What We Learned About Disney’s New Live Action Dumbo!

Hey All!

I recently had the amazing opportunity to attend the press day for the new live action Disney film Dumbo! It was an amazing day filled with lots of fun and chatting about the film. The event was broken up into two sections. One with the producers and behind the scenes folks and the second half was with the main cast of the film. I was beyond the point of excited to get to meet and chat with Danny DeVito and Michael Keaton! I’ve loved them since I was a kid and grew up watching so many of their movies. I’m so happy to see them in a movie together with Tim Burton again! You may remember they starred in a superhero movie together before!

Here is who was in attendance for the first half:

  • Composer Danny Elfman
  • Costume Designer Colleen Atwood
  • Production Designer Rick Heinrichs
  • Producer/Screenwriter Ehren Kruge
  • Producer Justin Springer
  • Producer Derek Frey
  • Producer Katterli Frauenfelde

And here is who was in attendance for the second half:


  • Michael Keaton (“V.A. Vandevere”)
  • Colin Farrell (“Holt Farrier”)
  • Danny DeVito (“Max Medici”)
  • Eva Green (“Colette Marchant”)
  • Nico Parker (“Milly Farrier”)
  • Finley Hobbins (Joe Farrier)
  • Director Tim Burton

The costumes from the film were also on display!

The detail put into these costumes was incredible to see.

They also had yummy Dumbo cupcakes to enjoy after the event! How cute are those folks!

But enough with all that, this is what I got the chance to learn about the movie from the folks at the press day.

Danny Elfman shared his process of composing and how he couldn’t pick a favorite score from all the films he’s done.

Danny Elfman:

Most of my favorite scores that I’ve written out of, I’ve done over 100 films. And most of my favorites will have been Tim’s movies. But I won’t say that many of those weren’t without great challenges. Finding where that was can be really challenging with Tim. But I don’t care. If I like the result, whether it was like a slam dunk easy thing or it really took a long process to find, it becomes irrelevant to me. It’s only the end product that matters really. It’s all you remember later anyhow. It’s kind of like having kids. If you remember the first year, you never want to look at another kid again. But then they’re so cute and it’s so great. You forget all that part. Then you go yeah. Kids are great. I find film scores to be somewhat similar. In the middle, I often say I’ll never do this again. I’m done. And then at the end, if it came out well, then I go yeah, sure, I’ll do this again. It wasn’t so hard. Was it hard? I don’t remember. It kind of gets erased.

Costume Designer Colleen Atwood shared what got her excited to do Dumbo.


I think we’ve done 11 projects together, Tim and I. But I think the idea of creating a world on a performance level and on a kind of level period level together is always an interesting challenge. It sort of bridges between fantasy and reality and the sort of challenge of combining five circuses and how the people in them would look, was a huge challenge. And then just managing the whole 500 people a day for months on end. And things like that were a different kind of challenge. Because the one thing that’s really amazing about this movie is that so much of it is real in the room. The sets for the big circus parade and the stuff. When you’re in the room with all that going on, you realize you’re in a really magical very rare place that you might not ever be in again in your life because movies are changing so quickly. And the sort of whole digital world is changing so quickly. But you really felt like you were in the moment in an old time movie when we were shooting it a lot of times. Which made it a really special experience for me. Forget the challenge. It was just the experience that was great.

Producers Derek Frey and Katterli Frauenfelde shared why they thought they could bring the film to life and expand on the story.


From I think Tim’s perspective, when we were handed the screenplay from Ehren, it just seemed like a story that could be expanded upon. The original is 63 minutes. Tim was aware that the technology had reached a point where you could successfully render an elephant into a live action environment. And it just seemed like for Tim, he’s obviously done some reimagining in the past. He knew that Disney had been going back into their catalogue of films, But Dumbo is one of the original outsiders in a way. And Tim’s films are populated with outsider characters. So I think for Tim, it was the combination of knowing that the technology was there to render this character and that pulled upon all of his strengths as an animator with his Disney background. It’s almost like Dumbo is almost like a personification of himself in a way which is interesting. In terms of the time, so much time has gone by since the original. And it’s a simple story. It’s a beautiful story. I think a lot of the themes in the story that Ehren created, they’re universal things. It’s about family. It’s about believing in yourself. It’s about overcoming judgment and people looking at you in a certain way. Dumbo is kind of a bullied character. I know that’s something that we’re dealing with socially right now.


