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Dumbo (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Dumbo marks the first of a handful of formerly classic Disney animated features to be having blustering new live action representations in 2019. This has been going on and building for a few years now, but 2019 could be the apex for just how many come out in a calendar year. Disney is probably going to be a bit more careful as to which ones they choose from here on out based on the box office for this film. Not every one of these will hit the Beauty and the Beast paydirt, but you kinda have an idea which ones are going to catch fire (Which, is funny how people doubted Aladdin, not realizing people find too hefty an opinion to have actual weight on “Film Twitter”). Anyway, Dumbo will be arriving on all formats and even the (Why the hell won’t you die?) dated DVD one. The date for this circus full of excitement is June 25th. Don’t all you go trampling over each other to land a copy first. Just go ahead and utilize the Amazon link like a civilized adult.

Film 

Struggling circus owner Max Medici enlists a former star and his two children to care for Dumbo, a baby elephant born with oversized ears. When the family discovers that the animal can fly, it soon becomes the main attraction — bringing in huge audiences and revitalizing the run-down circus. The elephant’s magical ability also draws the attention of V.A. Vandevere, an entrepreneur who wants to showcase Dumbo in his latest, larger-than-life entertainment venture.

There’s a term or phrase thrown around a lot about golden turds and such. But sometimes we really need to step back and respect the kind of paint and the artist that did the work to make it golden. I think the 2 star rating isn’t really spoiling my feelings on it as a whole, but I did find myself pretty taken with a lot of the design brought to life on the film and found it quite top tier and the best thing about the motion picture as a whole. The costumes, make-up and such were wonderful. Locations and sets even more gorgeous. I particularly enjoy the whole Tomorrowland vibe and build we were able to see in the film’s latter proceedings. No, I can’t recommend the film on that, but I really think those merits should be appreciated and that Tim Burton’s (And company) visual flare and touch is still as strong as ever going into 3 decades or so of his work.

The original animated Disney Dumbo film in 1941 was barely over an hour in length. This new live action adaptation has stretched that story over 2 hours. Burton’s extra meat doesn’t prove anymore endearing or interesting. He’s even got some of his regular collaborators like Eva Green and ones he hasn’t worked with in a while like Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito. It feels a cause for excitement, but even their best can’t spark up the interest in a longer story. Something here just proves quite tiresome, uninteresting and not the least bit engaging to keep attention for a few hours.

Now, I could gauge that, maybe I’m not a good audience for the film. Perhaps Disney thinks “Who cares, we are trying to pull in a new, modern generation.” Sure, I get that, and I’m on board. Not everything is aimed at or made for me. There have been numerous iterations of things I enjoy over the years like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Transformers that aren’t my cup of tea and it doesn’t bother me because they aren’t and shouldn’t be for me. I watched Dumbo with my kids seeing how they would take it. While they both said they liked it, it wasn’t an enthusiastic response and my 7 year old kept losing attention real fast and my daughter fell asleep. I’ve also read some reaction from some other parents with similar reactions. Its an honest and noble miss, or maybe a fair measuring stick to see how far these reissues could go. There was good attention and care done here, the source just wasn’t strong enough and didn’t translate well.

Video 

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD disc. 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: While Dumbo was shot at a much higher resolution, it was finished with a 2K digital intermediate. So, our 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray release is upconverted from that. This features a solid improvement over the Blu-ray. You’ll notice better color saturation, crisper details and a better sharpness. However, a general viewer may not see the big deal as these feel like some solid house maintenance improvements, but they are indeed noticeable.

Depth:  Spacing and depth of field is pretty on point here. Many whirlwind camera movements feel nicely 3 dimensional. Motion is smooth, natural and without any concerning distortions.

Black Levels: Blacks feel nice and natural with wonderful touches in shading, shadow, definition and holding onto plenty of detail without devouring any. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are really pretty looking in this mix and the palette is quite distinct and confident throughout. Many of the skies in the film come out looking quite gorgeous. HDR doesn’t have so much a glowing presence here as it does a more refining factor for the colors.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are flush, full and consistent from start to finish of the film. They almost feel a surreal painting-like in nature with make-up strokes, textures, blemishes, wrinkles looking a bit exaggerative and plenty clear in the image.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, Japanese Dolby Digital Plus

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Japanese

Dynamics: Where have you heard me telling you that you have to turn the volume up on a Disney title to improve the experience before? Oh, most of the time? Yeah. Unfortunately this is in the Thor: Ragnarok category of Atmos tracks. Its not a bad mix per se, its how the film is presented here and the low frequencies wind up a grand disappointment.

Height: You’ll pick up more on these with the volume up, but you can hear tents deflating, debris falling, Dumbo flying by and more swooping around above your head.

Low Frequency Extension: This is just flat out sad. Nothing here has any punch to it at all. There are plenty of instances in the film of something that could give you power and it just never does.

Surround Sound Presentation: As I mentioned, this is a pretty cool and thought out mix, its just utilized here in its presentation. Rolling sound, effect placement and more is quite up to par. Disney just needs to quit worrying about waking the baby for a late night viewing.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras 

Dumbo comes with the Blu-ray edition and a digital copy of the film. Bonus features are found on the standard Blu-ray disc.

Circus Spectaculars (HD, 8:20) – Tim Burton goes over what he sees in the original Dumbo and we got through the cast and their challenges/outlook (Like Colin Farrell’s performance and effects with 1 arm).

The Elephant In The Room (HD, 5:50) – This featurette focuses on the elephant and what was done to bring it to life in the film with plenty of on set footage shooting the effects as well as models and animatics.

Built To Amaze (HD, 7:40) – This featurette goes over the sets, costumes and locations in the film. An overall look at the design utilized in the film.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 7:47)

Easter Eggs On Parade (HD, 3:52) – Points out all the hidden secrets and references in the movie.

Clowning Around (HD, 1:57) – AKA “Gag Reel”

“Baby Mine” Performed By Arcade Fire (HD, 2:59)

Summary 

I’d have to say believe the anti-hype on Dumbo. A gorgeous looking film, but not much beyond that, thought I’d say its not without trying. The 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray has a nice picture but sports quite possibly the worst Atmos track they’ve had since Thor Ragnarok. Extras are all kinda fluff, but of the more nutritious kind. People dog Tim Burton, but I always am rooting for him. He’s partially responsible for me being here writing this today (See; My Batman 4K UHD Review). Maybe next time out, he’ll give us another Big Eyes, Sweeney Todd or Big Fish. As for Dumbo, if you’re owning it, this is the best way to do so, but I’d rent or watch it on a streaming service first before diving on into the ownership part of the deal.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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