Animal rights activists at Peta are urging Disney bosses to change the ending of their new version of classic elephant tale Dumbo, so the titular character escapes the circus and lives out his life at a sanctuary. The movie studio executives are developing a live-action remake of the beloved 1941 animated film, and they've pledged not to use real animals in the movie, but PETA officials want them to go one step further - and rewrite the project's finale.
In the original Disney film, Dumbo becomes a star attraction at the circus after discovering he can use his huge ears to fly.
PETA spokesperson Moira Colley tells WENN, "Walt Disney Pictures has already pledged that its new version of Dumbo will use advanced computer graphics, and not a suffering captive elephant, to portray its title character, and PETA, whose motto says, in part, that 'animals are not ours to use for entertainment', has another suggestion for the film - in addition to staying true to Dumbo's honest depiction of how animals suffer in the circus, why not change the ending so that Dumbo escapes to an elephant sanctuary?"
PETA boss Merrilee Burke has written to Tendo Nagenda, Disney's vice president of production, urging him to give Dumbo a "real happy ending, allowing him to escape the world of forced entertainment and finally be free".
She writes, "Dumbo gets a lot right about the way that elephants in circuses are treated. Just as in the original film, elephants in circuses are still forcibly separated from the mothers they would stay with in nature for many years or for life. They are forced to travel for days, chained in cramped conditions inside railroad boxcars, and they are beaten, shackled, and forced to perform tricks that are frightening, unnatural, and sometimes painful to them.
"These wise, sensitive animals show signs of severe stress and deprivation, such as swaying back and forth, the way that Dumbo and Mrs. Jumbo do (in the film). Once in a while, they snap and go on dangerous rampages, just as is depicted in the film."
You expect a bit of schmaltz from a movie about the making of Mary Poppins. But schmaltz doesn't entail a sentiment lathered so thickly that it's feels like an anti-depressant commercial, or material so broad that it's insulting to believe that audiences above the age of five can relate to the emotionality onscreen. Saving Mr. Banks takes for granted that its viewers are fans of traditional Disney, seeming to confuse Disney fans for Disney characters, and insinuating that we bear the intellectual sophistication thereof.
The real victim, of course, is the character of P.L. Travers (Emma Roberts, charming as she can be with this material), who incurs a fraction of a storyline about overcoming (or learning to live with?) her latent childhood traumas. As a young girl in Australia (as we learn in intermittent flashbacks — by and large the dullest part of the movie, but such a hefty piece of it), young Travers adored her merry, whimsical alcoholic father (Colin Farrell, playing a character that feels as grounded in reality as Dick Van Dyke's penguin-trotting screever Bert), enchanting in his Neverland mannerisms while her chronically depressed mother watched the family crumble into squalor.
Forty-odd years later, the themes of Travers' childhood inform (sometimes directly, right down to presciently repeated phrases) her resistence to allow her novel Mary Poppins to take form as a Disney movie. In the absence of a reason for why she might have a sudden change of heart about a feeling to which she has apparently held so strongly for two decades, Travers opts to fly out to California to meet Walt Disney (Tom Hanks, wading through the script without any of the energy we know he has in his back pocket) and discuss the adaptation process.
When it's not insisting upon clunky "melting the ice queen" devices — like nuzzling Travers up to an oversized stuffed Mickey Mouse to show that, hey, she's starting to like this place! — the stubborn author's time in the Disney writer's room is the best part of the movie. Working with (or against) an increasingly agitated creative team made up of Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman, and B.J. Novak, Travers protests minor details about setting and character, driving her colleagues mad in the process. It is to the credit of the comic talents of Whitford and Schwartzman (who play reserved agitation well beside Novak's outright hostility — he's doing mid-series Ryan in this movie, FYI) that these scenes offer a scoop of charm. But Travers' gradual defrosting poses a consistent problem, as it is experienced over the slow reveal of her disjointed backstories in a fashion that suggests the two are connected... but we have no reason to believe that they are.
The implications of the characters' stories — depression, child abuse, alcoholism, handicaps, and PTSD — are big, and worthy of monumental material. But the characters are so thin that the assignment of such issues to them does a disservice to the emotionality and pain inherent therein. A good story might have been found in the making of Mary Poppins, and in the life and work of P.L. Travers. Unfortunately, Saving Mr. Banks is too compelled to turn that arc into a Disney cartoon. And much like Travers herself, we simply cannot abide that.
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Jonathan Levine has come on to direct Mandate Pictures' now untitled cancer comedy, which will star James McAvoy and Seth Rogen. Also joining the film is Anna Kendrick, a recent Golden Globe nominee for her turn in Up in the Air.
The project, previously titled I'm With Cancer, was to be directed by Nicole Holofcener, who dropped out in November. Levine's credits include The Wackness and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.
Principal photography starts next month in Vancouver. Mandate International will commence pre-sales in Berlin in February.
Kendrick will play a psychologist assigned to a young man (McAvoy) who learns he has cancer. The character is based on the real experiences of screenwriter Will Reiser.
Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Ben Karlin are producing. Reiser is executive producing along with Mandate president Nathan Kahane. Mandate's Tendo Nagenda is co-producing.