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New trailer for Disneys live-action Dumbo captures magic of original

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Enlarge / Tears of a clown: Everyone's favorite misfit baby elephant with the big floppy ears is back.Disney

When Disney first announced a live-action version of its 1941 animated classic, Dumbo, plenty of people were skeptical. The original was well-nigh perfect. Why mess with perfection? Reactions were decidedly more positive when the first teaser dropped earlier this year. Now there's a new trailer that should dispel any lingering doubts. The live-action Dumbo promises to be just as magically transporting as the original.

In the 1941 film, the newborn Dumbo becomes the butt of jokes because of his enormous ears. When some boys taunt him, his enraged mother loses her temper and attacks them. She is declared mad and locked in a cage, leaving Dumbo alone. Too clumsy to be featured in the circus elephant act, he is made into a clown instead. Dumbo's only friend in this miserable existence is a mouse named Timothy, who discovers Dumbo can fly and stages an elaborate stunt at a circus performance one night to prove it. Dumbo becomes the star of the circus and is reunited with his mother.

Director Tim Burton's version appears to follow the same general outline, with a few updates. Here, Dumbo is befriended by two young children, whose father has been hired by the circus to care for the baby elephant. Dumbo's flying ability draws the attention of an evil entrepreneur (played by Michael Keaton), who buys out the circus, the better to exploit its star attraction. The circus moves to Dreamland, a place somewhat reminiscent of Disneyland. This being a Disney film, it's safe to assume that Dumbo and his friends triumph over those who would exploit them for profit, and live happily ever after.

  • Joe and Milly Farrier (Finley Hobbins and Nico Parker) bond with a newborn baby elephant. Disney
  • Dumbo and his new friends watch the arrival of ruthless entrepreneur V.A. Vandemere (Michael Keaton) with trepidation. Disney
  • Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) is a one-armed war veteran and former circus star hired by the circus to care for Dumbo. Disney
  • A heartbreaking scene: Dumbo is separated from his mother. Disney
  • "We're your family now," The circus comforts a bereft Dumbo. Disney
  • Big night under the Big Top. Disney
  • Dumbo shows them all what those big floppy ears are good for. Disney
  • Circus owner and ring master Max Medici (Danny DeVito) is astounded. Disney
  • Vandermere conspires to buy the circus for his own exploitive purposes. Disney
  • Welcome to Dreamland, aka the big time. Disney
  • A motorcade through Dreamland. Disney
  • In case you were wondering how director Tim Burton would capture the classic sequence "Pink Elephants on Parade." Disney
  • A fire breaks out in the big top. Disney
  • The baby flying elephant goes from clown to hero. Disney

Burton is known for his distinctive visual style, full of surreal, vividly colored details and elaborate costumes that made him an ideal choice, on paper, to direct Disney's live-action 2010 remake of Alice in Wonderland (and its sequel). That film did well at the box office but met with mixed critical response. The campy Dark Shadows (2012) and his 2005 remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were outright bombs, but let's face it, they looked fantastic.

Burton's style is more subdued for Dumbo, but it still feels very much like a Burton film. And he's even managed a clever reimagining of the classic psychedelic animated sequence "Pink Elephants on Parade." (In the original, Dumbo and Timothy accidentally drink water spiked with moonshine and experience vivid hallucinations of pink elephants.) Mostly, however, it seems he's captured the universal emotional resonance that made Dumbo an animated film for the ages.

Novelist Elif Batuman nailed the secret of Dumbo's enduring appeal in her 2017 debut novel, The Idiot. Her protagonist, a young Turkish woman named Selin, recalls watching the film in kindergarten. All the children in her class identified with, and rooted for, the plucky baby elephant—even the bullies. "Invariably they laughed and cheered, both when Dumbo succeeded and when bad things happened to his enemies," Selin narrates. "But they're you, I thought to myself. How did they not know? They didn't know. It was astounding, an astounding truth. Everyone thought they were Dumbo."

Dumbo will be released in the US on March 29, 2019.

Trailer for Disneys Dumbo.

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