The Disney Films That Never Were: DUMBO II - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The Disney Films That Never Were: DUMBO II

When we didn't see an elephant fly.

Released in October 1941, Dumbo was Walt Disney Production's most financially successful film of that decade, despite it's arrival during World War II. The film cost $950,000 (equivalent to $16,510,000 in 2020) to produce. For perspective that's half the cost of Snow White, and about a third of the cost of Pinocchio and Fantasia. Dumbo eventually grossed roughly more than $1.3 million (equivalent to $27,810,000 in 2020) during its original theatrical release in the United States alone, and when you take into account overseas sales, multiple theatrical re-releases, television rights and the many home media versions, Dumbo has certainly proved to be one of the most profitable Disney features.

One of those home media releases, the 2001 60th Anniversary Edition, included a sneak peek behind the scenes for the production of a sequel. Titled, simply, Dumbo II...

Whilst there was no release date, it was clear that much work had been done on Dumbo II. The sneak peak (above) includes sketches, storyboard ideas, and many soundbites from the various creative team assigned to the project. There is talk of character development, with Timothy Q Mouse returning, alongside several new characters; twin bears Claude and Lolly who leave chaos everywhere they go, Dot the curious zebra, Godfrey the hippo who is older and wants to do things for himself, and Penny the adventurous ostrich. The animals and their various characteristics were metaphors for the different stages of childhood.

Dumbo II would be set the day after the first film ended, and would see Dumbo and his new friends getting separated from the rest of the circus as they wonder into the big city. Robert C. Ramirez ( who had previously directed Joseph: King of Dreams) was to direct the sequel, which would also explain what happened to Dumbo's father, Mr. Jumbo.

The intention was for Dumbo II to be a direct-to-video sequel, receiving the same treatment as many other Disney classics. The driving force behind this had been Sharon Morrill, the long-time president of DisneyToon Studios. From Belle's Magical World, Lady And The Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure, Pocahontas II: Journey To The New World, The Little Mermaid II: Return To The Sea and so many more, Morrill had made the company billions of dollars over the previous decade with the many direct-to-video releases. But not everyone was a fan, feeling that Disney were often strip-mining their own creative legacy with these new, modernised takes on Disney Classics. Still, Dumbo II seemed destined to happen and the project was only paused when in 2002 the computer-animated test footage for the film was found to be lackluster.

In 2005, the project was placed back into active production with an intended 2007 release date. Not only that, work began on storyboarding a Dumbo III direct-to-video movie for a later date. But in January 2006, when Disney purchased Pixar, John Lasseter was made Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios and he very quickly made it clear that he wasn't a big fan of Morrill's work. To be specific, he felt that the steady stream of cheaply made video premieres that DisneyToon Studios had produced had severely undercut the perceived value of the full-blown animated features that Disney were producing.

So Lasseter cancelled everything that was in development (bar a couple of features that had gone too far through production), including The Aristocats 2, Chicken Little 2: The Ugly Duckling Story, Meet the Robinsons 2: First Date, and Dumbo II.

And we never saw an elephant fly.

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