In Disney’s Dumbo, Director Tim Burton has created a light fantasy that’s also a meditation on how the outcasts of society can still find it within themselves to soar and one day find a place that feels like home. Set in the days after World War I, the golden age of the traveling circus, the look and feel of the movie is aided greatly by costumes from costume designer Colleen Atwood.
The spectacle of the big parade scene in Disney’s Dumbo shows the Farrier family and circus owner Max Medici at a moment of hope. Hope that V.A. Vandevere, the owner of Dreamland, will help them and Dumbo find adoration by the general public and success beyond that which a traveling circus can provide.
In a new video from Vanity Fair, Burton and Atwood break down Dumbo’s parade scene using a telestrator:
The resemblance of Dreamland to Disneyland was intentional, says Burton. Everything in Dreamland is meant to be over-the-top and the parade is the audience’s first introduction to it. It’s amazing how much of the Coney Island theme park was a practical set.
I’m a big fan of Atwood’s work for the big screen and love how she’s able to realize the performers from both the Medici Bros. Circus and the more modern looks of Dreamland. Atwood’s team created or sourced more than 200 costumes for the performers, plus an additional 500 for the crowd characters.
It’s interesting how Burton and Atwood deliberately choose soft and easy clothes to dress Michael Keaton in. Apparently he was still smarting from that stiff Batman costume Burton put him in 20 years ago.
“These entertainment guys that created circuses at that time were entrepreneurs, they were showmen with big personalities,” said Atwood. “We wanted to go for that without it being too ‘in your face.’ The clothes are pretty classic clothes from the time. He wears a cravat. We had a lot of fun with [Vandevere].”
The color palate for the costumes are deliberately just a little dirty and muted, but still tied into the primary circus colors. This added to the cotton-lensed look of the movie, moving it just slightly into the surreal ethereal space.
As Burton points out there is a challenge to find a balance between fantasy and reality in a movie like Dumbo. The movie opens wide today, let us know if you think they found the right balance.