The latest film to earn the distinction of being #1 at the box office and universally disliked is Dumbo, from Disney, the studio that’s usually responsible for highly successful movies that everybody hates. How did this happen? Well, we snuck into the Disney offices a few years ago and planted a microphone in the giant urn of cocaine that sits on the conference table, so we’re able to bring you an exclusive transcript of that meeting.
The Pitch Meeting for Dumbo
EHREN KRUGER: Good afternoon, gentlemen! Thanks for seeing me. My name is Ehren Kruger.
DISNEY EXEC #1: Oh, we know who you are, sir!
DISNEY EXEC #2: You’re Freddy Krueger’s brother.
DISNEY EXEC #3: No, dummy, he’s the acclaimed screenwriter responsible for such gems as Scream 3, Reindeer Games, and three Transformers movies.
DISNEY EXEC #2: Oh THAT Ehren Kruger! Of course! We’re big fans of your work.
EHREN KRUGER: Thank you.
DISNEY EXEC #3: I was skeptical before, but your three Transformers screenplays really made me believe that it was possible for someone to write three Transformers screenplays.
EHREN KRUGER: That’s very kind of you.
DISNEY EXEC #1: So what have you got for us today? We can’t help you if it’s another Transformers. We don’t own Paramount … yet.
(All laugh evilly.)
EHREN KRUGER: No, it’s something just for you. You know this new trend of making live-action versions of classic animated films?
DISNEY EXEC #2: Of course! They’ve been universally beloved by audiences and critics alike.
EHREN KRUGER: And you know how people have been clamoring for sadder, drearier children’s movies?
DISNEY EXEC #1: Yes! Families are tired of being uplifted and amused when they go to the theater.
DISNEY EXEC #2: Who wants to spend all that money to take the kids to a movie only to be entertained by a magical story and vibrant colors?
DISNEY EXEC #3: If people wanted to feel GOOD they’d stay home and watch pornography, like the rest of us.
EHREN KRUGER: Exactly. So what’s the most depressing Disney film?
DISNEY EXEC #1: Ooh, tough question. I’d have to go with Bambi.
DISNEY EXEC #2: Yeah, that’s a sad one.
DISNEY EXEC #1: Brings me to tears every time.
DISNEY EXEC #2: Imagine being a boy named Bambi!
DISNEY EXEC #1: So sad.
EHREN KRUGER: Bambi‘s rough, but I’ve got another one in mind.
DISNEY EXEC #1: Please don’t say Song of the South. The world’s not ready for a remake of that.
DISNEY EXEC #2: We’re not racist enough yet.
DISNEY EXEC #3: Give it a couple years.
EHREN KRUGER: It’s not that. It’s Dumbo.
DISNEY EXEC #2: Dumbo! Great choice.
DISNEY EXEC #3: Very sad when his mother turns out to be a psycho and has to go to prison.
EHREN KRUGER: That’s not–
DISNEY EXEC #1: Your timing is excellent. Separating babies from their mothers is very trendy right now.
DISNEY EXEC #2: So are cruel nicknames!
DISNEY EXEC #3: Dumbo is the movie America needs.
EHREN KRUGER: I’m glad you agree.
DISNEY EXEC #1: But isn’t that movie really short and efficiently told? How would you bloat you out to two hours?
EHREN KRUGER: Easy — the first half will be a retelling of the original story, and then we’ll tack on a sequel where Dumbo becomes a slave at an amusement park where the owner tries to kill his mother.
DISNEY EXEC #1: Wow!
DISNEY EXEC #2: You found Walt’s original notes??
DISNEY EXEC #3: It’s about time that lifelong criminal Mrs. Jumbo got the death penalty!
DISNEY EXEC #1: What about the little mouse who gives Dumbo pep talks and lies to him about magic feathers? That character might be too cute for a dour, joyless reboot.
EHREN KRUGER: Oh, I agree. That’s why there are no talking animals in this version. Instead of a mouse we’ll have Dumbo manipulated by two expressionless children with a dead mother and maimed father.
DISNEY EXEC #1: Perfect.
DISNEY EXEC #2: Walt’s one regret was that his animated films didn’t feature enough characters with missing limbs.
EHREN KRUGER: I want the whole thing to be realistic. No talking animals, and everyone is on the verge of tears all the time because World War I just ended. And when the circus audience first sees Dumbo, I want them to react with unbridled fury and disgust.
DISNEY EXEC #1: Yes! Just like people do when they see adorably awkward baby animals!
DISNEY EXEC #2: Nothing enrages me more than videos of cute puppies tripping over their own feet.
DISNEY EXEC #3: Who do those little bastards think they are?!
EHREN KRUGER: Now, obviously we can’t have racist crows in this version.
DISNEY EXEC #3: Right. No talking animals.
DISNEY EXEC #1: I’m concerned about the circus, too. Now that everybody’s “woke” and “concerned about animal safety,” we’ll get criticized if we make a movie where the circus seems fun for people or good for animals.
EHREN KRUGER: I’m way ahead of you. First, we make sure there’s not a moment where the circus ever seems entertaining or even pleasant. Nothing but drab colors, unfunny clowns, and general misery, with all the circus employees living in constant fear of being unemployed.
DISNEY EXEC #1: Good, good.
EHREN KRUGER: And in the end, after Dumbo has been hailed as a hero for saving the circus, his human friends will realize that circuses are abusive and release Dumbo and his mother into the wild, and the circus he saved will shut down.
DISNEY EXEC #1: That’s a great ending!
DISNEY EXEC #2: People, especially children, love movies where the entire plot is negated by performative virtue-signaling in the last 10 minutes.
DISNEY EXEC #3: “The thing you love is bad and you should feel bad for loving it” is the theme of countless popular children’s films.
DISNEY EXEC #1: Tell us more about how depressing it is. You said the kids’ mother is dead?
EHREN KRUGER: Yes, she died of the flu.
DISNEY EXEC #1: When they were very young?
EHREN KRUGER: No, last year, while her husband was off losing his arm in the war.
DISNEY EXEC #1: So everyone’s grief is still fresh.
EHREN KRUGER: Always just under the surface.
DISNEY EXEC #1: Fantastic.
DISNEY EXEC #2: And the dad lost his arm. So that means he can’t work for the circus anymore, right?
EHREN KRUGER: No, he still does. The arm thing … doesn’t really affect the story.
DISNEY EXEC #2: Then why did you write him to be missing an arm?
EHREN KRUGER: Well, I have a director tentatively lined up, and that was his request. He doesn’t like to make a movie unless there’s a character with an unusual physical feature, and he didn’t think Dumbo’s big ears were sad enough.
DISNEY EXEC #1: You got Tim Burton! Nice!
DISNEY EXEC #2: Tim Burton… I guess that means we get Helena Bonham Carter, too, since he can’t go anywhere without her.
EHREN KRUGER: No! Not anymore! She found the second half of the amulet and broke the curse!
DISNEY EXEC #2: Good for her.
DISNEY EXEC #1: I say we green-light this.
DISNEY EXEC #2: Me too. We’re rushing a few other live-action remakes into production, and I’m thinking this one can come out first to cushion the blow before the other ones REALLY suck.
DISNEY EXEC #3: Speaking of which, we still haven’t chosen a director for Aladdin. Hey Ehren, want to help us decide?
EHREN KRUGER: Uh, sure.
DISNEY EXEC #3: Great. Just close your eyes and throw this dart.