By now it is clear that Disney are steadily remaking or re-imaging many of their older animated movies in live action format combined as appropriate with CGI. And why not? The original movies have all been successful, but the remakes provide an opportunity to update them, bring them back to cinemas, introduce them to a new audience, and provide new opportunities for merchandising and theme parks. So it was only a matter of time before Dumbo was considered for re-imaging since the original came out in 1941 and is not too far from its 80th birthday! Given his dark and quirky back catalogue, Tim Burton is not at first an obvious director to associate with Disney. But when you consider his success with "Alice in Wonderland" and the Circus setting of Dumbo, it makes perfect sense to get Burton to helm the new Dumbo. Naturally Tim Burton would call on a number of people he had worked with before such as Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito and Eva Green, and no-one was surprised that he looked to Danny Elfman to provide the music given the extent of their previous collaborations.
Many Disney remakes have sought to include at least some of the original songs and Dumbo is no exception. So you will find "Baby Mine" included in the remake along with portions of "Casey Junior" and "Pink Elephants on Parade" which you will also hear on the film score album. However "When I See An Elephant Fly" is not included on the album although it is re-used in the new film. After the short "Logos - Intro" track we go straight into the rhythmic "Train's a Comin'" quite clearly what it says on the tin with nice percussion hits and syncopation, and it's only in the latter half of the track that you realise this is an updated "Casey Junior" before the train slows to a halt. "The Homecoming" is equally busy at first with guitars and some typical Elfmanesque touches, until it also slows and becomes a piece of homely Americana. "Meet the Family" then segues into some further Elfmanisms and you'll recognise similarities to Pee Wee and other past film scores. "Stampede!" is then a mildly grotesque circus waltz before turning more dramatic. Then a simple guitar strumming introduces Sharon Rooney's rendition of "Baby Mine".
Having ably set the scene, Elfman presents "Dumbo's Theme" (hinted at in the Intro) on vibraphone as a gentle loving lullaby which will recur in other forms in the course of the score. After a brief fanfare introduction "Clowns 1" is another short grotesque waltz before the introduction of Michael Keaton's character in the mysterious "Vandevere's Arrival". The middle part of the album takes us through a number of scenes and set pieces with a range of moods. "Dumbo Soars" is suitably soaring on Dumbo's Theme, "Happy Days" is a light calliope circus waltz, and "Goodbye Mrs. Jumbo" is decidedly melancholy. A few tracks later we come to "Pink Elephants on Parade" which is a gift to a composer like Danny Elfman, and his version of the track is everything you would expect. Amidst a number of dramatic tracks "Clowns 2" features comic trombone slides, while "Holt in Action" with its low piano notes evokes similar tracks from Batman. "The Breakout" and "Rescuing the Farriers" are great action tracks taking us towards the movie's climax. "The Final Confrontation" neatly wraps things up and in "Medici Circus - Miracles Can Happen" the circus is back entertaining the public again but with a difference.
To finish off the album we have the Arcade Fire's 50s-style version of "Baby Mine" and two bonus tracks, suites of "Soaring Music" with the Dumbo theme and waltzing "Carnival Music" to complete the mood. While the score isn't a full-on classic Elfmanfest, it is thoroughly well crafted with many moments to enjoy. The Dumbo film score album is available at Amazon.co.uk in the UK, or Amazon.com in the US.