Follow TV Tropes


Film / Dumbo (2019)

Go To
♫ Baby mine, don't you cry
Baby mine, dry your eyes
Rest your head close to my heart
Never to part
Baby of mine♫
"We’re all family here, no matter how small."
Milly Farrier

Dumbo is a 2019 film, a live-action remake of the Disney animated classic of the same name directed by Tim Burton.

The cast includes Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Alan Arkin, Danny DeVito and Eva Green. It was released on March 29, 2019.

In this retelling of the story, a former circus star named Holt Farrier has returned from his service in the war and has been hired by circus owner Max Medici to take care of the baby elephant Dumbo, whose oversized ears have made him the laughingstock of the circus. Holt and his two children, Milly and Joe Farrier, befriend the little elephant, and when they discover that he can fly, they decide to make him use his talent so that Medici's circus can make a big comeback. This also draws the attention of one V.A. Vandemere, an entrepreneur who acquires Max's circus to make it part of his new theme park, Dreamland.

But behind all the bright lights and fancy attractions, Dreamland is hiding many dark secrets, and Holt's discovery of these secrets will prompt him and his children to fight to protect Dumbo from danger.

Dumbo contains examples of:

  • Action Dad: Holt Farrier, who is a World War I veteran.
  • Action Girl: Miss Atlantis, the "mermaid", easily takes down some guards. Also counts as Acrofatic.
  • Actor Allusion: As with Tim Burton's previous film Big Fish, Danny DeVito plays a circus ringmaster.
  • Adaptation Expansion: An extreme example. Due to the elimination of Talking Animal characters and the relative shortness of the original film, most of the key events of the animated feature provide only the first act of this remake. Almost all of the human characters are wholecloth inventions as well.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The original Dumbo's happy ending was his becoming the star of the circus. Here, Dumbo and his mother leave the circus in the end, sail to their native Asia and join a herd of elephants in the jungle.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: While the original Ringmaster wasn't a bad person by any means (not counting Disney Villains Revenge), he certainly did have a bit more of a temper going for him, and mistreated Dumbo (albeit with some justification). Max Medici, being a Decomposite Character of him, lacks most of the negative traits of the original, instead being a pretty personable guy and a Reasonable Authority Figure. It helps that most of his negative traits went to V.A. Vandermere.
  • Adaptational Nonsapience: None of the circus animals, the stork who visits Mrs. Jumbo, or Casey Junior possess communicative abilities beyond simple animal noises/whistling. Casey Junior doesn’t even seem to be animate.
  • Adapted Out: Just about all of the Talking Animal characters from the original are absent, and the one who remains (Mrs. Jumbo) no longer speaks. The human children do have a pet mouse wearing a circus uniform as a Mythology Gag to Timothy Q. Mouse, whose role as Dumbo's faithful friend is taken up by the kids. There is some justification for this, as the only other talking animals who were kind to Dumbo — Jim Crow and his flock — are considered caricatures of African-Americans and could not be included in a remake as is. A stork briefly appears at the beginning to represent the stork character, two elephants part of Medici’s troupe act hostile to Dumbo during his debut appearance in lieu of the antagonistic elephants in the original, and Casey Junior is featured as a non-sentient steam locomotive still in charge of pulling the circus train.
  • Adaptation Species Change:
    • The birds meant to be storks are herons, most resembling Cattle egrets. White storks used in popular culture as bringers of babies don't live in North America, and local Wood storks are quite unsightly looking.
    • Downplayed, as Casey Junior is still very much a steam locomotive, but he's a 4-4-0 "American" type this time around, instead of a 2-4-0 "Porter" as he was in the original movie.
  • Adam Westing: Michael Buffer appears as a ringmaster at Dreamland for the sole purpose of getting to shout "LET'S GET READY FOR DUMBOOOOO!!!" twice.
  • Alliterative Name: Max Medici and V.A. Vandemere. Perhaps not coincidentally, they are a Decomposite Character of the Ringmaster from the original.
  • All Your Powers Combined: In the climax, the circus performers all make use of their unique talents.
  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Colette Marchant is beautiful, refined and initially has a haughty demeanor.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Holt Farrier lost his left arm during World War I. A dialogue later in the film implies it was during the Battle of Amiens.
