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Everything you need to know about Disney's live-action Dumbo movie


Next March, the world's most endearing circus elephant flies back on to our screens in Disney's Dumbo reboot.

As directed by master of the magical Tim Burton, Dumbo promises a whole new take on one of the most adorable animated characters of all time. Here's everything you need to know in advance...

It's based on the 1941 masterpiece of the same name

The original Dumbo surely needs no introduction, right? It's the timeless story of a big-eared baby elephant who, after being tragically separated from his mother, becomes a circus sensation and takes to the air (via those ears) in the film's final moments.

Recipient of the Best Original Score Oscar (it was also nominated for the heartbreaking 'Baby Mine'), Dumbo stands as an enduring masterpiece from Disney's golden period. However, the original is a mere 64 minutes long, which gives new director Burton plenty of room to expand the story.

The story doesn't just centre on Dumbo

Unlike the original, Burton's version splits its time between the titular pachyderm and the humans surrounding him. The story centres on Colin Farrell's former circus star turned downtrodden worker Holt Farrier, a battle-scarred, one-armed war veteran who comes to look after Dumbo, and forms a bond with him. However, when Holt's children learn Dumbo can fly, an unscrupulous entrepreneur plans to make a star out of him, prompting a brave rescue attempt.

Dumbo is getting a brand new look

Of course, it goes without saying that Dumbo himself is now rendered via CGI, courtesy of London visual effects company MPC. These guys are veterans in their field – not only did they help craft the seamless jungle environments in 2016's reboot of The Jungle Book, they've also worked on enormous hits like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

We can therefore expect the new Dumbo to be a sensitive, soulful and expressive as his animated predecessor. The same company are also working on the 2019 Disney remake of The Lion King, in which the characters will be rendered entirely via CGI under the vision of Jungle Book director Jon Favreau.

It's Tim Burton returning to the realm of the fairy tale

No filmmaker relishes the macabre, the eccentric or the quirky quite like Burton. Having turned the superhero genre into big business with Batman and sequel Batman Returns, Burton put his personal stamp on Hollywood with heartrending Johnny Depp fable Edward Scissorhands.

Since then, Burton's brilliantly twisted mind has been put to use on stop-motion animation (The Nightmare Before Christmas), gloriously gory Gothic horror (Sleepy Hollow) and blood-soaked musical adaptations (Sweeney Todd).

Dumbo will, however, skew towards Burton's gentle side – he's always had an affinity for the outsider, as Edward Scissorhands and affectionate filmmaker biopic Ed Wood prove. That surely makes him the ideal choice to find the compassion and warmth in Dumbo's story.

There's an all-star supporting cast

In addition to Fantastic Beasts star Farrell, the movie also sees a reunion between Burton and a few of his big screen favourites. Batman himself Michael Keaton plays resident villain V.A. Vandermere, the businessman exploiting Dumbo for a quick buck, and Batman Returns' Danny DeVito plays kindly circus owner Max Medici. Then we have Eva Green, slinky star of Burton's wacky horror-comedy Dark Shadows, as trapeze artist Colette Marchant.

It reunites Burton with several of his key collaborators

Excitingly, Dumbo is the latest project between Burton and his regular composer Danny Elfman. Ever since the wacky Beetlejuice, this director-composer duo has stunned with scores that range from thrillingly triumphant (Batman) to tear-jerkingly moving (Edward Scissorhands) and gloriously witty (The Nightmare Before Christmas). We can't wait to hear what the Dumbo score sounds like.

Then there's renowned costume designer Colleen Atwood, who won an Oscar for her evocative designs in Sleepy Hollow, production designer Rick Henreichs, another Sleepy Hollow Oscar-winner, and editor Chris Lebenzon, with whom Burton has worked on the likes of Sweeney Todd and Alice in Wonderland.

The combined weight of these talented craftspeople has led to big screen magic on several occasions – so can we expect the same again?

There are rumours this is a sequel to the original...

The first Dumbo footage premiered as part of this year's CinemaCon in Las Vegas – essentially a hub of filmmakers and industry executives who gather for exclusive previews of new Hollywood movies.

According to rumours from the festival, this new movie will feature Dumbo flying from early on, which maybe indicates it's a follow-on from the original. Certainly the trailer foregrounds the moment where Dumbo, in front of the thronging circus hordes, is raised up on a platform seemingly prepared to fly. Watch this space...

It's released next year

Mark it down: Dumbo swoops into Cineworld on 29th March 2019.