From Disney and visionary director Tim Burton, the all-new grand live-action
"Dumbo" expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated,
is cherished and dreams take flight. "The idea of running away to join the
circus is a
feeling that has always stuck with me," says Burton. "I never really liked the
the captive animals, the clowns, the uncomfortable death-defying acts and-did I
mention?-the clowns! But I understood the idea of it, joining a weird family of
who don't fit in with normal society-people who are treated differently. That's
'Dumbo' is about."
The story emerged more than seven decades ago, catching the eye of Walt
who eventually turned it into the Walt Disney Studios' fourth feature film
original animated version of "Dumbo" flew into theaters on Oct. 23, 1941; it was
the first films completed after Disney opened its new Burbank studio lot. The
revered by both audiences and critics, winning an Academy Award for best music,
scoring of a musical picture (Frank Churchill, Oliver Wallace). The heartfelt
memorable song "Baby Mine" was also nominated for an Oscar. That endearing
relationship between mother and son so beautifully illustrated in "Baby Mine" is
many reasons audiences have been drawn to the story for generations. "The image
Dumbo is an iconic one throughout the world," says producer Derek Frey. "People
instantly know the baby elephant with the big ears. They may not remember every
of the story, but they remember the tender moments as well as certain realities
world that weren't expected in an animated movie. It's the kind of story that
part of your soul as a child."
Frey, who's headed Tim Burton Productions since 2001, first considered the
turning "Dumbo" into a live-action feature nearly five years ago when a script
Ehren Kruger landed on his desk. "When I read it, it instantly touched something
he says. "I thought it was something fresh and new, but maintained what we love
Says Kruger, who's also one of the producers, "Dumbo resonates with us
we're all flawed in some way, yet Dumbo shows us that sometimes those flaws are
make us special."
While Kruger was determined to maintain the heart of the original film, he
knew that in
order to make a live-action feature, he'd have to expand the story. "I wondered
were a real flying elephant in an actual circus in the golden age of circuses,
he affect the people existing in that world?" says Kruger. "I wanted to explore
people of the circus world would relate to Dumbo's journey."
Adds producer Justin Springer, "We really wanted to explore the human side of
and give it historical context. In the animated feature, Dumbo flies for the
world at the
end of the film. We wanted to find out how the world reacts when people learn
elephant can fly."
Circus owner Max Medici enlists former circus star Holt Farrier and his
and Joe, to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a
laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo
fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur
Vandevere, who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life
entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a
and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant, until Holt learns that, beneath
veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.
The film stars Golden Globe winner Colin Farrell ("In Bruges," "The
Lobster") as warveteran-turned-elephant-keeper Holt Farrier, Golden Globe winner
("Birdman," "Beetlejuice") as opportunistic businessman V.A. Vandevere, Emmy
Golden Globe winner Danny DeVito ("Batman Returns," "Big Fish") as circus owner
Medici, and BAFTA Award winner and Golden Globe nominee Eva Green ("Miss
Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," "Dark Shadows") as stunning aerialist
Marchant. Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins make their feature film debuts as
children, Milly and Joe.
The cast also includes Alan Arkin as powerful banker J. Griffin Remington,
as snake charmer Pramesh Singh, DeObia Oparei as strongman Rongo the Strongo,
Joseph Gatt as a hunter named Neils Skellig, and Sharon Rooney as circus mermaid
The creative team includes BAFTA-nominated cinematographer Ben Davis, BSC
("Doctor Strange," "Guardians of the Galaxy"), Oscar-winning production
Rick Heinrichs ("Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi," "Dark Shadows"),
Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood ("Alice in Wonderland," "Fantastic
Beasts and Where to Find Them"), editor Chris Lebenzon, ACE ("Alice in
"Maleficent"), and BAFTA Award-winning makeup designer Paul Gooch ("Alice in
Wonderland," "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children").
Directed by Burton ("Alice in Wonderland," "Charlie and the Chocolate
Factory") from a
screenplay by Kruger ("The Ring," "Ghost in the Shell"), and produced by
("TRON: Legacy"), Kruger, Katterli Frauenfelder ("Miss Peregrine's Home for
Children," "Big Eyes") and Derek Frey ("Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar
"Frankenweenie"), "Dumbo" soars into theaters on March 29, 2019.
INTRODUCING THE ONE, THE ONLY-DUMBO, THE FLYING ELEPHANT
All-New Cast of Human Characters Join the Beloved Elephant on the Big Screen
The story of "Dumbo" dates back to 1939 as a planned novelty item called a
Roll-A-Book-a box with little knobs that readers turned to read the story
through a window.
Authors Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl wrote the story "Dumbo the Flying
Whether the Roll-A-Book was ever produced is a mystery-none have been located-
but when Walt Disney purchased the rights to the story, he published about 1,430
copies of a book-version of the story.
Originally, the story was to be turned into a short film. But the filmmakers,
Walt Disney himself, kept expanding the film till they ended up with a 64-minute
film starring a charming little elephant named Dumbo.
The animated film is told through the eyes of Dumbo; the humans in the story
background characters-villains in many ways. Tim Burton's all-new live-action
reimagining not only expands the plot, its human characters are central to the
narrative-serving to interpret the baby elephant's journey in a way that's
relatable. "It's a very sweet story," says Burton. "The idea of a flying
elephant is such a
simple story. I think that's why it's quite popular and affected people so much,
of how primal and basic it is."
According to producer Katterli Frauenfelder, the filmmakers were keenly aware
original film's station in the hearts of people worldwide. "You're coming up in
world with children, their parents and their grandparents, who are all very
'Dumbo.' Tim's creating a new version. For Tim, it was a challenge to lay a new
foundation-and one that might be as beloved-and elicit an equivalent emotional
response from an audience of today."
