I can’t believe this is happening. And I don’t mean that in a breathless, wide-eyed, sweaty-palmed Buzzfeed fanboy sort of way. I mean it in a “I think you’re all a bit wretched for having encouraged this from Disney” sort of way.
So remember when I joked, jokingly, that no Disney executive could ever be dumb enough to attempt a live-action remake of Dumbo? You know, as a joke? WELL, do I have some news for you.
Despite the stench of rotting flesh attracting an ever growing swarm of totally-live-looking-but-actually-CGI flies voiced by a host of yesterday’s B-listers, Disney is determined to keep flogging the dead horse of CGI ‘live-action’ remakes. The Lion King, Aladdin, The Jungle Book, and recent Beauty and the Beast adaptation Hermione is out-acted by the Uncanny Valley have all had grown adults paid real money to fulfil the job description of ‘journalist’ raving about Disney Princesses and talking fucking dalmations for the past two years, with no sign of an end in sight. And now. Now we have a Dumbo remake to… anticipate?
While there are almost equally annoying rumours that Mulan is also due a live-action remake, which people enfuriatingly keep describing as a Princess film even though Mulan isn’t a Princess, and that belittles the entire point of the story, Dumbo really takes the prize for worst idea to come out of Anaheim since John Carter. It’s not just because it’s NOT LIVE ACTION either, even though it’s what EVERYONE is calling a film that features a fucking flying elephant.
Dumbo is a film that is hailed by film historians as one of the great moments of early cinema sure, but it’s worth remembering these are the same ivory-tower cranks who believe screening Birth of a Nation is socially acceptable thanks to its ‘artistic merits’. Like Birth of a Nation, Dumbo is an intensely racist film. Like John Carter – which, if you weren’t one of the five people who saw it, featured a protagonist who fought for ‘freedom’ in the American Civil War, ON THE CONFEDERATES SIDE – Dumbo is an obscenely out-dated mis-step, which will rely almost exclusively on horrendous CGI that will age a week after release, and that I hope hounds the studio to bankruptcy.
Well, maybe that’s an unfair conclusion to jump to – Disney’s official description of the remake is as follows: “Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell, who is a former film star) is a former circus star who finds his life turned upside down when he returns from the war. Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists Holt to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when Holt’s children (Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins, who I assume are adult voice actors playing computer generated children) discover that Dumbo can fly (from a film-production standpoint, this is impossible for a ‘live’ elephant, no matter how well trained), persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton, who used to be cool) and an aerial artist named Colette Marchant (Eva Green who is trapped in Burton-land, having been tricked by Johnny Depp into taking his place for all eternity) swoop in to make the peculiar pachyderm a star.”
Now, Dumbo, the original 1941 version, as we have covered, was extremely racist. Aside from the really awkward portrayal of the circus’ exclusively black labourers, of course the worst of it was the crows. Everyone knows the crows, especially the one really famous one who is named after the Jim Crow segregation laws which saw black people in the Southern States treated as second class citizens until the late 1960s, with a troubling legacy that many would argue sees the same remain true to this day. Everyone knows these crows because Disney had supposedly comitted to not airbrushing its history. Supposedly the company now acknowleged its past had seen its film fall on the wrong side of history, and supposedly by not simply yanking it from circulation, they were committed to showing that people make mistakes, and that future generations should learn from them.
Well, we can finally call bullshit there. The film was just in circulation because the few unrepentent white-supremecists at Disney still liked it, while the suits at the company thought they could still milk it for profit – uncomfortably perhaps – for the matter of time until the old racists of the company finally died out, and they could commission Tim Burton to remake the movie, airbrushing their history in order to keep profiting from it in a world where Jim Crow has lost currency as a joke.
That means we get the worst of all worlds then; Disney gets to rake in money for a bad, unimaginative film, while whitewashing their legacy. This is the ultimate in liberal capitalism, where we imagine equality exists by simply erasing oppression from representation in order to keep churning out revenue through the blandest content imaginable. This means Disney, along with the rest of corporate America, can go on dodging responsibility for their part in perpetuating historic racism into modern society.
And by paying to see Dumbo, you will be validating this practice. So don’t. Unless you want a remake of Song of the South too, I guess… I mean, come on, it shouldn’t be that big of an ask to boycott this – when was the last Tim Burton movie you actually had to be disuaded from seeing anyway?