There are new some trailers, teasers really. I watched them. You probably have as well. Let’s talk about them:
It’s so, so easy to dismiss this as “Just Tim Burton doing the Tim Burton-outsider thing with a side helping of Big Fish’s circus imagery.”
That’s bad, why exactly? I know my own recent critical re-evaluation of Burton did not look too favorably on his continued obsession with the same old themes and gothic visuals. But, hey, the guy who made Edward Scissorhands seems like a good fit for Dumbo, and this teaser is at least nowhere near as monochromatic as some of Burton’s other signature efforts. Plus, look, he put Michael Keaton in it. Holy 1989 reunion, Batman.
Truthfully, as a child, Dumbo was always more of a cute stuffed animal to me than a film I devoured and committed to heart. So, I haven’t seen the 1941 original since my days spent taking in old cartoons and Disney classics at an afterschool babysitter. I’ll rectify that before this new Dumbo’s release, but for now I am looking up at an enticing teaser for yet another one of Disney’s live-action remakes and thinking, “Well, I’ll obviously see that.”
A bit on the business side of things here: According to Ben Fritz’s book The Big Picture, former Walt Disney film studio head Dick Cook spent years lobbying his partners on the animation side to let him take a crack at remaking some of their old classics. However, Roy Disney always said no, and John Lasseter followed suit when he assumed Roy’s leadership position after the Pixar sale. “Cinderella, Pinocchio and Snow White are classics for a reason,” Fritz argues. “[Disney/Lasseter] would not their legacy be potentially sullied by a live-action film they couldn’t control.”
Cook was persistent, though, forcing Lasseter to eventually throw him a bone in the form of letting him entrust a live-action Alice in Wonderland to Tim Burton. The resulting film, of course, cracked a billion worldwide, still the highest grossing film of Burton’s career. Now, Burton, after striking out with his intended Miss Peregrine franchise starter at Warner Bros., is back in the fold. Cook’s long gone. In fact, the 38-year company veteran, who started on the amusement parkside of things before graduating to the film studio, was fired by Bob Iger the year before Alice came out, by which point it was already in production.
The reasons for the firing are too complicated to get into here, but all Disney has done with its live-action remakes/reimaginings since Cook’s ousting is bank serious coin:
- Alice in Wonderland – $1.025 billion worldwide
- Maleficent – $758m worldwide
- Cinderella – $543m worldwide
- The Jungle Book – $966m worldwide
- Beauty and the Beast – $1.26 billion worldwide
Not saying all of that is because of Cook. He’s been gone from the company for nearly a decade now. So, it’s not like he can take credit for Beauty and the Beast. Still, he’s the one who got this whole thing rolling over the continued objections of the purists on the animation side. Respect.
Jump scare, the teaser.
I kid, I kid.
Look, The Conjuring universe producers had a good problem after Conjuring 2. James Wan delivered a sequel containing not one but two different choices for obvious spin-offs. Do you go with the nun?
Or the Crooked Man?
The answer is you do both. It just so happens The Nun, which happens to star main Conjuring headliner Vera Farmiga’s much younger sister Taissa, moved through production quicker. At last check, Crooked Man is still in development. The Nun, obviously, is locked and ready for release in a couple of months, plenty spooking-looking thanks to director Corin Hardy’s (The Hallow) capable work. As per the Annabelle formula, they’ve taken one scary part of a Conjuring movie and made a prequel out of it, one which itself might turn into its own mini-franchise the way Annabelle has. Wan, who is involved here as a producer, has mentioned the possibility of there being a Nun 2.
Let’s hope this time they get the first spin-off right, though. Annabelle was so critically disappointing, but financially successful they had to make the far superior Annabelle: Creation to make up for it. I don’t know that there’s enough here to definitively say The Nun won’t repeat that same mistake, but there’s also nothing here which gives me a bad feeling about this. Darkened corridors? Old timey women in nun’s habit outfits walking down hallways while holding lamps? Sudden jump scare?
Yes, yes, and yes to all of that. Bring it on, The Nun.
Dumbo is due March 29, 2019; The Nun on September 7, 2018.