Ehren Kruger's script paid homage to the original film, while taking it in a
Says Burton, "I thought it offered a way to tell that story in a framework that
but without redoing the original. I just liked the take on it. It was simple,
emotional simplicity, and didn't interfere with what the basic through line of
DUMBO, a newborn elephant with a sweet disposition and oversized ears, is the
addition to Max Medici's run-down circus. His differences initially alarm
been banking on a cute baby to attract huge audiences-until Dumbo discovers he
use those ears to fly. Dumbo finds it hard to celebrate though, when his beloved
is taken from him, leaving him lost and afraid-and the star attraction in a
state-of-the-art amusement park called Dreamland.
"I think we can all relate to Dumbo," says producer Justin Springer. "He's
little creature who is made fun of because of how he looks. But his ears
become his greatest gift. It's a classic outsider story. You can't help but root
Though he may be the star of the film, Dumbo doesn't speak. "When I first
this as a live-action version of the 'Dumbo' story," says screenwriter/producer
Kruger, "it was important to me that we make the world feel as real as possible.
made the decision that there weren't going to be any talking animals. So, Dumbo
doesn't talk, but he's never talked. The only animals who speak in the animated
the stork, the chorus of elephants, Timothy the mouse and the crows.
"So, once we eliminated the talking animals, we were left with a Charlie
character of Dumbo, who is somewhat of a silent-film actor in both the animated
and in our film," continues Kruger. "We wanted to populate a human world with
characters for whom Dumbo's story would give cause to reflect on their own
Visual effects supervisor Richard Stammers oversaw efforts behind bringing
life on the big screen. "Dumbo is fully CG created, as is his mom, Mrs. Jumbo,"
"As our hero character, Dumbo's emotional journey-the subtlety of his eyes and
expressions and his ability to interact with the actors-was so important. We had
the right balance between the character we remember and an updated, realistic,
live-action version-seamlessly integrating Dumbo and all of the other animals
into what is
essentially a live-action movie."
Before the film even entered its pre-production phase, Burton tapped
Michael Kutsche to explore the design of the title character. "The challenge on
was pretty clear," says Kutsche. "How [can we] take this beloved character,
which is a
very stylized 'toon, and bring him to life in a live-action film?"
The end result was a hybrid of sorts, embracing the charm of the animated
while taking him into a live-action role. "The DNA of the original design is
in ours," says Kutsche. "We looked at the original model sheets from the Disney
for inspiration. The problem is, you can't just take a realistic baby elephant
his ears huge; it just feels wrong. We had to inject a little magic, so to
speak, to sell the
idea of a flying elephant. It's similar to designing unicorns. They aren't just
horns; they have a slightly different and unique anatomy. So, in a way, what we
arrived at is a 'heightened memory' of the image of a baby elephant instead of a
Burton continued to refine Kutsche's design throughout filming and
but the look, with a bigger head and eyes to make room for those iconic ears,
starting point for the Dumbo that eventually takes flight in the film.
Despite the fact that Dumbo was created in CG, the production called for
practical on set. Enter David White, whose background in prosthetic makeup
translated into crafting creatures to address a variety of needs-from
spatial awareness to giving actors something to react to. Says White, "They
wanted to see an elephant in camera that's as close to what it'll eventually be,
so that it
can be lit and they can see in real time all of the colors and textures. So, we
making a Dumbo."
Six different versions of Dumbo were created to test before production kicked
lined them all up," says White. "They were all different color-A, B, C, D, E,
different color eyes, different amounts of hair, different textures. Everyone
went away to
figure out which tone worked best-it's not gray, it's not brown. In the end, it
be so useful because the colors reflect against costumes, backgrounds."
The life-size maquette had built-in flexibility. "We made sure that the head
and the ears
were all detachable," says White. "So that when you're on set and they need
but don't want to hold the full Dumbo, you can just grab the head-with or
According to Stammers, sometimes a scene called for a more dynamic version of
Dumbo. "We engaged a performer to represent Dumbo," he says. "Edd Osmond
dressed in a green suit to represent where Dumbo would be, but also to provide a
to performance that Tim could direct that would inform our animation later. Edd
key-not just providing an eyeline, but also an interactive reference for
contact, so when
the kids needed to touch Dumbo, Edd was there physically."
Stammers says that Osmond was equipped with a number of different suits.
often, he'd wear what we lovingly referred to as his 'ant man' costume," says
"It's a skinny version of Dumbo with a smaller head, but eyes in the right
could look him in the eyes and touch the top of the head. The general footprint
the ballpark for what we'd need, but since it was smaller, we wouldn't have to
as much later."
How do you make an elephant fly? First, he has to look the part. "When you
look at the
size and weight of our baby elephant versus the size of its ears, it's
implausible that he can fly," says Stammers. "So, we had to figure out how to
Character designers actually enhanced the anatomy of a typical elephant to
Dumbo's ears look capable of lifting his weight. They also rotated the ears
he took flight. According to Stammers, gliding and soaring movements proved
successful. "We tried to find those sweet spots. When Dumbo flies with Colette
Colosseum, they start on a huge pedestal and they fall into a dive and soar,
"OK, little guy. Let's put on a show."
Holt Farrier, "Dumbo"
HOLT FARRIER is a former circus star who finds his life turned upside down
returns from World War I. He has lost his wife and his circus act, and struggles
connect with his two children, Milly and Joe. When he is asked by the circus
care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock, Holt
doesn't exactly jump at the opportunity-but his children do, which opens the
door to a
future bond he never saw coming.
