‘Dumbo,’ the beloved elephant with oversized ears, is reimagined in live action.
WALT DISNEY STUDIOS
LOS ANGELES – Let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
Dumbo never showed up to the set. But it wasn’t a Hollywood diva thing.
The big-eyed, bigger-eared flying pachyderm was created entirely with computer-generated effects after filming was completed, with the final shots coming in just days before the film’s first showing.
“It’s the weirdest point of the movie,” says Burton. “I have all of these great people, great sets and everything. And what’s missing? The main character. And you know when the main character showed up? About last weekend. It’s true.
“It was really quite terrifying,” he adds. “You can plan it out and look at it. But until (the elephant) materializes, you don’t really know.”
That ‘Dumbo’ world premiere was a circus: Angelina Jolie brought the kids
‘Dumbo’ wasn’t the only one who flew: Eva Green overcame her fear of heights to swing on trapeze
The new “Dumbo” tells the story of a baby elephant who is pulled away from his mother to join a small circus with one-time horse-riding star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell). The drama carries well beyond Dumbo’s first triumphant circus flight, where the original movie ended, to explore the joys and perils of instant fame.
A life-size Dumbo model with a detachable head and ears stood in on the set for lighting and reference purposes. For dynamic scenes, there was Edd Osmond, a creature performer dressed in a bright green suit. Osmond, who portrayed the ape friend in 2013’s “Tarzan,” studied the movement of baby elephants to convincingly give the stars something to act against. The CGI Dumbo seen onscreen was added in post-production.
“It was incredible: Edd was head-to-toe in green spandex for the best part of five months,” says Farrell, clearly impressed. “During scenes, he would come in and nestle against you. And he would be so touching. You would think, ‘This is a little dude in green spandex. If he can move me emotionally, then if they crack this Dumbo character, this film will be something else.’ “
For first-time film stars Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins, who play Holt’s children and Dumbo’s best friends, working with a spandex-clad Osmond became routine. It was a shock seeing finished scenes where their characters were hugging or petting an actual elephant.
“You were actually hugging this morph-suit thing,” says Parker, 14. “And sometimes, you’re kind of just rubbing, petting the air. It was really weird.”
In scenes where Dumbo flies around the circus arena, the young stars watched the small dot of a laser pointer representing the moving elephant.
“That thing going around the room was tiny,” says Hobbins, 11. “I kept losing it. But I would have to look like this amazing thing was flying by. It was hard.”
Burton was still furiously editing the movie last June, waiting for more Dumbo footage, when the studio put out the first trailer featuring some dazzling finished shots.
“It’s amazing. I’m finishing the movie and there’s this trailer out,” he says. “I felt like I’ve died or like I’m finishing an imaginary film while it’s all already happening out there.”
The big test will come with the film’s release. Burton knows that Dumbo is the key to pulling off the remake for the fans. He insists no focus groups were used in devising the floppy-eared final creation.
“Is it right? Is it wrong?” Burton asks with a shrug. “There is no real answer to that exactly. We’ll see.”
Farrell has made his mind up. He’s especially enthralled with the baby elephant’s expressive eyes, a major feat for CGI.
“When they brought this creature to life, I couldn’t believe how empathetic it was,” Dumbo’s human co-star says. “The eyes in this one are so beautiful – joyful and mischievous one moment, then fearful and pained the next. He’s a lovely little thing.”
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2019/03/25/how-tim-burton-made-dumbo-without-flying-baby-elephant/3238307002/