The Wall Street Journal reported on March 10th that Tim Burton would be directing a live action version of Dumbo. We can all assume it will be wretched and will make way more money than it should. As for why he decided to do this (besides some of that sweet Hot Topic merch money) this is how I think it went down.
It was a dark and stormy night, as it always was around Tim Burton. He was lovlingly looking at his Vincent Price autograph collection when he remembered it was January 15th, the day of Oscar announcements. Turning on his knob-based TV (because it’s spooky and quirky) he watched the announcements. For the first time in years he had tried, actually put effort into the film he was making with Big Eyes. He cast credible actors like Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams instead of going to his speed dial for Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. He reunited with the writers of his critically claimed film Ed Wood for the first time in over a decade. The eccentric director even did an original story and not rehashing something in Disney’s stable of properties. Surely this would get him an Academy Award!
Sitting in a throne from an old Hammer horror movie (again for SPOOKY reasons) in his lightless living room he stared intently at the tube television. His fingers clutched the arms of the chair as each category was announced with no mention of Big Eyes. He had finally put in effort and this is how he was repaid? Surely they were just waiting to announce Big Eyes as one of the best films of the year. That had to be it.
“And now the nominees for Best Picture,” said presenter Chris Pine. Burton sat up at the edge of his seat.
“Whiplash,” Burton leaned in closer.
“The Theory of Everything,” Burton grabbed a vintage and totally quirky landline phone ready to call people about the nomination.
“Selma. The Grand Budapest Hotel. The Imitation Game,” Burton was getting nervous. Surely they were saving the best for last.
“Boyhood. American Sniper and,” Burton was on his knees begging every higher power for the nomination.
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” Chris Pine concluded.
“EMOTIONS!!!” the eccentric director over dramatically screamed as he shook his fist at the sky. His howls of despair echoed through his jagged and totes goth home. In a fit of sadness he threw an unsold copy of Planet of the Apes through the screen of his TV, the sparks illuminating the unusually dark room. He did everything “right” and made a perfect Oscar movie. The Academy were just like the Deetz parents in Beetljuice, Jim from Edward Scissorhands, the son in Big Fish and countless other characters Burton wrote; they oppressed him for being different and a totally beautiful and unique snowflake.
Then… an idea. If they couldn’t appreciate one of his original masterpieces he could earn their validation by remaking one of theirs. Yes, that’s a perfect idea! He could use his own unique vision to bring it to life. He could use vertical stripes and German Expressionism to make it stand out from any other movie coming out. But who could be in it? His old friend Johnny Depp, of course! They did great work with Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood surely they would still have that magic together. He could already hear the original and different Danny Elfman soundtrack playing in his head.
But what film? It had to be a movie that was beloved by most since childhood but also could be open for reimagining. Maybe a film he could insert daddy issues into so he could hook the parents. Disney backing would help get him a hefty budget unlike those paltry budgets he got doing original movies. It hit him, Dumbo. It was so obvious! Dumbo was the perfect avatar for the message he wanted to convey. Dumbo was an outsider just like Burton and even had it’s own spooky scene at a circus he could put his own spin on. It would put out a positive message of individuality for all the loners and weirdos out there that had never been seen before. Certainly something Hollywood hadn’t done a million times before. Picking up the receiver of his vintage telephone the director called up Sean Bailey, the president of Walt Disney Pictures. This bold and original vision had to be shared.