"The central human relationship in the movie parallels the elephant
producer Justin Springer. "As this baby elephant tries to reconnect with his
and his children are trying to put the pieces of their family back together to
find a happy
Colin Farrell portrays Holt. "He was half of a double act with his wife
before he went off to
fight in the First World War," says Farrell of his character. "They had a horse
they would do roping tricks and trick riding, but he was sent off to fight and
left his wife
and two children behind. By the time he comes back, his wife has passed away and
children were raised by the circus. He's also lost his left arm in battle, so he
physically and psychologically wounded. He comes back to a life he doesn't
He doesn't know how to deal with the grief of having lost his wife."
Farrell's casting marks the first time he's worked with director Tim Burton,
who says the
actor instantly found the heart of the character. "[Holt is] war-damaged, he's
arm, he used to be a star, he hasn't seen his kids and he doesn't really know
how to talk
to them," says Burton. "To try and do that subtly and emotionally takes a
certain type of
person, somebody who understands drama and comedy and emotion, all mixed
together. It's a subtle part, and those are sometimes the hardest ones to do.
great because he did it, he really understood the mixture of all of those
things. Plus, he
can ride a horse one-armed, and you can't say that about everybody. He was a
collaborator, and really fun to work with."
Farrell is no stranger to horses, having appeared in several films that
horse riding ("Alexander," "Winter's Tale," among others). "Any of the times
horses in films, there's always a specific reason or scene that will demand a
skill set," says the actor-slash-equestrian. "So, I've been doing a little bit
of roping on
this film that I hadn't really ever done before, and that's been tricky. But
I've had some
great guys working with me. Rowley [Irlam], who's the stunt coordinator I worked
on 'Alexander,' and Luis Miguel [Arranz], who's a Spanish horse trainer and
kind of genius. So, it's been fun. It's a huge part of Holt's life, so it was
that I at least seem to have a sense of comfort."
According to costume designer Colleen Atwood, Holt's background as a
horseman influences his wardrobe. "He was a cowboy performer who was flashy when
he was a circus star," she says. "His costumes still have a southwestern flavor
the parameters of the period.
"It's a journey about a man becoming whole again," Atwood continues. "It's
himself again, and Colin and I worked together to find the right look for Holt.
back in a uniform, and he has a couple show outfits, but mainly he's in work
it's a very humble sort of costuming, which is a big contrast to the glamorous
costumes on the other side of the coin."
"Rule number one - always have a big finish!"
Max Medici, "Dumbo"
MAX MEDICI, the owner of the struggling Medici Bros. Circus, purchases an
mother elephant in hopes that her adorable offspring will bring in the crowds.
the baby is born with giant ears, Medici's hopes are dashed-until he discovers
Dumbo can fly. Things are looking up, literally, for Medici and his
when an entrepreneur with money to spend makes him an offer he can't refuse.
"Medici is a good guy," says producer Derek Frey. "He is proud of his circus,
cares deeply for the people who occupy it. But when we join the circus at the
of our story, they are struggling. There are certain things that he has to do
bottom line simply to keep the circus afloat. Drastic times lead to drastic
Danny DeVito portrays Maximillian Medici, as well as a fake twin brother
Giuseppe Medici who Max feels adds intrigue to the circus. DeVito has stepped
the big top with director Tim Burton before. "Well, this is our circus trilogy,
Tim and I,"
says DeVito. "I had a circus troupe in 'Batman Returns.' Then we did 'Big Fish'
the way, and I was the circus ringmaster in that. Now this is a completion of
Not to say we won't do other circuses together, but this feels like we're making
Burton clearly has an affinity for DeVito. "He's an artist and he does lots
things," says the director. "He's directed, acted, produced; he's done so much.
a great person to be around-fun and open. He's just the kind of personality
really likes. It was great working with him again."
DeVito was drawn to the film in part because of his relationship with the
"I watched it when I was a kid, and I've got three kids, so I've watched it many
over the years," he says. "It always gives you a tear in your eye, with Mrs.
she's so left out at the beginning, the stork is not bringing her babies. She's
so sad and
then finally Dumbo comes and of course he comes with an added attraction: he's
these big, blanket ears that just go on forever, but it's unconditional love.
That's what we
have for our kids and that's what this movie is all about. There is such
artistry in that
movie, and if anybody can remake it, Tim can."
Medici's look changes over the course of the film, beginning with modest
attire-a red coat with tails and striped trousers that, according to costume
Colleen Atwood, are faded and aged to reflect the struggling circus. "He wears a
but it's quite unique," says Atwood. "He's worn a top hat before in a movie with
me, so I
didn't want to do the same thing again. And he wore one in 'Batman,' so I really
to avoid the typical top hat. He has a derby version of a topper."
According to Atwood, Medici's look gets an upgrade of sorts once after
arrival. "He becomes the impresario extraordinaire," she says. "He gets what I
'Purple Rain' suit. It's a rather loud purple checked suit. I wouldn't say he's
a man of
discriminating taste. It's a little bit tacky but in a loving way."
Hair and makeup designer Paul Gooch ensured that DeVito's hair reflected the
strife in Medici's world. "It was good to use the madness of his own hair
stained vest and collapsed hat," says Gooch. "It all seemed to work quite well
Once his circus has been bought out by V.A. Vandevere's wealthy circus, we gave
a shave and a tidier hairdo, which he then keeps for the rest of the film."
"Who's been dreaming like I've been dreaming?"
