Sammy Nickalls
March 12, 2015 11:48 am

We’ve already discussed at length how ridiculously excited we are about Disney’s pending live-action remakes of our fave cartoon classics. I mean, Emma Watson as Belle in Beauty and the Beast? SWOON.

Well we’re just as pumped for Dumbo . . . for a few reasons. First, Tim Burton is directing, and Dumbo plus Tim Burton sounds like such a weird combination that it might just be pure brilliance. Next, it’s live-action. Get ready for CUTENESS in the form of IRL baby elephants. Third, this is a movie in desperate need of an update. As Flavorwire points out, the film is often cited as one of Disney’s most racist, so we definitely need a new version.

Unfortunately, there’s an issue with this plan. The Dumbo “happy ending” isn’t actually that happy according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals aka PETA. If you recall, the end of the movie has Dumbo and his mom continuing their life of circus performance — and circus performance in this day and age is a big no-no. Lisa Lange, Senior VP of PETA, wrote a letter to Burton imploring him to change the ending to the movie. Lange writes:

“We’re hopeful that in your adaptation of Dumbo, the young elephant and his mother can have a truly happy ending by living out their lives at a sanctuary instead of continuing to be imprisoned and abused in the entertainment industry.”

She also directly conjures up harsh images and realities about how elephants are controlled and abused in circus environments and forced to perform on film sets: “We love the original Dumbo because it tells the story of the heartbreaking abuse that elephants in circuses endure, and we hope you will keep this storyline in the new film. A bullhook is a sharp metal weapon used in circuses to control elephants — and it’s the same tool used by elephant trainers in film and television. And just like in the circus, elephants used in film and television don’t perform because they want to. They perform because they’re afraid that they’ll be beaten if they don’t.” While the reality for animals in Hollywood is MUCH kinder than the reality for animals in circus’, Lange’s words really do make us think. And imagining these elephants forced into horrible situations they don’t want to be a part of is about as sad as this moment in the original Dumbo.

It should be noted that the PETA request is perfectly timed with the Ringling Bros.’ announcement to retire their elephants for good — after years, and years of outcry about how keeping elephants in the circus is cruel. As the Washington Post put it, “the fact that Ringling was able to exploit elephants for this long is a perfect example of how our legal system has failed nonhuman animals.”

As excited as we are about the new movie, we are thankful for organizations like PETA during their darndest to look out for the world’s nonhuman animals. And while it’s still up to Burton what happens to the elephants at the end of the pending film, it would be pretty wonderful if the reworked happy ending was one that was actually really happy for the elephants too.

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