'Dumbo': Everything to Know About Disney's Live-Action Remake Directed by Tim Burton

The 2019 version will feature actors Michael Keaton, Alan Arkin and Eva Green.

Disney has recently given audiences a wave of live-action remakes to spark old and new childhood memories, and the 1941 animated classic Dumbo will be no exception.

The original animated feature was a hit with audiences upon its release, causing a New York Times reviewer in October 1941 to say that it was “the most genial, the most endearing, the most completely precious cartoon feature film ever to emerge from the magical brushes of Walt Disney's wonder-working artists!”

The 2019 live-action remake is helmed by Alice in Wonderland director Tim Burton. It will be released March 29 and has a list of name actors taking on roles, including Oscar-winning actor Michael Keaton, Colin Farrell and Casino Royale and Dark Shadows actress Eva Green.

The new story will still include Dumbo’s separation from his mother and learning that he can use his unusually large ears to fly. Dumbo will be forced to perform at a struggling circus as others discover his abilities.

Where the Dumbo story will diverge from the original remains unclear. PETA in 2015 asked director Tim Burton to give Dumbo and his mother a happier ending compared to the one in the original. “We're hopeful that in your adaptation of Dumbo, the young elephant and his mother can have a truly happy ending by living out their lives at a sanctuary instead of continuing to be imprisoned and abused in the entertainment industry," said PETA senior vp communications Lisa Lange. Whether the advice was taken is uncertain.

Before the movie's release, The Hollywood Reporter has created a cheat sheet with all that is known about Dumbo so far.


Danny DeVito: Will play Max Medici, a ringmaster whose smaller circus gets acquired by villain V.A. Vandevere.

Colin Ferrell: Will play Holt Farrier, a former circus star who comes home from war to work for a struggling circus and is put in charge of the titular Dumbo.

Michael Keaton: Will play V.A. Vadevere, the villain entrepreneur who finds out about Dumbo’s flying abilities and looks to take advantage of it.

Eva Green: Will play Colette Merchant, a trapeze artist who works with the circus.

Alan Arkin: Will play fictional Wall Street tycoon J. Griffin Remington.

Notably not in the remake is Dumbo’s mentor in the 1941 film, Timothy Q. Mouse, as well as Jim Crow and his flock of crows that helped Dumbo learn to fly. Despite the absence of past characters, there will be a breadth of new characters in this Dumbo, including Thor and Star Trek: Into Darkness actor Joseph Gatt playing a character called Neils Skellig and TV actress Sharon Rooney playing a character by the name of Miss Atlantis. There will also be child actors who interact with Dumbo throughout the film.

Dumbo will be brought to the screen through the magic of CG technology.


The script for Dumbo was written by Transformers franchise writer Ehren Kruger. While 2019’s Dumbo will touch on some of the key moments from the original — including Dumbo’s separation from his mother — it will take a different approach to telling Dumbo’s story. This includes the absence of former characters and addition of live-action characters with detailed backstories, like Farrell with his character Farrier. 


As previously reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Dumbo was filmed primarily in U.K.-based Pinewood and Cardington Studios. The postproduction took place nearby in London. 


The film’s release date will be March 29, 2019, two months before the reimagined Aladdin film and four months before another Disney remake in The Lion King.

Word of the remake began taking shape in 2014. Early talks of the film included Will Smith being pegged to star as a father figure in the film. Last year, however, those talks broke off. His departure coincided with the news that he would play the voice of Genie in the upcoming Aladdin remake in May 2019.


Live-action remakes have seen an upswing in production at the turn of the decade, including Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and 2016’s Academy award-winning The Jungle Book. Many of these films, despite positive or negative critical receptions, have brought in substantial money nationally and worldwide. The 2010 reimagining of Alice in Wonderland, for example, brought in more than $1 billion.

Many of these films have also been critically lauded: 2016’s The Jungle Book is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and has won several awards for its visual effects; 2017’s Beauty and the Beast saw actress Emma Watson receive the award for best performance in a movie at the 2017 MTV Movie & TV Awards.