V.A. Vandevere, "Dumbo"
V.A. VANDEVERE is a persuasive entrepreneur who sets his sights on Max
circus and its newest, miraculous member-a flying elephant. Yet all Vandevere
see are dollar signs. He plans to make Dumbo a big star in his state-of-the-art
amusement utopia, Dreamland, by pairing him with a stunning aerial artist named
Colette. With Vandevere's eye on the prize-nothing and nobody can stop him.
"V.A. Vandevere is a guy who's coming in to buy the circus," says producer
Springer. "He's making a great offer, and what he's selling sounds great. 'I can
to a better, brighter place,' he says. He makes a really convincing argument and
plays into Medici's desire to take care of his circus family."
When Tim Burton first approached Michael Keaton about the movie, he anchored
story in a simple, relatable theme. "He told me it's about family," says Keaton.
reason Vandevere, my character, behaves the way he behaves, which is not too
he never really had a family, and deep inside, that ate him up-although he would
let you know that. And there's this little circus family that's not a
situation. The father, played by Colin Farrell, is trying to hold this little
Enter this really cute little flying elephant. You've got forces who want to
grow that and
enjoy that and make that a wonderful thing. Then there are some people who want
exploit it for their own personal profit. Unfortunately, I'm that guy."
Burton had, of course, worked with Keaton before. "I hadn't seen him for many
says the director. "[Vandevere] reminded me of his energy from 'Beetlejuice'-that
intensity that he has. You don't know whether he's being friendly or wants to
kill you. It's
really a lot of fun to work with him, and having him and Danny together
Hair and makeup designer Paul Gooch first met with Keaton in New York where
shared his thoughts on Vandevere's hairstyle. "We'd decided to try a full white
evangelist, presidential-type thing with that iconic little flip. But Michael
said he wanted it
to look like he was wearing a toupee. So, we can see his own hair, and there are
moments when he adjusts it himself."
Costume designer Colleen Atwood turned to their reference to dress Vandevere.
entertainment guys that created circuses at that time were entrepreneurs, they
showmen with big personalities," she says. "We wanted to go for that without it
too 'in your face.' The clothes are pretty classic clothes from the time. He
cravat. We had a lot of fun with the character."
"I'm one of the many gems he wears to reflect the light back onto him."
Colette Marchant, "Dumbo"
COLETTE MARCHANT is a French-born performer, accomplished aerialist,
star and the sparkling presence on V.A. Vandevere's arm when he recruits Dumbo
his state-of-the-art amusement park called Dreamland. Much to Colette's
Vandevere casts her in a new act alongside the flying elephant. But teaming up
Dumbo and the family who cares for him reveals more to Colette about show
business-and herself-than she ever imagined.
Producer Derek Frey says, "Colette's relationship with V.A. Vandevere harkens
the heyday of Hollywood when moguls and moneyed men walked around with a young
starlet on their arm."
Eva Green was cast to portray the high-flying circus star. But there was a
problem. "I was absolutely terrified of heights," says Green. "It was a real
phobia, and I
told Tim [Burton] at the beginning, 'I don't know if I will be able to do my
stunts.' But I
trained with Katharine Arnold, who is the most amazing aerialist, and Fran
is the choreographer, and they really helped me to gain confidence and find the
physicality of the character. It's unbelievable to swing up really high and spin
some weird choreography. It was a real challenge, and I'm quite proud of myself
Before Green could take flight, however, she committed to an intense training
"I had to train for four or five months to build a bit of muscle, because you
have to be
very strong as an aerialist," says Green. "Your arms have to be quite strong,
need strong abs as well. It's like dancing in the air. You try to find the right
the right gestures."
According to Arnold, Green made her fears clear in the beginning. "We put her
chandelier, which is one of the props that we use in the film," says Arnold. "I
her for a little walk and she was not having it: 'I don't like it. Stop, stop,
enough. It's not for everybody. But we kept working, and she was amazing. She
really hard, developed lots of core strength, lots of upper-body strength-I
made her feel much more confident. Now, she's really happy in the air-she's
Says Green, "I had the most amazing teachers: real circus people. That really
me to get into the circus mood. Now I am an aerialist for real!"
For the shots in which Colette flies with Dumbo, visual effects, special
effects and stunt
teams worked in tandem to make it possible. "We used a motion base-essentially a
hydraulic round gimbal rig, which you might see as part of some theme park
visual effects supervisor Richard Stammers. "Hydraulic pistons underneath allow
whole rig to move and soar, which simulates the flying of Dumbo. Separate
allow the head to bob up and down, separate from the body, and it also has
ears so that as the ears flap up and down there's actually some lighting
casting shadows on her as they fly."
As Queen of the Heavens in Vandevere's show, Colette Marchant needed to look
part. "I took more of a silent-movie-star approach to her costumes," says
designer Colleen Atwood. "She's circus glamorous, yet still set a bit apart from
When Colette is not performing, she has a brown bob, but when under the big
has a very vibrant auburn red wig with waves.
"First rule of science. You have to have interest.
Otherwise you don't deserve to know."
Milly Farrier, "Dumbo"
MILLY FARRIER is the curious and confident daughter of Holt Farrier, a
veteran and former circus star who is struggling to adjust to life after the
interested in science than the circus, Milly can't help but adore the newest
their circus family-a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a misfit.
her newfound friend takes flight, Milly's natural curiosity soars right along
Nico Parker was cast to make her big-screen debut as Milly. Although her
isn't into the circus, Parker found that she was. "The Medici Circus is
says. "There are some incredibly talented people: contortionists and
jugglers-people who have balls on their heads and just dance around. There's
vast palette of talents throughout the whole circus, and it really is incredible
to see how
they do everything."