    Holt: (to Colette Marchant) I've been to France before, you know. Not a great experience.
  • Artificial Limbs: Holt received a makeshift left arm made of cotton from his circus colleagues. He gets a proper prosthetic arm in the end.
  • Asshole Victim: Rufus Sorghum, the vicious animal wrangler who hyucks it up if Dumbo so much as feels sad, and mocks Holt for his lost arm, is ultimately killed during the collapse of the Casey, Jr. tent. While some of his coworkers pay respects when his body is taken by the coroner, nobody really misses him.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Invoked In-Universe at Dreamland's Nightmare Island. Amongst the animals in this area of the theme park is a grizzly bear heavily decorated to look as fearsome as possible for the sake of Rule of Scary in a cage themed to resemble a clifftop overlooking a forest at night.
  • Big Applesauce: Dreamland is located on Coney Island during its heyday in the early 20th century.
  • Big Bad: Vandemere serves as the main antagonist of the film, as he seeks to exploit Dumbo for fame and fortune and doesn’t care who gets hurt or screwed over along the way.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Medici circus performers succeed in breaking Dumbo and Mrs. Jumbo out of Dreamland and sneaking them on a ship destined for the Asian jungle, but it also means that Dumbo and his human friends will never see each other again. Still, Dumbo and his mother successfully join a herd of elephants once they reach their destination and the Medici circus becomes successful again with each of the Farriers having a performance job they enjoy.
  • Blatant Lies: When Holt confronts Vandervere for not putting up a safety net for Collette, Vandevere claims that the net is invisible.
  • Blessed with Suck: Dumbo to an extent. While his overly large ears enable him to fly and make him a star, he still is viewed as a freak by most and is basically being exploited for his abilities and looks.
  • Cool Train: Casey Junior, of course. Although he's looking a little rough around the edges, he can still move like lightning down the tracks.
  • Credits Gag: At the end of the closing credits, a jazzy version of "When I See an Elephant Fly" is heard.
  • Cruel Elephant: Invoked In-Universe at Dreamland's Nightmare Island. Mrs. Jumbo is revealed to be amongst the animals there, painted with makeup to resemble a skeletal elephant for the sake of Rule of Scary and gifted the cruel nickname of Kali the Destroyer (after an antagonistic goddess of Hindu mythology) in reference to her Mama Bear rampage at the Medici Brothers circus.
  • Dad the Veteran: Holt, who just got back from WWI in his introductory scene.
  • Decomposite Character: Max Medici and V.A. Vandemere are this for the Ringmaster, the former having his looks and role as the leader of the circus, and the latter having his antagonistic role in wanting to exploit Dumbo.
  • Defector from Decadence: Colette Marchant sided with the Medici circus troupe due to Vandemere disregarding her well-being during Dumbo's debut, and then later for instructing Dumbo's mother to be disposed of (read: killed).
  • Demoted to Extra: Timothy Q. Mouse is barely even a character in this movie and is not even referred to by name. He only makes scattered appearances at the beginning of the movie and a cameo at the very end. He also never interacts with Dumbo.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Vandermere is a filthy rich entertainer, owning his own brand, his own amusement park filled to the brim of characters of his own creation and using If you can dream it, you can do it as his personal mantra. Basically, a dark Walt Disney.
  • Didn't Think This Through: In the climatic scene, where Vandervere, frantic to stop a plot to help Jumbo escape the circus, overloads Dreamland’s electrical system (after Dumbo and Collette had cut power to most of the park to allow Medici’s troupe to carry out their plan), starting a huge fire that destroys much of Dreamland. Had he just calmed down, taken a deep breath and listened to his control booth technicians, he would have properly restarted the electrical system.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: The "Pink Elephants on Parade" sequence returns instead as a quasi-magical part of the Dreamland performance, where the pink elephants are conjured up with pink bubbles.
  • Due to the Dead: Despite Rufus being disliked for his treatment of the circus animals, when he dies during Mama Jumbo's rampage, the crew still takes a moment to pay their respects as his body is carried off.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Vandemere’s assistant resigns after learning about his intention to kill Dumbo’s mother.
