Tim Burton’s ‘Dumbo’ Highlights Circus Cruelty

Posted by on April 1, 2019 | Permalink

The trailer alone made grown adults weep. And now that Disney’s live-action film Dumbo has arrived in cinemas across the UK, we’re sure there won’t be a dry eye in the house by the time the credits roll.

But while an adorable, computer-generated elephant with big ears has audiences in tears, we need to remember that real elephants – and many other animals – continue to suffer around the world in the name of entertainment, including for movies and TV shows.

PETA US reminded Dumbo director Tim Burton of this when the group urged him to give the film an updated and humane ending by having Dumbo and his mother escape from a life of abuse and exploitation in Hollywood and live out their days in a sanctuary – as the situation for real elephants used in film and TV is one of deprivation and torment, just as it is in circuses. Without giving too much away, we’re pleased to say that in Burton’s universe, everything works out as it should for Dumbo and his mother. (But don’t be fooled: you will definitely still cry.)

Like the makers of The Jungle Book, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and the upcoming live-action Lion King remake, Burton uses computer-generated imagery (CGI) technology to portray stunning, realistic full-grown elephants (among other animals, such as a monkey, a bear, and some mice), meaning that live animals didn’t have to suffer – either on set or behind the scenes.

“Of course, we didn’t have real elephants in this movie – we had wonderful CGI people who created some magic. I mean, I’m super-proud to be in a Disney movie that promotes animal-free circuses. You know, animals are not meant to live in captivity.” – Eva Green, actor

This film offers thoughtful messages about animal rights, but that’s not all – in off-screen interviews, Burton and his star-studded cast have also been very vocal about their support for animals and why they don’t belong under the big top.

“It’s funny, but I truly never liked the circus. … You’ve got animals being tortured, you’ve got death-defying acts, and you’ve got clowns. It’s like a horror show. What’s to like?” – Tim Burton, director

Dumbo also exposes the dark side of the circus – from Michael Keaton’s character, who’s intent on exploiting Dumbo at all costs, to the humiliation and pain that animals experience when they’re forced to perform stupid tricks. While there have been many victories in the push to get animals out from under the big top, that comes as no comfort to the big cats, bears, elephants, and other animals still enduring captivity and abuse in circuses around the world.

“This film does make statements on the cruelty of the circus at that particular time, especially in relation to animals [and] if the idea of having animals live their lives in enclosures has any justification at all, which it doesn’t really …. There are certain establishments that I wouldn’t frequent that have been publicly maligned, and I think for good reason.” – Colin Farrell, actor

In their natural habitats, mother and daughter elephants stay together for life, and males don’t strike out on their own until adolescence. But separating mothers and their young is a common occurrence throughout nearly all industries that exploit animals. This moment of separation is the most heartbreaking scene in both the original Dumbo and the remake.

We hope audiences will be moved enough by this film and the bond between Mrs Jumbo and her baby to stop supporting cruel establishments that continue to tear families apart for their own personal gain.

What Can You Do for Animals in Circuses?

The UK government announced that wild-animal circuses will be banned in England in 2020. This is welcome news – but the ban is already long overdue, and animals suffering in these exhibits shouldn’t have to endure this cruelty even for one more day.

The government must take action immediately. Please send a message to Michael Gove urging him to ban wild-animal circuses in England now:

Take Action

©Jo-Anne McArthur / One Voice