Milly and her brother form a serious bond with Dumbo, stepping in, in many
Timothy Q. Mouse from Disney's animated classic. "Milly and Joe show him that
always there for him, even when he doesn't believe in himself," says Parker.
immensely proud of him. Even when he isn't proud of himself, they make sure he
he's incredible. Also, they know what it's like to lose a mother, so they
sympathize with what he's going through."
According to producer Derek Frey, while both Nico and Finley Hobbins, who
are truly talented, it's the combination that makes magic. "When we got Finley
together, it was very clear that the two of them could create the emotional core
story, which really revolves around the two of them and their relationship to
"But he was this far off the ground!"
Joe Farrier, "Dumbo"
JOE FARRIER, the rambunctious young son of Holt Farrier, heartily embraces
circus life. He'd love nothing more than to have his own act-but his acrobatic
juggling talent and just about every other imaginable circus skill are not quite
standards. When Dumbo is born, however, Joe's enthusiasm and pure heart seem to
meet their match.
Finley Hobbins makes his feature film debut as Joe. "For my first audition, I
perform a scene with a fake Dumbo, which was actually [casting director] Susie
dog, because we didn't actually have a model of Dumbo," says Hobbins. "Every few
seconds the dog would jiggle around and we'd have a laugh. I had to do the scene
where Dumbo is just sitting around, feeling quite sad and lonely, so me and Nico
Hobbins says he's enjoyed being among the circus performers. "I like the
are quite freaky and funny," he says. "And the contortionists are amazing. I
just think to
myself, 'Wow, what if I could do that?'"
"When I was young, we believed."
Pramesh Singh, "Dumbo"
PRAMESH SINGH is a snake charmer from India who performs alongside his nieces
and nephews. Pramesh is somewhat attached to his work-carrying his 10-foot-long
Indian rock python most everywhere he goes.
"He's very heavy," says Roshan Seth of his co-star. "He was very comfortable
himself around my torso. You've got to be careful, though. If you had him around
neck, after a while he started to squeeze."
Seth, a veteran Indian actor who appeared in films like "Gandhi" and "Indiana
the Temple of Doom," says the production often substituted a rubber version for
python, and any choreography required of the snake was handled in
"One last time to see him fly."
RONGO THE STRONGO is the strongman in the Medici Bros. Circus. He's also
right-hand man and his accountant.
DeObia Oparei was called on to fill Rongo's shoes. "I think that in working
[Burton]-he's such an actor's director and such a great storyteller-so, as an
you go, 'Okay, this is going to be interesting,'" says Oparei. "Then once we
talking about the character and what he was looking for in Rongo, I really liked
was going. It's very easy to take a character like that, the strongman, and to
play it very
big and stereotypically. But I didn't want to do that, and Tim didn't want to
see that. And
that was perfect. I love the fact that my character is this long-suffering,
worker in this troupe of misfits and oddballs."
Oparei strived for authenticity in the role, researching strongman techniques
so that he
could lift 20-pound dumbbells in a way that appeared harder and heavier than it
also learned to play drums and the trumpet for the film.
"Return me to the vast abyss! My destiny, the sea!" Miss Atlantis, "Dumbo"
MISS ATLANTIS is the Medici Bros. Circus' resident mermaid who spends much of
time isolated in a tank.
Sharon Rooney was cast to portray the lonely mermaid. "When you first see
Atlantis], she's not the happiest member of the circus family," says Rooney.
her own quite a lot and keeps herself apart, like a sad little fish. But as the
so does she, and she starts to come into her own and become part of the family."
Rooney was tapped to sing the iconic song "Baby Mine" in the film. "It's such a
moment," says Rooney. "Separating a new mom from her baby is just so awful, and
think the troupe all feel it in their hearts. We made up a backstory for Miss
think as an actress, it's really important to know why she's singing what she's
It's such a powerful song."
Miss Atlantis' costume consisted of more than 100 overlapping scales, which
stitched. Alternating rows of black and turquoise, the scales were constructed
three to four layers of fabric with sequin borders to give each scale a
"Best take a step back, Elephant Man."
Neils Skellig, "Dumbo"
NEILS SKELLIG is a hunter who hails from South Africa. He is summoned by V.A.
Vandevere to take care of a certain mother elephant who he fears will distract
from performing at his very best.
Joseph Gatt was enlisted to play the hard-nosed hunter, but he didn't want to
the performance. "It would be very easy to play him that way," says Gatt.
"That's not my
personal style of how I like to work, and I was really pleased when I met Tim
and one of the first things he said to me was, 'You know, you're going to be
enough just by doing nothing, by being.' I said, 'Oh. I think that's a
everything is just played very real, very down to earth."
"We want some of that magic dust! I want magic dust!"
J. Griffin Remington, "Dumbo"
J. GRIFFIN REMINGTON is the proprietor of the Atlas Forge Bank-the bank that
Vandevere hopes will fund his ambitious ventures, including Dreamland.
Alan Arkin portrays Remington. According to producer Derek Frey, Arkin was
perfect person to out-intimidate Vandevere. "[Remington] has the characteristics
someone who is inherently powerful, who you feel could have control over someone
else that's very controlling, like Vandevere."
THE CIRCUS IS COMING TO TOWN
The Medici Bros. Circus wouldn't be complete without a supporting troupe of
Filmmakers felt strongly about featuring real circus performers to infuse a
authenticity to their circus. Fourth-generation circus performer Kristian
Hungary was hired to share not only his extensive knowledge of the circus, but
international circus connections. "I was born and raised in the circus," says
parents, grandparents and their parents were all part of the circus. My
a Second World War veteran who bought an elephant after the war and performed
it for many years."
