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Cries That Go Unheard Forever. New Dumbo Movie Narrates Plight of Elephants

by | April 1, 2019

If you’ve ever attended a circus and cheered to a stunt made by an elephant, you’ll instantly regret what you did after watching Disney’s upcoming animation Dumbo, 2019. Much like the original film that was released in 1941 (seventy-eight years ago), this remake is a peek into the horrors of the elephants in tame, at the brink of mankind and circuses especially. Read on to know more

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Credit: Becky Phan

The Dumbo Movie Will Make You Cry

In the very first glimpse of the 2019 trailer of the remake, an adorable visual narrative will strike the sympathetic chords so masterfully (to those who’ve watched the previous version) that you can’t but constantly think- what can go even worse than the earlier movie? If the early iteration of the movie was a cake with icing, this, to inform you, won’t be one. Naked truths will reportedly haunt the viewers.

For recollection: the original animation revolves around a little baby elephant born to Mrs. Jumbo, one of the main circus elephants. She received baby Jumbo through a stork who delivered her the baby. Yet, baby Jumbo turned out to be different. Unlike other elephant cubs he had enormous ears. Much larger than normal and therefore he was mocked by other elephants as ‘Dumbo’ as in ‘dumb’ (his original name being Jumbo). The namesake (Dumbo) is Disney’s parody of bullying that many face despite every individual is unique in their own way. As the scenes roll by and countless perils cross the circus elephants, especially Dumbo and her mother, it turns out Dumbo can fly with the huge ears of his’.

After some melancholic incidents involving the pain inflicted to Dumbo, like him losing his mother (they were separated) and suffering as a result of not being able to meet expectations of trainers, were all depicted explicitly to refer to the pain of circus animals, emphasizing elephants. The movie was deemed too harsh a movie for children, but hey, it was true. No wonder!

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This was the super-short abbreviation of the original Dumbo and this year there is less of ameliorations and more hard-hitting truths. More than ever. Tim Burton’s adaptation of the seventy-eight-year-old classic will make you reach for the tissues, and rethink your yearly trip to the circus if you’re stil going to one. And that with plentiful reason. The movie is reportedly a belling to the circus industry to put an end to the painful practices of training the real life jumbos to act, pretend and perform in front of masses. For instance, the pressure from animal right activists have led to discarding the practice of using elephants to entertain by big names of circuses like Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey among others.

A True Story

A BBC program called Attenborough and the Giant Elephant reveals, Baby Jumbo (Dumbo movie is said to be adapted from the real-life case of Jumbo) closely encountered her mother being brutally killed before she was snatched off her tusks. He was hiding before being transported to London zoo. The little elephant reportedly gave rides to children on the zoo all day long, and at night he had violent outbursts that ended up breaking his tusks (even imagining the scene brings a tear in my eyes). After studies, it was found that the little elephant suffered extreme stress on knees and isolation from other elephants led to his violent mood swings. According to Jumbo’s lifelong handler Mathew Scott, the elephant was reportedly fed alcohol to calm down, which supposedly was mentioned in the drunk elephant scene in original Dumbo carton, but not in Burton’s adaptations. In 1882, Jumbo was sold to a New York circus and there later he died tragically after getting hit by a freight train. A sad story, with a tragic ending.

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All over the world, elephants meet the underserved doom at the hands of human-wildlife conflict. Sometimes hit by a train passing through an elephant territory, or shot for ivory, if ever an elephant were to comment on mankind, I wonder what it would say? If there is a hell for animals, surely, humans are the main character. For instance, just recently a picture of an incident took rounds on the internet. The Bishnupur region of West Bengal state in Eastern India hosted a horrifying incident. Angry regional villagers hurled hand-made bombs on a mother elephant and her cub to shoo them because they entered into their territory and ate the crops. The question is, which is whose’ territory?

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In Africa, the land of Giants, elephants till date meet the unwanted visit of poachers. Instead of dying majestically, filthy poison darts took the life of these dignified and beautiful creatures. Asiatic elephants held in captivity are reportedly dwindling in population because their cubs are separated from the mothers (to train the cubs) at a very young age (whereas baby elephants receive the nurture until teenage). Countries like India, Thailand and, Myanmar use the largest land animal as carriages and for field works.  

Like us, elephants (and other animals) are born free. Not a shackle nor bullhook should control their freedom. They are meant to roam the wild, not perform in a circus in the locality. However, all hopes may not be over yet. For example, New York City in 2017 reportedly banned elephant performances.  Films like Dumbo are trying to implant the realization of the pain elephants receive, to children. Avoid paying to anything that involves harm and torture to an elephant, like a ride. The truth may be dark and intolerable to animal lovers and vegans but let’s face it. Maybe then we find out a way. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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Debayan Paul

Digital Writer | West Bengal, India | [email protected]


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