Tim Burton’s Dumbo has entered talks with Colin Farrell for the upcoming live-action adaptation of the classic Disney cartoon, according to a new report from Variety. But the film’s dark past may be playing a role in preventing it from gaining traction with A-list actors.
The original film followed an outcast elephant, separated from his mother, who finds out his full potential with the help of a special group of friends.
As classic Disney and sanitary as that descriptor sounds, the film has been the subject of criticisms for its racially charged depictions of certain characters over the years, and going by the number of A-listers who have passed on it, it could still be an issue.
— Irish Examiner (@irishexaminer) March 25, 2017
Variety observes that three stars have outright turned down the role Farrell is now being considered for — Will Smith, Chris Pine, and Casey Affleck, namely.
And while negotiations are still underway with Eva Green and Danny DeVito, they’ve yet to close the deal in spite of the fact that Burton is normally a sought-after director.
The live-action Dumbo also has a strong writing pedigree behind it in Ehren Kruger, who is also producing. Kruger has written numerous blockbusters as well as the critically acclaimed Arlington Road.
So why can’t the House of Mouse close any of these acting deals?
One clue is the negative racial overtone of the original.
In fact, Complex has added the Crows in Dumbo to its pantheon of racist Disney cartoon characters with columnist Hope Schreiber calling out this bit of the jive-talking black birds musical number — “I’d be done see’n about everything, when I see an elephant fly” — as “super offensive.”
Also, the main crow’s name is Jim Crow, named for racial segregation laws and “the actors are all white men putting on their best black man voice.”
“Yes,” Schreiber writes, “the beloved story of an elephant who learns to fly is just a dressed-up minstrel show. The defense Disney super-fans give the characters is that they were the only ones who helped Dumbo. But just because they’re nice doesn’t mean it’s not racist.”
Racial tensions throughout the United States have been prevalent since well before the Civil War of the 1860s, and they started to flare up once more with the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin.
There was also the failure to convict his killer, and subsequent shootings of unarmed black men (and children) at the hands of police in cities like Ferguson, Mo.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Cleveland, Ohio.
Disney has had an easy time turning its classic cartoon features into money-generating machines with the most recent example being the success of Beauty and the Beast.
BATB has, in its opening week, grossed $541 million worldwide on a budget of just $160 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
The company has also had financial successes with Sleeping Beauty (live-action version called Maleficent), Cinderella, and The Jungle Book.
— Beauty and the Beast (@beourguest) March 23, 2017
Disney has chosen “safe” material thus far, so moving ahead with Dumbo will be its first real test for some of its more controversial catalog titles.
But in a world of #BlackLivesMatter, race is about as certain to be an obstacle for the company as if it decided to do a live-action remake of Song of the South.
But what do you think, readers?
Can the new live-action Dumbo overcome its past issues with race, and do you think it is one of the factors holding back casting of the production? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Disney]