiger Got His Stripes (though they did sort of touch up on this), or the others. Not to mention all the great side stories such as White Seal.

    All of this to say that the Jungle Book (movie) was one big flop.