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Disney’s first live-action Dumbo trailer is pure Tim Burton melancholy

Colin Farrell gets his Greatest Showman moment

Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

After the success of Cinderella, Maleficent, Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast, Disney is full steam ahead on live-action remakes based on its beloved animated features. Audiences flocked to the glamor of fantasy and the CG artistry that brought famed anthropomorphic creatures to life.

Somehow, Tim Burton’s Dumbo fits into the equation.

Soaring into theaters through the magic of floppy ear flight next March, Disney’s reinvention of its 1941 animated hit looks like the family friendly empire’s take on Okja. Minus the eco-terrorists and meat grinders... maybe!

The short teaser introduces a version of the story tinged with sadness, sights of a turn-of-the-20th-century circus juxtaposed with the baby elephant’s rise to stardom. Hints of King Kong and Burton’s own Big Fish give the trailer a slow-melt feel as Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora performs a chilly version of “Baby Mine.” Dumbo is adorable. The foul stench of human viciousness is not. Burton may have pulled off a wonderful trick by convincing people with money to make this movie. It looks spellbinding.

Disney describes the full plot of Dumbo as such:

Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.

Whether Dumbo can successfully translate the animation-to-live-action magic to box-office returns doesn’t really matter; the studio’s full slate of conversions includes Christopher Robin, a kind of Hook-meets-Paddington take on Winnie the Pooh and friends; Aladdin, starring Will Smith as Genie; The Lion King, with Donald Glover and Beyonce voicing Simba and Nala; Mulan, which touts Yifei Liu in the lead role; plus The Little Mermaid, Snow White, a Cruella de Vil 101 Dalmatians spinoff, and multiple Peter Pan movies all in development. There’s even talk of giving the horrifying Chernabog deity from Fantasia his own movie.

But Dumbo comes first, when it arrives to theaters on March 29, 2019.

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