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Director Tim Burton Says His 'Dumbo' Remake Was 'Autobiographical' In Scathing Takedown Of Disney

Burton said 'I was Dumbo' and had to escape 'this horrible big circus' that was Disney.

Tim Burton; screenshot of Dumbo character from Burton's live action film
Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images; Walt Disney Studios/YouTube

Speaking in Lyon, France to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Lumière Festival, director Tim Burton criticized Walt Disney Studios, saying the company made his time making 2019's live-action version of Dumbo rather miserable.

Burton said Dumbo—a remake of the 1941 Disney animated classic—was "autobiographical" in the sense he was "working in this horrible big circus and I needed to escape."

His comments were especially scathing because Dumbo is on one level about a young elephant that becomes a sideshow attraction because of his big ears—unaware he can use them to fly—and dreams of a life beyond the circus and back in the care of his mother.

You can watch the trailer for Burton's take on Dumbo below.

Dumbo Official

Burton said:

“The thing about ‘Dumbo,’ is that’s why I think my days with Disney are done, I realized that I was Dumbo, that I was working in this horrible big circus and I needed to escape."
“That movie is quite autobiographical at a certain level.”

Burton also had criticism for the company's penchant for popular franchises, including Star Wars and Marvel superhero flicks, saying he has no plans to direct any such projects for the company.

He said Disney's prioritizing of these projects has effectively "homogenized" and "consolidated" the film industry:

“It’s gotten to be very homogenized, very consolidated. There’s less room for different types of things."
"I can only deal with one universe, l can’t deal with a multi-universe.”

Burton's remarks received a mixed response.

Burton—best known for directing two well-received Batman films and for delighting audiences with offbeat tales like Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Big Fish, and Sweeney Todd—has had a long association with Walt Disney Studios.

He has worked on several movies for the studio, including The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, and the 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland.

His version of Dumbo was neither critically nor commercially successful, closing out a decade during which he'd received some of the more middling reviews of his long career for films like Dark Shadows and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.