But in the circus world, certainly, the possibilities were endless. So,
Kristof worked with
U.K.-based Leila Jones to identify a wide variety of acts to present to director
Burton, who ultimately selected a multicultural array of performers, including
clowns, knife-throwers, contortionists, a dog trainer and more. "They're a very
interesting bunch," says Kristof. "Probably some of the best troupes and people
I LOVE A PARADE
When V.A. Vandevere takes over the Medici Bros. Circus, the introduction to
his overthe-top amusement park is aptly over the top. The parade down the center
Dreamland is led by circus choreographer Kristian Kristof and features
Colette Marchant, Max Medici, Holt and his children all decked out in a
Rolls-Royce, plus Dumbo in his chariot. "It's Dumbo's entrance into Dreamland,"
producer Derek Frey. "The parade brings us into the world of Dreamland for the
time-so we had to pull it off on a huge scale. We have clowns. We have dancers.
have horseback riders. We have a Dixieland band that serenades everyone as they
move through, and we have hundreds of people watching the parade as it
the entrance of our Dreamland Colosseum. It was a spectacle to see on set and
a spectacle to see on the big screen."
Costume designer Colleen Atwood's team created or sourced more than 200
for the performers, plus an additional 500 for the crowd characters.
HAVING YOUR CAKE
To illustrate the larger-than-life aspects of Dreamland, filmmakers assembled
layer cake of sorts, featuring 54 dancers, spectacular costuming and intricate
Choreographer Kristian Kristof teamed up with a fellow choreographer in Kiev,
to create a two-layer cake consisting of about 20 dancers. "We ended up with one
minute of sample choreography that I showed to Tim [Burton]," says Kristoff. "He
it. He said, 'Exactly what I want, just make it bigger.' I said, 'Bigger how?'
He said, 'Just
add a layer.' 'But Tim,' I said, 'that's 30 or 40 more girls.' And he was fine
Costume designer Colleen Atwood had to create costumes that were both
stunning and comfortable enough to dance in. Says Atwood, who always works with
performers during the design phase to ensure they're happy with the end result,
sequence featured dancing and acrobatics, so the costumes had to have a lot of
flexibility. They're boned costumes with stretch elements. Their legs are
colors to complement the choreography, and it played well in the overhead
According to executive producer Nigel Gostelow, the sequence harkens back to
Berkeley's iconic choreography. "When you see it from above looking down, it's
you're looking through a kaleidoscope," says Gostelow. "They were absolutely
Their timing with their heads, their arms, their legs, everything, was so
perfect. In fact,
several of us said, 'Well, we're going to have to use visual effects to
imperfections so it actually looks human.'"
THE ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM
Dumbo isn't the only character in the film who's created in CG. Mrs. Jumbo,
loving mother, is among a host of circus stars in the film born in the computer.
visual effects supervisor Richard Stammers, "In terms of other animals, we have
Barrymore, a capuchin monkey that's part of Medici's circus, who has a side show
being a Shakespearean performer, but not a very good one. He's basically a
monkey and a bit of comic relief. Within Medici's domain, we also do a digital
Pramesh's python, some cobras and mice-Milly and Joe have a mouse circus. There
are also several CG animals on Nightmare Island in Dreamland-a lion, grizzly
crocodile and a wolf."
"Dumbo" called for hundreds of background characters-the largest in a single
850. Says producer Katterli Frauenfelder, "'Dumbo' was and interesting and fun
the background artists, because they were able to watch the Medici circus
as well as the Dreamland parade and Dreamland shows and to participate by being
members of the audience."
According to Frauenfelder, director Tim Burton takes his background
seriously. "For Tim, extras are as important as any piece of fabric of the
film," she says.
"They are the living backdrop which supports the world."
Atwood was responsible for dressing all of the extras, which for "Dumbo" was
feat. "We had 500 people a day to dress for a month," she says. "And that
SETTING THE STAGE
From Struggling Circus to Epic Amusement Venture-
"Dumbo" Promises to Wow Audiences
Director Tim Burton takes the beloved classic film "Dumbo" from the
expansive world of animation to a live-action adventure set in 1919 with
props, special effects and visual effects. "The original 'Dumbo' has a
simplicity to it and
a storybook, fable quality," says Burton, who incorporates animated animals into
live-action approach. "You always try to pull in the two in a way that works. A
lot of it is
the general concept of making animation as a live-action work."
Production designer Rick Heinrichs, who's worked with Burton on a host of
including "Sleepy Hollow," "Planet of the Apes," "Dark Shadows" and "Frankenweenie,"
was called on to help achieve Burton's vision for "Dumbo." Says Heinrichs, "When
brought up the idea of working on 'Dumbo,' I already had heard that there was
be a live-action version and thought that would be really cool to be able to
of my favorite films from the Disney vault. It's short, it's sweet, it's a
essentially a retelling of 'The Ugly Duckling.' So, the idea that Tim is
directing this story
about this elephant scorned by society who somehow manages to redeem himself and
bring everybody along with him was just so appealing."
According to Heinrichs, one of the tricks was showcasing the era while
letting the heart
of the story shine. "The script actually has one of our main characters Holt,
Colin Farrell, arriving home from World War I," he says. "So, it provided a very
period, but at the same time, having worked with Tim many times in the past, I
that he's a little less interested in giving a history lesson as he is in the
While the team heavily researched the period, incorporating cars, colors and
that would invoke that feeling of time and place, their top priority was
story's emotional journey. Although the Medici Bros. Circus and Dreamland
exist in the same era, it was important to showcase the contrast between
heartland-the innocent arena where Dumbo is introduced-and Dreamland, which is
futuristic and lacks the warmth of Dumbo's former home.
