Music Composed By: Danny Elfman

Distributed by: Walt Disney Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


               The Disney animated classic to see live-action treatment is Dumbo.  In this new film directed by Tim Burton, Danny DeVito is Max Medici, a circus owner who enlists former circus star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly and Joe (Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant named Dumbo.  Dumbo’s oversized ears have made him a laughingstock, but when they discover that those ears also enable him to fly, enabling the struggling circus to making a surprising comeback.  Entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton) wants to recruit Dumbo for his new entertainment venture, Dreamland, and though Dumbo enjoys soaring with aerial artist Colette Marchant (Eva Green), Holt soon learns that there are dark secrets hiding behind the shiny veneer of Dreamland.

               The musical score of this new, live-action Dumbo was created by American composer, singer, songwriter and producer Danny Elfman.  Founder of the new wave group Oingo Boingo, Elfman first made a foray into creating score for film when Tim Burton and Paul Reubens invited him to compose the score for Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.  Since then, Elfman has composed music for over one hundred films, including Edward Scissorhands, Milk, Big Fish, Men in Black, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Batman, Alice in Wonderland, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Justice League and The Grinch.

               As the soundtrack begins with Logos / Intro, there is that magical feeling that only a Disney movie can impart on a soul.  Trains a Comin actually has the sounds of a train entering the station, like the ringing of the bell, that chuga-chuga sound performed by an orchestra and that sense of hope and happiness that a train pulling into a station can bring those longing for its return.  Meet the Family has that magic and playfulness associated with clowns and the circus.  As we move forward, we hear a very recognizable track, a famous song from the 1941 animated film.  Baby Mine is revived and beautifully performed by Sharon Rooney who plays Miss Atlantis in the film.  The song also appears toward the end of 29-track album in a rather different version performed by Arcade Fire.  I have to be honest here – the Arcade Fire version of this song is absolutely horrible.  Nothing compares to the touching version of the original film and that performed by Sharon Rooney.

               There are quaint and quite playful tracks, like the Clowns tracks, featuring drum rolls, woodwinds and horns, and some rather touching and sad tracks like Goodbye Mrs. Jumbo and Searching for Milly, featuring horns, woodwinds and strings in a more somber tone.  Nightmare Island and Dumbo in Hell are especially dark and spooky, with haunting vocals and that definite feeling that something bad is happening to Dumbo.  Action sequences like Holt in Action, The Breakout and Rescuing the Farriers feature fast-paced music performed at a higher intensity with louder horns and lots of percussion.  I loved the magical and celebratory quality of Medici Circus Miracles Can Happen.

               When I first heard that they were going to take one of the animated films I watched as a kid and turn it into a live action film, I was skeptical.  And yet, I realized that an animated film like Dumbo could only be successful with the type of CGI available in this day and age of movie-making.  For a film that would be so visually stimulating, the music would have to be over the top.  Danny Elfman was the perfect composer to choose for this task.  The music is stimulating – funny when it needs to be, serious and sometime scary at other times.  He perfectly captures the circus atmosphere and finds a way to capture the innocence and beauty that is the story of Dumbo itself.  What a terrific score!  I can’t wait to see the film!


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