Disney’s live-action adaptation of Dumbo arrives on Blu-Ray, DVD, and Digital on June 25th. The original 1940 animated classic is not only an iconic character in the Disney pantheon, but the film is also the favorite of many modern animators, including many of Tim Burton’s former peers. For those that missed it in theaters, your second chance is just around the corner.
I openly defended Disney’s decision to make a live action version of Dumbo with Tim Burton at the helm. I’m not sure why, but I told myself this could be a return to form for the director and that he must have something new and groundbreaking to add to the story. Unfortunately, it simply borrows major plot points from other memorable animal films to expand one of the shortest animated features into an unimaginative remake that pales in comparison to the original.
The film suffers from having too many characters, who make Dumbo feel more like a supporting cast member rather than the star of the show. You’re expected to follow and care about the subplots of Danny Devito’s ringmaster, Colin Farrell’s amputated equestrian, his scientific daughter, his spare of a son, and his acrobatic love interest, not to mention all of the other sideshow characters thrown into the already full plot pot. They are all thwarted by Michael Keaton as a theme park tycoon. This Disney film somehow manages to make a statement against theme park owners but leaves the circus owners unscathed, an interesting choice given the company’s theme park investments and the lack of traditional circus shows in 2019.
The basic plot of Dumbo is carried over from the animated feature, but stripped away of any signs of animal cruelty (becuase the circus is a happy place that’s doing nothing wrong in this film) and ommitting all of the animal side characters like Timothy Mouse and the crows. Add in major plot elements from Free Willy and Jurassic Park (I’m not kidding) and you have Tim Burton’s Dumbo. I didn’t love it the first time around, and somehow found new reasons to dislike it while reviewing this Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Multi-Screen Edition.
- Circus Spectaculars (8:20) – Tim Burton takes you behind the scenes of the film to explore the characters, cast, special effects, and his love of the story, justifying the changes he made. There’s also a lot of conversation about the Batman Returns reunion.
- The Elephant in the Room (5:50) – Tim Burton and the cast share their love of the animated classic and reveal how they brought him to live action, including meeting the on-set stand in.
- Built to Amaze (7:40) – A spotlight shines on the scenic design and sets of the film.
- Deleted Scenes (7:47) – Nine deleted scenes are presented with rough computer effects.
- Roustabout Rufus (0:34) – A circus employee named Rufus talks down to an elephant.
- Pachyderm Plans (1:08) – The ringmaster builds up hype about the expected baby elephant.
- The Other Medici Brother (1:04) – Danny DeVito plays his own brother in this deleted scene.
- Monkey Business (0:31) – The circus performers celebrate their success after Dumbo becomes famous.
- A Star is Born (0:30) – Colette is unhappy about being upstaged by Dumbo.
- Where’s Dumbo?! (0:30) – Dumbo exits the circus tent and upsets kids who waited to see him.
- Elephant Heist (1:09) – The circus performers hold a planning meeting to break Dumbo free.
- Backstage (1:18) – The kids comfort a saddened Dumbo before his final show.
- A Seat at the Show (0:19) – Danny DeVito offers up his seat at the show.
- Easter Eggs on Parade (3:52) – A sizzle reel of all of the homages to the animated classic in the film, which are mislabeled as “Easter Eggs” despite many of them simply being essential plot points from both versions.
- Clowning Around (1:57) – A short blooper reel that includes Danny Elphman sitting on the Dumbo flying rig.
- “Baby Mine” Performed by Arcade Fire (2:59) – A music video for the end credit song that includes some custom animation and clips from the film.
- Dreamland – Anatomy of a Scene
Dumbo is presented in its original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1. The Blu-Ray transfer looks magnificent, with excellent details and great handling of the film’s color palettes, which features a softer subdued tone for a large number of scenes, but with oversaturated bright moments and some extremely dark, inky scenes.
The main audio mix is a 7/1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that fills your home theater with sound effects and score in the rear channels. It’s fun to hear Dumbo flap his ears behind you as he disappears off screen. Other audio options include a stereo descriptive track, plus Fench and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.
Packaging & Design
Dumbo comes in a standard Blu-Ray case with disc holders on the interior of both sides. The initial pressing includes an embossed o-sleeve (slipcover). Inserts include a code to redeem your Movies Anywhere digital copy (also valid for Disney Movie Rewards points) and a flier for Disney Movie Club.
The discs open with trailers for Frozen II and The Lion King. The main menu frames clips from the film inside a circus wagon border while Danny Elfman’s score plays.
I don’t consider Tim Burton’s Dumbo a must-own and public interest in the film was lukewarm, leading to one of the lowest grossing live-action adaptations Disney has made in the modern era. If you missed it in the theater and couldn’t wait to see it, this release offers a few insightful bonus features. But those only casually interested should wait until the launch of Disney+ when they can watch it through Disney’s subscription streaming service.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.