Admit it; if you had a deceased loved one buried peacefully in your garden and learned that there was a hugely valuable ring on one of their now-skeletal fingers, you’d be digging them up in a flash.
What, you wouldn’t?
You’d respect that loved one and their memory, and let them rest, no matter how valuable that ring may be? You’d also be aware of the fact that friends and loved ones would frown on you for disturbing a passed loved one that they themselves deeply respected?
Disney hears your opinions, and begs to differ. Dumbo is being resurrected, dragged up, dusted off, and transformed into a live action version. A live action version of Mulan is also reportedly in the making. Both these announcements come hot on the heels of The Jungle Book live action version, which was met with a lukewarm response.
So why is Disney insisting on digging up a well loved classic, when most would agree that the classics should be left well enough alone?
Milking A Cash Cow
The first thing to note is that the original Dumbo animation was only 64 minutes long, which many forget, and had virtually no real focus on human characters at all. This alone should put up a red flag, and raise the question if it is a good adaptation to make. In fact, if watching the original again, you might realise that you’re potentially remembering the film with far more actual substance than it really has. Yes, it’s a charming film and full of classic old-school Disney, playing extremely aggressively with your heartstrings, but isn’t exactly heavy on the compelling storyline side of things.
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This meant, of course, that in order to create a fully-fledged feature film, some drastic changes had to be made. Multiple new characters had to be inserted, including a one-armed war veteran hired to care for Dumbo. This war veteran will have two charming children. Danny De Vito will be playing the circus owner, almost certainly a villain to some extent. In other words, especially given the teaser trailer recently released, it seems as if the live action remake will have almost nothing to do with the animation, beyond featuring elephants with big ears. Which begs the question; why?
Milk It If It Can Be Milked
There is nothing to say that the Dumbo live action film will be bad. On the contrary, it may well be very good. The Jungle Book live action film was much better than many assumed. Although The Jungle Book is a rich, complex, deeply involved story, and was so long before the animated film was made.
What is concerning is that Dumbo, on the other hand, was certainly never crying out to be adapted into a full-length feature film. Especially not one that had to have so much inserted into it, even to allow for the adaptation, that the title seems to be nothing more than an effort to bank on love for nostalgic classics.
Disney really should be a bit more careful about where it treads, lest long time fans start to throw around accusations of milking beloved classics for no other reason than they can be milked. Even if messily.