Disney live-action remakes of their animated classics: Collect them all! Seriously, there are a lot of them, and it’s easy to forget that before we get Guy Ritchie’s non-animated Aladdin, with a CGI Will Smith, in May, we’re first getting Tim Burton’s non-animated Dumbo. It flies into theaters in March on big floppy ears and, based on the just-dropped trailer, it’s going to be a Star is Born-level weepie.
The original, from 1941, was only the studio’s fourth-ever feature-length animated outing, after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and Fantasia. It tells of a young circus elephant whose big ears double as wings, and the struggles he faces to a) become a better flyer and b) not be exploited by his dastardly human superiors. There’s also an interlude featuring a group of mean crows led by one with the profoundly unfortunate name of “Jim Crow.”
The crow scene — a standby on any respectable “most racist moments from Disney films” list, if never as prominently placed as the infamous Song of the South — was presumably the first thing to go during the now-inevitable live-action remodeling.
In any case, we can now see that Burton’s version gives us an openly anthropomorphized Dumbo, with a very animated (in both senses of the word) face. Indeed, his eyes are so sad yours may well with tears even before the bit where his mom is taken away in a cage.
There are also more humans than in the animated original, including one-armed nice guy Colin Farrell, a vaguely evil-looking Michael Keaton, a hammy Danny DeVito, and honestly too few glimpses of the director’s current muse, the great Eva Green.
Dumbo is a perfect vessel for Burton, an outsider and oddball perpetually drawn to other outsiders and oddballs. This won’t be his first trip to the circus: He spent a lot of time there in 2003’s Big Fish, and some carnival mania is sprinkled about the superhero movie triumph Batman Returns, which starred DeVito as an ostracized version of the Penguin. Here’s hoping Burton conjures up a sequence as scarringly nightmarish as the original’s “Elephants on Parade.” We’ll find out on March 29.