Disney Wants You to See Dumbo Fly Again - in Live Action

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Dumbo is coming to the silver screen again, but we're not talking about a remastered re-release or even a computer-animated update of the 1941 full-length classic about an orphaned circus elephant who can fly.

Disney's (DIS) is developing a live-action "Dumbo." It may sound ludicrous at first, but if there's anything that Disney has proven this summer, it's that it knows how to tap its rich catalog of animated classics for material that translates well in live action. "Maleficent" -- the Angelina Jolie-anchored movie that delves into the villain's side of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" -- has topped $225 million in domestic ticket sales to become the fourth highest grossing movie of 2014.

Doing Dumbo Differently

"Dumbo" is probably more relevant now than you think. The movie's plot is heavily focused on the fact that others taunted Dumbo for the size of his ears, until he discovers that he can fly. At a time when American society is attempting to deal with the long pervasive problems of teens getting bullied for being different, a tale about overcoming such abusive reactions has the potential to resonate, even if the hero is a pachyderm.

Disney is unlikely to go with real animals here the way it did earlier this year, when Disneynature's "Bears" tried to weave a tale out of a documentary. The easiest path would seem to involve primarily computer-generated elephants, especially since they are likely to talk, engage in some lavish scenes, and fly.

Disney might also give the tale a darker twist, as it did in 2010, when "Alice in Wonderland" got a live-action version with an updated plot.

More Than Meets the Eye

Disney is rebooting other classics. As Variety points out, Kenneth Branagh's "Cinderella" will hit theaters early next year. Jon Favreau is working on "The Jungle Book," and Bill Condon is developing "Beauty and the Beast."

"Dumbo" has Ehren Kruger writing the script fresh off of the last two "Transformers" movies. This should tip moviegoers off that this isn't going to be entertainment solely for the kiddies. There will be a need to stretch the original tale, which ran just 64 minutes. At a time when even animated releases have to run at least 90 minutes to justify today's buoyant ticket prices, a short film isn't going to fly.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney.

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Disney Wants You to See Dumbo Fly Again - in Live Action
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