Just as important as the research of the practical elements were artistic
of painters from those periods. Says Heinrichs, "We were very influenced by
Hopper, for instance, and his reductive process of looking at environments and
it to its essence. We sought to do the same thing, uncluttering our visual
to keep things simple and straightforward."
One of the other anchors for Heinrichs and the production design was the
himself. "Dumbo is a computer-generated character who inhabits a live-action
says Heinrichs. "So, you've almost got to push the reality-the live action-a bit
storybook world. We certainly make the baby elephant look believable, but we've
stylized our world, pushing it into an expressive direction with all of the
costumes, props and environments."
After scouting a number of locations and taking the film's demands into
Burton decided to shoot entirely on soundstages. "For this kind of movie,
indoors obviously helps with weather concerns and all those things," he says.
movie where we're not sitting around, talking about the weather all day long."
nd considering that most of the action at a circus in those days took place
when they were setting up-and sunset, when it was showtime, the ability to
light was welcomed.
Production kicked off in June 2017 at Pinewood Studios, located just outside
England. The Dreamland sequences-due to the sheer size of the entertainment
venture-were filmed in a massive hangar at Cardington Studios, located in
MEDICI BROS. CIRCUS
The Medici Bros. Circus is a traveling circus that has seen better days. Long
heyday, the circus is well worn-but at the same time, well loved. The characters
are family and it was important to director Tim Burton that the sets emulate
Says production designer Rick Heinrichs, "From the beginning, Tim said he wanted
grand intimacy for the film. It sounds like an oxymoron, but you can imagine the
the Medici circus as not necessarily huge but having a richness of texture and
and a grandness, all within an intimate scale.
"When we're in the Medici world, we want the audience to feel imbued by the
the characters, even though there are other things going on," continues
Davis [director of photography] is a genius at lighting through canvas, creating
tones. That way the colors are not primary circus colors; they're a little more
In addition to color, filmmakers used texture and shape to help convey this
run-down feeling of the Medici circus. Says Heinrichs, "Tents are very
objects, and we addressed the feel of the Medici big top early in the design
had to visually put across the sense of optimism from the past, and yet
something a little
sad at the same time-it's making the effort to stand tall, but it's a little
and slumped over. The circus is a bit hard on its luck, but it's certainly
trying to put on a
Ushering Medici's circus from place to place is the Casey Junior train.
design of the train in the animated film "Dumbo," filmmakers constructed a
Casey Junior train for the film. However, since the Medici Bros. Circus is far
and shiny, the train had to be aged with chipped paint and wear and tear to
the state of the circus.
According to producer Derek Frey, the feeling captured at Medici's circus is
"Even though they're on the rocks, even though everything is a little dusty,
everything needs a fresh coat of paint-when we go to Dreamland, you find
hoping you were back in Medici's world because it's an intimate, warm, inviting
In stark contrast to Medici Bros. Circus, Dreamland pushes boundaries in
way. Says production designer Rick Heinrichs, "It's supposed to be the most
spectacular circus or fair environment that the world has ever seen, and
Vandevere's posters put out a vision of Dreamland as nothing short of an
life-changing experience, so we've tried to make it as enticing, as beautifully
lit and as
mind-blowing as possible."
According to producer Derek Frey, Dreamland represents the future of live
entertainment. "Up until this point in history, circuses had been the
traveled to the audience around the country. Now, V.A. Vandevere has created a
in which people travel to him-he's ahead of his time in that way. He has a lot
pressure on him to make sure that Dreamland is a success, and he sees a flying
elephant as something that could be a cornerstone to that success."
Reminiscent of Coney Island with architecture from World's Fairs of the
Dreamland is made up of a host of attractions-from traditional circus
exotic animals and rides. Says Heinrichs, "We've had to basically invent
which was a huge challenge. Our priority was the boulevard-where the parade
place-and beyond that, we made up these different lands where Dumbo flies.
"We built our main boulevard," continues Heinrichs. "What's interesting about
it is it's a
contiguous set from the New York street through the gates all the way to the
Colosseum, with various attractions, a Wonders of Science building and a
building. And you can go off in different directions, to different lands."
V.A. Vandevere's over-the-top big top, is so big, even screenwriter and
Kruger was surprised to see it come to fruition. "I didn't believe them when
we're going to build a full-sized Dreamland Colosseum, and they went and built a
fullsized Dreamland Colosseum in a giant hangar."
Adds Heinrichs, "It's opulent and big and colossal and spectacular and
yet there's a kind of a hollowness to it. It's much colder with more primary
colors; it's all
about the glitter and the glamor and the spectacle."
GETTING THE RIGHT EFFECT
The combination of practical sets with CG animals called for extraordinary
bring it all together. Special effects supervisor Hayley Williams headed the
innovators. "In one of our first sets, we had a huge scene in which elephants
unloaded from their train carriage as they arrived to the circus," says
an elephant unloads down a wooden ramp, you would expect the ramp to move and
bend because of the weight of the elephant. But since the elephants were
post, we had to build a ramp that flexed and then put a hydraulic rig underneath
it to pull
it down. We programmed a control system and worked with the animators, who could
tell us if they wanted the elephant to step a bit faster or slower, or if we
steps to be a bit further apart."
