Yesterday at the D23 Expo, Disney announced that production has started on the studio's live-action remake of Dumbo, with the studio revealing the first photo of director Tim Burton on the iconic train Casey Jr. Also on display at D23 was the first look at the title elephant himself, with a new maquette on display that gives us our first glimpse at what the beloved elephant may look like. While the design may change throughout the production process, at least this image gives us an idea of what to expect.
The photo surfaced from the D23 Expo, where Disney also announced that the movie is slated for release on March 29, 2019. The film stars Colin Farrell as Holt Farrier, a former circus star and war-veteran charged with the care of a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock of an already struggling circus. Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins were cast as Holt's children, who discover that Dumbo can fly. Danny DeVito portrays circus owner Max Medici who tries to capitalize on the novelty. And Michael Keaton is persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere who swoops in with aerial artist Colette Marchant, portrayed by Eva Green, to make Dumbo a star.
The cast also includes Roshan Seth, DeObia Oparei, Sharon Rooney and Douglas Reith in unspecified supporting roles. Katterli Frauenfelder, Derek Frey, Ehren Kruger and Justin Springer are producing from a screenplay by Kruger. Filmed entirely in England, Dumbo is utilizing state-of-the-art visual effects to portray the big-eared elephant and many of his animal counterparts. As of now, Dumbo is the only movie to be slated for release on March 29, 2019, but it comes between Warner Bros.' Godzilla 2 on March 22, 2019 and Shazam! on April 5, 2019. With production now under way, it remains to be seen if we'll get a glimpse at an of he actors on the set or not.
This project made headlines in March 2015 when the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wrote a letter to director Tim Burton, asking that in his live-action version of the movie, that Dumbo be set free into the wild. That letter came just a week after Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will retire the use of live elephants from its shows. The director never publicly responded to this letter, and there has been no word from Disney about whether or not this remake will honor PETA's request. We likely won't find out either way until he spring of 2019.
This project almost had a much different cast when it was first in development, with the studio seeking Will Smith to play the lead character Holt Farrier. Negotiations with Disney reportedly broke down when the actor and studio couldn't agree upon his salary for the film. Oddly enough, the studio and actor did come to terms on another movie, as it was announced at D23 that Will Smith will provide the voice for the Genie in their live-action Aladdin remake. Take a look at this new photo of the Dumbo maquette as production continues.