  • Exact Words: As part of his deal with Medici, Vandemere promises jobs for his entire staff. When Medici is ordered to fire the majority of them shortly after starting, Vandemere acknowledges he said they'd have jobs but never said for how long.
  • Exty Years from Publication: The film is set in 1919, exactly a hundred years before its 2019 release date.
  • Faking the Dead: Downplayed. Holt is so ashamed of his position as the elephant handler that, when someone in the audience recognizes him, he says he isn't Holt and Holt died at the war.
  • Handicapped Badass: Holt Farrier. The loss of his left arm doesn't stop his Chronic Hero Syndrome one bit, to the point that he climbed up the outside of the Dreamland tent to help Dumbo escape.
  • Hate Sink: Rufus Sorghum, the cartoonishly evil hick who works at Medici’s circus, exists purely to piss people off and to abuse the animals. Vandemere’s lieutenant is also only there to serve as a more physical threat to the heroes during the climax.
  • Horseback Heroism: Holt's main act in the circus is rodeo, so he naturally uses a horse during the Final Battle.
  • Human-Focused Adaptation: The human circus workers get just as much focus if not more than the title elephant. In particular, Holt and his children serve as Dumbo's surrogate family.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Unlike the original, this is only averted thanks to Human-Focused Adaptation. The movie retains some avaricious, antagonistic humans, but there are also genuinely kind humans.
  • Incorrect Animal Noise: Crane sounds for herons meant to be storks.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Dumbo has these to distinguish himself from the other elephants.
  • Interspecies Friendship: The elephant Dumbo and the entire Medici circus troupe, particularly the Farrier family. One performer is also a snake charmer, with him and his snake obviously being on good terms.
  • It's All Junk: Milly Farrier tosses her deceased mother’s pendant into the flames of the ablaze Dreamland, in order to convince Dumbo that he doesn't need a feather to fly any more than she needs that key to open doors. It works.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Colette Marchant first appears as a haughty French Jerk, but is actually a lot nicer than she lets on, to the point that she abandons Dreamland to join the Medici circus after helping Dumbo escape.
    • J. Griffin Remington appears as a stereotypical Upper-Class Twit, but his final scene has him being chummy with Max Medici.
    • Max Medici may have started as greedy and mean towards Dumbo at first, but he does care about his troupe and he’s happy to see Holt return to the circus. He also helps his troupe get Dumbo and his mother escape once he learns how crooked Vandemere is.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Max is given a partnership with Vandervere and the title of Vice President with his own secretary but when he straight up asks Vandervere what his job actually is it becomes clear he’s been this.
  • Magic Feather: As in the original (which became the Trope Namer), Dumbo gets one. While in the original movie the crows introduced this pretty much out of nowhere (considering the audience already knew he had flown without one the night before), here it's used as a False Cause - the first few times Dumbo propels himself into the air, it's the result of him sneezing from a feather he had sucked up his trunk, which leads Milly to conclude that he cannot fly without it. But at some point Holt realises this isn't the case, outright telling her in the climax that he doesn't need the feather.
  • Mama Bear: Mrs. Jumbo is naturally protective of her calf when people make fun of his ears. She throws Rufus in a nearby water trough when he blows into Dumbo’s ears and she charges through the central tent to reach Dumbo when people start laughing at his ears.
  • Maybe Ever After: Holt and Colette get some Ship Tease and their final scene has them performing together, but their actual relationship is only implied.
  • Menagerie of Misery: In the Dreamland theme park, there is the appropriately named Nightmare Island. In this attraction, all the animals on display are kept in small alcove style cages built into the walls of the island building's interior, given precious little ability to avoid being in constant view of the guests, heavily decorated and costumed to look as fearsome and scary as possible for the sake of guests' amusement, and also implied to potentially undergo brutal beatings for the sake of sticking to their 'acts'. And while the environments within the cages (with the potential exception of Mrs. Jumbo's cage) seem to be relatively naturalistic, the overall size of said cages and other unpleasant living conditions make this detail a very small comfort for the animals.