Later, when Mrs. Jumbo is loaded into a truck, filmmakers knew she'd fill the
truck. "There was no way we could just load her into a truck in the CG world and
anything to the truck, because she should basically almost bring the truck down
ground with her weight," says Williams. "So, we rebuilt the chassis of the truck
added three hydraulic ramps so that as she was loading, we had the ramp flexing
the carriage. We also had the entire back of the truck moving as per her
the back sunk as she went in first, and then the front came down as she got
That was pretty cool on set watching: there was no elephant, but you could
because the whole truck was moving."
Williams' team also helped facilitate an iconic circus scene that audiences
from the animated version. "Dumbo is at the top of the platform in front of the
apartment; he's in jeopardy," says Williams. "Then Milly climbs up to save him.
piece was quite a big rig for us, because it was 30 feet high. I wanted to give
[Burton] the flexibility to have fire in all of the windows, too. It was a huge
gas and electronic ignition on the gas: there was a shot where they turn it all
off, so that
Dumbo is safe, but then the clowns are all fooling around at the bottom of the
the fire returns at a much higher level. So that was all on a button-we could
everything on Tim's cue. It was kind of a fun set to work on."
MUSIC TO MY EARS
Tim Burton Teams with Composer Danny Elfman for 17th Feature Together
Of all the decisions director Tim Burton made during the making of "Dumbo,"
the composer was perhaps the easiest. Says composer Danny Elfman, "It's our 17th
together. It's just one of those chemistry things."
According to Elfman, Burton has a similar approach to the music in all of his
finding the tone," says Elfman. "Every one of Tim's films has been unique for me
way. Whether it's 'Big Fish' or 'Alice in Wonderland' or 'Beetlejuice'-it's all
finding the tone of the world he's creating.
"'Dumbo' is a very heartfelt story," continues Elfman. "The baby elephant has
expression coming from his baby elephant eyes. That just makes it really fun to
and play those emotions. We knew we would have to find a musical identity for
that was purely Dumbo. Tim wanted me to find a very simple theme because he
it's a simple story."
The orchestral score features a low flute in Dumbo's sadder moments, as well
occasional Indian flavor. Elfman also celebrates the circus within the score-he
wrote themed music that plays in the background during the circus in the film.
composer says his main focus was the cast of characters and what they
"Dumbo definitely has a theme," says Elfman. "It's very simple, which is what
wanted, and it's used throughout the entire score."
There is also a theme for Max Medici, and V.A. Vandevere has what Elfman
as "a bit of a wicked thing."
Disney's original animated classic "Dumbo" hit theaters in 1941 featuring a
Frank Churchill and Oliver Wallace, who later won the Oscar for best scoring of
musical picture. While Elfman didn't want to revive the original score, he felt
a cameo. "I tried to pay homage here and there with bits from the original.
There is a
nod to Casey Junior as well as Pink Elephants on Parade with a twist."
Perhaps the most memorable moment in the 1941 classic film was the scene
the iconic lullaby "Baby Mine." Serenading the emotional moment between mother
son, the song featured music by Churchill and lyrics by Ned Washington. "Baby
was nominated for an Oscar for best original song.
Nearly eight decades later, the song remains in hearts worldwide. Sharon
plays Miss Atlantis, was tapped to sing "Baby Mine" in the film. "It's a song
before I was cast in this movie, was quite special to me," says Rooney. "My gran
to sing it to me when I was little, so I've always had quite an emotional
Rooney also had to play the ukulele for the scene-she'd never picked up the
instrument before. "I just said, 'Okay, sure. Brilliant,'" says Rooney. "I don't
know how to
play any instruments, so I worked really hard. I was getting more and more
we'd send videos to Tim, and he just kept saying, 'It'll be good.' And then the
to shoot it and it was one of the best days of my life. The set looked amazing.
It was so
quiet and calm and there was a campfire and Tim said, 'Okay, let me hear it.' It
Arcade Fire Tapped to Sing End-Credit Version of "Baby Mine"
Arcade Fire recorded a new version of "Baby Mine" for the end credits.
According to Mitchell
Leib, president, music & soundtracks for Walt Disney Studios, he and the
filmmakers wanted to
create a version of song that was as artistic and interesting as the film
itself. "Not an easy
ambition to accomplish," says Leib. "Arcade Fire is an artist I'd pursued over
the years-but this
time I had Tim Burton! I pitched the idea to Tim and his producer Derek Frey,
and it turned out
Arcade Fire is one of Tim's all-time favorite artists. The rest is history."
Leib says the end result was perfect. "A brilliant, new, interesting,
artistic and very original
version of 'Baby Mine' now resides at the end of our new live-action 'Dumbo.'"
Arcade Fire's Win Butler has a very personal connection with the animated
film. "There is a
scene with a locomotive in the original 'Dumbo' that uses an instrument called
the Sonovox that
my grandpa Alvino Rey made famous in the 1930s," says Butler. "Every time I saw
the film I
thought it was him. When we were asked to do the [end credit version of 'Baby
immediately got all of my grandfather's old guitars and wanted to play them in
the song. My
mom plays the harp on the track, my brother the theremin, my wife [Regine
and plays drums, and our son even plays the triangle, as well as the rest of our
in Arcade Fire. I will forever relate to the song thinking about the people I
hold so dear that are
'so precious to me.' Listen for the cameo of my grandpa Alvino's famous Sonovox
at the end."
Arcade Fire's Regine Chassagne says the song and the movie are just as
relevant today as
they were nearly eight decades ago. "It's a story we need to tell again," she
says. "A lot has
changed since 1941, and we are still on that quest to allow for all people to
celebrate who they are on this planet."
The digital version of the "Dumbo" original motion picture soundtrack will
also be available from
Walt Disney Records March 29, and the physical CD is set for release on April 5.
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