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 television shows.
PETA US reminded Dumbo director Tim Burton of this when they 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 and live out their days in a sanctuary – as the situation for real elephants used for entertainment 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 creators 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 these animals didn’t have to suffer – either on set or behind the scenes.
This film offers thoughtful messages about animal rights, but that’s not all – in 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.
“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
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.
“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 of Dumbo
While there have been some recent victories in the push to get animals out from under the big top, these are little comfort to the animals still enduring captivity and abuse in circuses in Australia and 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
While there are no elephants currently in Australian circuses, Lennon Bros Circus and Stardust Circus continue to force lions, monkeys, and camels to spend their lives being carted from one performance to another or being held in barren temporary enclosures. According to the RSPCA, “[N]o circus – no matter how well managed – can provide an appropriate environment for wild animals”.
We hope audiences will be moved enough by this film to stop supporting cruel establishments that use animals for the sake of profit.
Lights, Camera, Take Action!
Some animals are still suffering on film and television sets around the world. You can do your part by committing to never buying a ticket to a film that uses wild animals and by keeping shows that use them out of your streaming queue.