  • Meta Twist: In the original animated film, Dumbo's ability to fly is an eleventh-hour twist, while the story's main conflict is his outcast status because of his big ears. In this version, his ability to fly is revealed in the first act, and the film's true conflict centers on Vandervere's circus exploiting his talent.
  • Missing Mom: Holt's wife/the kids' mother was a victim of the influenza epidemic of 1918. Their concern for Dumbo being separated from his mother partially stems from the loss they suffered.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: The catalyst for Colette's Heel–Face Turn is when Vandemere disregarded her well-being during Dumbo's debut by instructing to not place safety nets during her and Dumbo's act.
  • Moody Trailer Cover Song: "Baby Mine" has been covered ethereally by AURORA for the first trailer.
  • Mr. Alt Disney: V.A. Vandemere is a surprisingly evil example considering who produced the film. He's a rich businessman running an amusement park very similar to Disneyland, using "If you can dream it, you can do it" as a motto.
  • Mythology Gag: Despite being structurally very different from the original, the movie still has a decent number of references to its source material.
    • Early in the movie, Medici happily sings the Casey, Jr. theme song to himself as he goes to his trailer.
    • An egret perches itself outside of Mrs. Jumbo’s train car the night she gives birth to Dumbo, a clear nod to the stork character in the original.
    • Holt and his two children find Dumbo hiding under a pile of hay, just like how Timothy did in the original movie when they first met.
    • When Dumbo is first presented to the crowds, he has his ears tied in a similar way Timothy tied them on Dumbo's first act in the original movie.
    • Dumbo's mother's rampage causes the collapse of the circus' tent, just like Dumbo's accident in his first act caused the collapse of the entire circus in the original movie.
    • Milly also tells Dumbo to "Show 'em" when she gives him the Magic Feather, which is what Timothy said to him in the original film when he flies at its climax.
    • As Milly brings Dumbo a cage with several mice inside, and one of which is wearing a circus uniform in a nod to Timothy, Dumbo's companion from the original movie.
    • At Dumbo’s Dreamland debut, the announcer quotes “When I See An Elephant Fly” almost verbatim.
    • The Pink Elephants return for a non-alcoholic scene involving bubble blowers.
  • Named by the Adaptation: While the ringmaster in the original film was unnamed and simply called "the Ringmaster", here the names of his counterparts are Max Medici and V.A. Vandemere.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Holt was serving in WWI when his wife died.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Invoked In-Universe at Dreamland's Nightmare Island. Amongst the animals in this area of the theme park is an crocodile billed as Reptilla in a swamp-themed cage that is decorated with makeup, false spines, and a false nose horn to resemble a small wingless dragon for the sake of Rule of Scary.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Vandervere guarantees that he won't be able to do anything to the Medici Circus for 'stealing' Dumbo when he unintentionally destroys his own park.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Dumbo is rarely referenced by his real name. Part of this is because Holt's children decide that calling him "Jumbo Junior" might increase his sadness over not having his mother around.
  • Papa Wolf: Holt Farrier without a doubt! When Dreamland is set on fire, Vandevere’s right-Hand man, Neils chases Holt’s children, Milly and Joe. Holt saves some horses and mounts one of them. As Neils chases Milly and Joe into the burning circus tent, Holt rescues his children by lassoing Neils and having the horse drag him away.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Max Medici may have sold off and fired most of the circus employees over the course of the war to keep core circus in business, but he also allowed Holt's children to stay with the circus when they weren't actually doing anything in the ring, gave Holt a new job when it was impossible for him to continue his original role as a horse-rider, and eventually sacrifices his new role as Dreamland's executive vice-president because Vandervere intended to fire his original employees while assisting in Dumbo's escape.
    • Mr. Sotheby, a high-ranking executive to Vandervere, resigned on the spot after the latter announced his plans to have Dumbo's mother killed and then ran off to tell Medici Circus on what might happen.
  • Savage Wolves: Invoked In-Universe at Dreamland's Nightmare Island. Amongst the animals in this area of the theme park is a gray wolf billed as the Werewolf of Central Park in a cage themed after New York's Central Park on the night of a full moon and presented to look as fearsome as possible for the sake of Rule of Scary.
