Disney’s newest ‘Dumbo” fails to soar

Jen Joseph
jejoseph1@ursinus.edu

Reboots, remakes, reinventions. We’ve all heard of ‘em, we’ve all seen a few, and heck, sometimes they’re even good. “The Wizard of Oz” is technically a remake. So is the musical version of “Little Shop of Horrors.” But all that aside, it’s no news that we are living in the age of reboots. And it makes sense! After all, why take the risk of doing something new when you can make money on an already- branded property, amirite?

One company that has really taken the reboot cash cow to new heights is the venerated, much- beloved, and wholly benevolent Disney Corporation. Since the surprise success of Tim Burton’s reinvention of “Alice in Wonderland,” Disney has tried everything from Wicked-style hero/villain flips with Maleficent, near shot-for-shot remakes with 2017’s “Beauty and the Beast,” to changes mild enough to still make the original story recognizable –– “Cinderella,” “The Jungle Book, etc.”

Back to the House of Mouse’s increased reluctance to invest in anything other than a sure bet. Arguably the last big risk the Disney company made was last decade with the release of “The Princess and the Frog,” which by most accounts was a mild financial failure. This failure led to the dissolution of cel animation in the company and an increased reliance on CGI. After all, all the Pixar movies were doing well, so why not just make new Disney films basically the same?

Disney’s latest high-profile project, his remake of “Dumbo,” is a watering-down of everything the original and innocent if occasionally dark “Dumbo” stood for. The whole climax of Dumbo learning to fly? Over in the first act. All the dynamic animal characters? Replace them with humanity-deprived human characters with the acting chops of Plank from “Ed, Edd, and Eddy.” The Pink Elephant scene that scared us all to death as kids? Barely a mention. Imagine if the Burton who made Beetlejuice and Nightmare Before Christmas, not the shell of a director he is now, made the Pink Elephant scene. Think of all the new imagery we could have gotten from that. The only good thing this reboot has is a lack of notoriously racist crows, but at least then I would have felt some sort of ways about this plummet of a flick.

And that really is the problem. Safety. These reboots aren’t made because anyone had an idea for a movie. They’re only ever done to milk the omnipresent “Disney nostalgia” market of every last dollar, so they’re safe, watered-down, and joyless. Disney has become its own Judge Doom, destroying all its old ‘toons, and killing themself in the process. Ah well. At least Danny DeVito was good in it.