maxresdefaultEveryone’s favorite flying elephant is returning to the big screen! Disney’s new live-action version of “Dumbo” opens on Friday, March 29, 2019. The remake is directed by Tim Burton and stars Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito and Eva Green.

“The idea of running away to join the circus is a feeling that has always stuck with me,” said Burton. “I never really liked the circus with the captive animals, the clowns, the uncomfortable death defying acts and—did I mention?—the clowns! But I understood the idea of it, joining a weird family of outcasts who don’t fit in with normal society—people who are treated differently. That’s what ‘Dumbo’ is about.”

Producer Derek Frey echoed the sentiment. “People instantly know the baby elephant with the big ears. They may not remember every beat of the story, but they remember the tender moments as well as certain realities of the world that weren’t expected in an animated movie. It’s the kind of story that became a part of your soul as a child.”

When Frey read Ehren Kruger’s script for the remake, “it instantly touched something in me,” Frey said. “I thought it was something fresh and new, but maintained what we love about the original.”

Kruger wanted to maintain the heart of the original film, but he knew the live action film would have to be able to stand on its own merits.  “I wondered if Dumbo were a real flying elephant in an actual circus in the golden age of circuses, how would he affect the people existing in that world?” says Kruger. “I wanted to explore how the people of the circus world would relate to Dumbo’s journey.”

Unlike in the original animated classic, the new “Dumbo” gives larger roles to the human characters rather than staying focused solely on the titular elephant. “We really wanted to explore the human side of his story and give it historical context,” said producer Justin Springer. “In the animated feature, Dumbo flies for the world at the end of the film. We wanted to find out how the world reacts when people learn that this elephant can fly.”

Part of applying a more realistic take on the story was removing Dumbo’s ability to talk.

“When I first approached this as a live-action version of the ‘Dumbo’ story,” said screenwriter and producer Ehren Kruger, “it was important to me that we make the world feel as real as possible. So, we made the decision that there weren’t going to be any talking animals. So, Dumbo doesn’t talk, but he’s never talked. The only animals who speak in the animated film are the stork, the chorus of elephants, Timothy the mouse and the crows….Once we eliminated the talking animals, we were left with a Charlie Chaplinesque character of Dumbo, who is somewhat of a silent-film actor in both the animated film and in our film,” continues Kruger. “We wanted to populate a human world with characters for whom Dumbo’s story would give cause to reflect on their own situations.”

The emphasis on the human characters serves as a huge differentiator between Disney’s original animated classic and the new remake. Whether that will be enough to enable this new version of “Dumbo” to soar to the same heights as the original remains to be seen.

“Dumbo” premiers in theaters Friday, March 29, 2019, and the trailer is currently available online.

More from Beliefnet and our partners