— Nerdist (@nerdist) February 6, 2019
But while an adorable, computer-generated elephant with big ears has audiences in tears, we need to remember that real elephants—and many other animals—continue to suffer around the world in the name of entertainment, including for movies and television shows. Without giving too much away, we’re pleased to say that in Burton’s universe, everything works out as it should for Dumbo and his mother. (But don’t be fooled: You will definitely still cry.)
Like makers of The Jungle Book, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and the upcoming live-action Lion King remake, Burton leverages computer-generated imagery (CGI) technology to portray stunning, realistic full-grown elephants (among other animals, such as a monkey, a bear, and some mice), meaning that these animals did not have to suffer—either on set or behind the scenes.
“Of course, we didn’t have real elephants in this movie—we had wonderful CGI people who created some magic. I mean, I’m super-proud to be in a Disney movie that promotes animal-free circuses. You know, animals are not meant to live in captivity.” —Eva Green, actor
This film offers thoughtful messages about animal rights, but that’s not all—in off-screen interviews, Burton and his star-studded cast have also been very vocal about their support for animals and why they don’t belong under the big top.
“It’s funny, but I truly never liked the circus. … You’ve got animals being tortured, you’ve got death-defying acts, and you’ve got clowns. It’s like a horror show. What’s to like?”—Tim Burton, director of Dumbo
Dumbo also exposes the dark side of the circus—from Michael Keaton’s character, who’s intent on exploiting Dumbo at all costs, to the humiliation and pain that animals experience when they’re forced to perform stupid tricks. While there have been some recent victories in the push to get animals out from under the big top, that comes as no comfort to the big cats, bears, elephants, and other animals still enduring captivity and abuse in circuses around the world.
“This film does make statements on the cruelty of the circus at that particular time, especially in relation to animals [and] if the idea of having animals live their lives in enclosures has any justification at all, which it doesn’t really …. There are certain establishments that I wouldn’t frequent that have been publicly maligned, and I think for good reason.” —Colin Farrell, actor
In their natural habitats, mother and daughter elephants stay together for life, and males don’t strike out on their own until adolescence. But separating mothers and their young is a common occurrence throughout nearly all industries that exploit animals. This moment of separation is the most heartbreaking scene in both the original Dumbo and the remake. (Listen to “Baby Mine,” the most tragic song in Disney history.) We hope audiences will be moved enough by this film and the bond between Mrs. Jumbo and her baby to stop supporting cruel establishments that continue to break families apart for the sake of profit.
Lights, Camera, Take Action!
Some animals are still suffering on film and television sets around the world. You can do your part by committing to never buying a ticket to a film that uses wild animals and by keeping shows that use them out of your streaming queue.