It started with Tim’s sketches, which everything starts from and it was a lot of work. Everybody was involved. Rick, Richard Stammers. It was Tim’s eye that kept evolving towards how he wanted to see Dumbo. He didn’t want a photo real character. He wanted something heightened. The work on the skin and the eyes and the movements and the flying. It was just his eye in collaborations with the people he worked with to create Dumbo that pushed forward continuously until I think last week was the end of the push. It’s basically his vision of what Dumbo should be in the world that Rick and Colleen created and how he fits in there and fits in with the live action family and circus and can bring out all the emotions that Dumbo should and does.

Tim Burton shared what attracted him to the circus aspect of the film.


I never really liked the circus. But I like the idea of it. I like the idea of that sort of concept when you’re a child of running away to the circus. It’s just a phrase that sort of stuck with a lot of people. I think that’s the idea of not the circus per se. But the idea of being with a bunch of other weird people from around the world that can’t get regular jobs. That kind of a person.

Colin Farrell shared his thoughts on his character and the journey his character takes in the film.


I was playing as Tim was saying. I think everyone in the character is at odds with either their past or what’s going on in the present or both. I was playing a father who was disenfranchised from his kids, disenfranchised from a life that he left behind that is completely different by the time he comes back from fighting in the first war. He’s physically a different man. He’s lost his left arm. He’s seen a lot of brutality. We don’t get into all of that psychological stuff so heavily because we want the film to be able to be received with the importance of the messages that are in it rather than hitting them all over the head. My characters’ journey was one in just accepting his position as father and how that meant that all he had to do really was get out of his children’s way and let them be who they are.

Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito joked about how Danny is playing the good guy for a change in a movie he’s in with Michael.


The joy factor was the first thing he reminded me was, he got to be the hero and I got to be the bad guy. He was just thrilled with that.


You know, once in a while, how does it feel to be the bad guy? Him in the mask and the whole Batman thing. It’s just getting too much for me. And me always being the gross penguin grunting and groaning and stuff. It was really so nice to be with him in the movie and everybody who is in the movie with us all together. Like Tim says, this great family that he creates. And we’re all the weirdos. There is one really weird daddy down in the end. He’s like pulling all the strings. And so we were really thrilled to be together.

Tim also shared why he loved Dumbo out of all the Disney animated films to remake.


I just liked, it was just the idea of it. The idea of a flying elephant and the character that doesn’t quite fit into the world and how somebody with a disadvantage makes it an advantage. So it just felt very close to the way I felt about things. It was just a very pure simple image. Like all the old Disney fables had that kind of simple symbolism for real emotions.

Eva Green shared that she loves that the movie embraces outsiders.


It’s just such a wonderful movie because it has that message of no, it’s okay to be strange or different. It’s actually great. It makes you special. And we just have to embrace our uniqueness.

Nico Parker shared what circus performers she thinks are amazing!


I think probably the contortionists. Like when they like climbed on top of each other, because I could never do any of that. I just thought all of it was incredible. Then the cape top dancers as well. Because I got to watch that really recently. That was cool.

And last but not least I got the chance to ask Michael Keaton if he drew any inspiration from his character Beetlejuice for this film. Since the character reminded me of Beetlejuice. This is what he had to say.


No. That’s a lightning in a bottle kind of thing and deal with that movie. That’s unique. So no, not really. There are probably certain things I guess. Danny would probably feel the same way since we’ve worked with Tim before. There are probably certain things that you kind of just click into immediately right away just in terms of sensibilities. I do like going to extremes and so any time you’re with Tim, there is always that likelihood that you’re going to go to some kind of an extreme in a look or something like that.

That’s all folks! I hope you enjoyed this inside look and fun tidbits from the press event for Dumbo!

Stay tuned for my thoughts on the film coming Friday!

Visit the official DUMBO website here: https://disney.com/dumbo

DUMBO opens in theatres everywhere on March 29th!