  • Self-Disposing Villain:
    • Rufus Sorghum, the abusive animal handler, deliberately causes Mrs. Jumbo to rampage in the circus tent to spite Holt. He is the only casualty when the beams fall.
    • Non-fatally, Vandervere messing with the power controls causes an electrical surge just as the technicians warned him it would, setting fire to his own park.
  • Setting Update: Inverted; this film is set in 1919, while the original film was the first Disney animated film to be set when it was made and released to theaters, being 1941 during World War 2 (according to a newspaper at the end of the film).
  • Signs of Disrepair: In this film, Jumbo Junior gets his titular nickname from a damaged sign that originally read "Dear Baby Jumbo".
  • Silly Simian: A circus monkey appears in several scenes as comic relief.
  • The Strongman: Rongo works as the circus' strongman, his strength coming in handy in the climax when he does his part to help the other circus performers save Mrs. Jumbo.
  • Supporting Protagonist: The film is about Dumbo, but Holt is The Hero along with his children.
  • Too Dumb to Live: After Dumbo starts playing with the controls for Dreamland's power grid and accidentally turns the whole park off, Vandervere angrily turns the power back on, against the advice of his own engineers, who flat-out tell him that the breakers have to be reset otherwise there will be a power surge. He doesn't listen, causing the park to be set ablaze.
  • Trash the Set: Dreamland literally burns to the ground thanks to Vandervere's own Villainous Breakdown.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Holt and Colette get some Ship Tease and some close moments, but they never explicitly get together.
    • Bordering with Implied Love Interest, as in the epilogue Colette becomes part of the Future Cowboy act with Holt Farrier and she's shown sweetly leaning on him while he shoots her down from the sky popping the ballons keeping her afloat with his gun, taking the place of Farrier's wife in a revamped version of their past act.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Dreamland was a real amusement park on New York City's Coney Island owned by real estate developer William H. Reynolds. The park opened in 1904 and was very sophisticated and high-tech for its day. In 1911, an accident while attempting to repair an electrical malfunction started a huge fire that destroyed most of the park and the park was never rebuilt. The movie's Dreamland is based on the real-life Dreamland, from the demonstrations on future technology down to the sideshows (including an act featuring a clown firefighting troupe responding to a skyscraper fire) to the park's destruction. Unlike the real-life events:
    • The owner's name was changed to V.A. Vandervere and was depicted simply as a smug, unethical promoter indifferent to others and the safety of his animals.
    • The fictional Dreamland was destroyed in 1919, eight years after the real park was destroyed.
    • The real-life Reynolds was able to recoup his losses by selling the land where Dreamland once stood and cashing in on outstanding bonds. In the movie, Vandervere's future is unclear, as he is last seen watching the park being destroyed by the fire.
    • The cause of the fire is also fictionalized. The real-life fire was caused by an accident as electrical repairs were being made to the Hell's Gate attraction, in which, following an power outage, a worker accidentally knocked over a bucket of hot tar, which found an ignition source and started the inferno. In the movie, Vandervere — in trying to stop the Medici troupe from helping Dumbo's mother escape execution note  — in a panicked moment of overzealousness attempts to restore power to the park but completely overloads the electrical system.
  • Villainous Breakdown: A literal Deconstruction, as Vandervere's tantrums directly leads to him unwittingly burning his own business to the ground.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Nothing is said of the fate of Dreamland owner Vandervere after a huge fire heavily damages or destroys most of the park; the last viewers see of him is his watching the park enveloped in a huge inferno.note 
    • The fates of the wolf, crocodile, and grizzly bear that were being kept in Dreamland's Nightmare Island alongside Mrs. Jumbo are likewise never revealed after Dreamland's destruction.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Medici’s circus more successful than ever (presumably financed by multi-millionaire financier Griffin Remington), and Dumbo and Jumbo returning to their native Asia and reuniting with their herd.

"Show them."

Alternative Title(s): Dumbo