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By: Kristen Pilarski, Volunteer EleAmbassador

Dumbo Review — Live Action Remake Advocates for Animal-Free Circuses

Disney's release of a live-action remake of the animated classic Dumbo has once again brought the conversation around elephants performing in circuses to the forefront of the public's consciousness. Kristen Pilarski is a volunteer “EleAmbassador” in Roanoke, VA. As an EleAmbassador, Kristen raises awareness in her community for issues facing elephants and the work of The Elephant Sanctuary. Kristen reached out to The Grandin Theater in Roanoke about setting up an exhibit booth for their showings of Dumbo to inform movie goers about the very real issues facing elephants, and The Sanctuary asked Kristen to share her thoughts on the 2019 version of Dumbo:

“Don’t just fly, SOAR!” – spoken by Dumbo’s best friend, Timothy Q. Mouse. Is there anyone out there, who saw Disney’s cartoon classic as a child, about a darling baby elephant who could fly, that didn’t fall in love with him? I know I did! Of course back then, watching this movie as a kid, I also had no idea that animals, and in particular elephants, were so often mistreated when part of entertainment venues, like circuses. Had I known then, even as a small child, I would have been horrified.

So it was with some trepidation that I first watched the Dumbo trailer for the new live action remake. I was concerned that the movie might try to promote circuses with live animal acts as wonderful family fun, thus allowing them to regain popularity. And after we’ve come so far with educating folks about the hard life and health challenges that circus life invokes on its elephants, I didn’t want this movie to cause any backward steps. But, being a Disney fan all my life, I also was very curious to see what they might do with this opportunity. So I bought my ticket, my buttery popcorn, and my ice cold drink, and I took my seat in the theater.

From the moment the first scene burst onto the screen, I was captivated. And as the movie progressed, I realized with relief and delight, that my worries were unfounded. First of all, the cinematography was fantastic, and the CGI elephants were amazing (that’s right – NO live animals were used in the making of this film)!! I mean I have to say it, baby Dumbo is A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E, and has the most expressive eyes I’ve ever seen! So there is definitely a fun factor to the movie with its share of heartwarming moments. But more importantly, are the themes the movie drives home to the audience.

Just as its predecessor did, this version of Dumbo also reminds us that it’s ok to be different. And that what makes us unique also makes us special. And it also teaches us the importance of friendship and teamwork. A special bond forms between Dumbo and several of the characters, in particular the two Farrier children. And the teamwork between the children, their father, several of the Medici circus troupe, and ultimately Colette, to protect Dumbo, might just bring a tear of joy to your eyes.

And speaking of tears, do bring the Kleenex, as the movie also addresses some tougher issues, like how some entertainment venues (like circuses) will do most anything to make money, including inflicting pain on their elephants. When baby Dumbo is separated from his mother, I don’t think a dry eye was left in the theater. Although gut wrenchingly sad and a little bit hard to watch, the movie does a good job of showing what a toll this takes on elephant families. This is important, because hopefully the heartbreaking scene will influence the audience to recognize the strong family bonds these creatures share, and stop supporting venues and businesses that would do such a thing, all in the name of profit.

The most important theme of all however, the one that all elephant lovers and advocates will appreciate, is the promotion of animal-free circuses! Yes it’s true – at the heart of the story, is the idea that elephants deserve to be free, to live their lives in their natural habitats where they belong. And it also demonstrates that there are good and loving human beings, willing to help make that happen. So, should you go to see this movie? I say: YES! Go to see the lovable and charming flying baby elephant with the expressive eyes; Go to see how the bonds of love and friendship can overcome; But mostly, go to see the ending that I promise will make the hearts of all those who love elephants, not just fly, but SOAR!!!

If you are interested in becoming an EleAmbassador like Kristen and helping to raise awareness for elephants in your local community, please visit www.elephants.com/volunteer.

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