Cookies notification

This website uses cookies to provide you with a better experience

You can adjust your cookie settings at any time at the bottom of each page. If you do not adjust your settings, you are consenting to us issuing all cookies to you

Dumbo's Tim Burton and his 9 favourite recurring collaborators


This March, director Tim Burton re-imagines Disney's 1941 animated classic Dumbo as a live-action adventure.

The famously Gothic film-maker brings his eccentric, fairy tale sensibility to the story of the big-eared, flying circus elephant, continuing Disney's run of live-action reboots in the process.

Burton is a director who likes to stay loyal to certain cast and crew members across his movies, and he's collaborated with several favourites on the new Dumbo film.

We've rounded them up, plus some other key collaborators who haven't worked on the movie, but who've nevertheless helped establish Burton as one of the most unique visionary film-makers in the business.

The Tim Burton regulars working on Dumbo:

Danny DeVito

With Dumbo, DeVito returns to Burton's brood for the first time since Big Fish. The 2003 fantasy drama saw the veteran actor get fanged up as a werewolf and part of a circus troupe, which might have come in handy for his role as ringmaster Max Medici in Dumbo.

DeVito also appeared in anarchic 1996 Martian comedy Mars Attacks! And he had the unenviable task of following on from Jack Nicholson's iconic Joker as the villain du jour in 1992's Batman Returns. As the Penguin, DeVito was full-on frightening and contributed to what must be the freakiest Christmas movie ever (in a totally good way).

Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton first made his mark on a Burton movie as the mischievous ghoul Betelgeuse in ghoulish 1988 comedy Beetlejuice. The actor's gleefully over-the-top performance put him on the movie map and paved the way for his role as Batman.

Keaton suited up and made the Dark Knight his own in Burton's 1989 blockbuster, and appeared alongside Danny DeVito in Burton's twisted sequel. As an everyman, his Bruce Wayne was more relatable then previously portrayed (well, as relatable as a vigilante multi-millionaire playboy can be) and this made Keaton a tough act to follow for subsequent Batman actors.

It's therefore no surprise that his long-awaited reunion with Burton on Dumbo, playing ruthless circus entrepreneur V.A. Vandemere, has a lot of fans excited.

Rick Heinrichs

Veteran production designer Rick Heinrichs first worked with Burton on his 1982 animated short movie Vincent, a Disney-produced horror film about a 7-year-old boy who apes his idol Vincent Price. Heinrichs has brought his lavish visual sensibility as an art director and set designer to many a classic Burton movie, including Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow.

Including Dumbo, Heinrichs has worked on 10 Burton movies in total. We can't wait to see how he realises the magical interior of V.A. Vandemere's circus.

Colleen Atwood

Colleen Atwood is one of the most celebrated costume designers in Hollywood, and one of Burton's longest-standing collaborators. Her versatility is reflected in the sheer variety of Burton movie's she's worked on: from the warped suburbia of Edward Scissorhands to the futuristic nightmare of Planet of the Apes and the operatic horror of Sweeney Todd, she helps cement Burton's vision in our minds.

Dumbo is her 12th Burton movie, and will no doubt allow her imagination to flourish with its mixture of period costumes and eye-popping circus outfits.

Chris Lebenzon

Underestimate the importance of an editor at your peril – no mere silent partner, they are responsible for carving and honing the director's vision into a memorable big-screen experience. Oscar-nominated veteran Chris Lebenzon has worked with Burton 13 times, stretching back to 1992's Batman Returns. His most recent project for the director was 2016's Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

Danny Elfman

With 16 Burton movies under his belt, it's easier to list the films that composer Danny Elfman hasn't provided the soundtrack for (it's Ed Wood, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by the way). And signature soaring arrangements are likely to be the perfect accompaniment to Dumbo's aerial adventures.

So iconic was Elfman's 1989 Batman score, that it was resurrected in part for the Dark Knight's scenes in 2017's Justice League and you only need to imagine Edward Scissorhands, ice-sculpting all on his own, and Elfman's choral/string arrangement comes flooding back. Just imagine the possibilities of such heart-wrenching music in Dumbo…

The non-Dumbo Burton regulars:

Caroline Thompson

Screenwriter Caroline Thompson has helped give life to some of Burton's most memorable creations. She realised the film-maker's deeply personal on-screen avatar in Edward Scissorhands, fashioning a heart-wrenching fairy tale of love and isolation, and also scripted the Burton-produced stop-motion musical masterpiece The Nightmare Before Christmas. Also on the stop-motion front, Thompson wrote the script for Burton's Corpse Bride.

Helena Bonham Carter

Having met on the set of Planet of the Apes in 2001, Burton and Helena Bonham Carter then collaborated together on a handful of films, right up until 2012's Dark Shadows. The intervening period saw Bonham Carter perform as Burton's leading lady and cemented her transformation from Hollywood luvvie to bona-fide A-Lister.

Most memorably, she stole the show as the tantrum-tastic Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland as well as also starring in Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (for which she was Golden Globe-nominated).

Johnny Depp

Burton's gloriously gothic Edward Scissorhands catapulted Johnny Depp into the limelight, setting out his stall as Burton's go-to leading man. Depp was perfectly paired with the director as a like-minded, quirky outsider. Their following collaboration, Ed Wood, is largely considered Burton's finest film as well as Depp's greatest turn.

He went on to headline Burton's most prolific period, starring in Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Alice In Wonderland and Dark Shadows.

Honourable mentions for cameos and smaller roles: Christopher Lee and Michael Gough

British icon Lee appeared in five of the director's films, including a memorably (and atypically) emotional appearance in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Gough meanwhile was best known for playing Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred in Burton's two Batman movies.

Dumbo is released on 29th March in Cineworld, so if you can't wait to see Burton reunite with some of his greatest collaborators, be sure to tweet us your thoughts at @Cineworld.

Robb Sheppard is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.