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June 13, 2018 at 10:30 AM EDT

Colin Farrell usually gravitates towards complex roles in dark, gritty films, such as the hitman Ray in bloody black comedy In Bruges or the ill-fated Corporal McBurney in last year’s seductive The Beguiled, but when he came across the chance to enter the world of Disney for Tim Burton’s live-action Dumbo, he was elated.

“Honestly, I was like a child in a sweet shop, I really was, I was so giddy,” the actor told EW.

“I had this sustained excitement during the whole thing because the sets we were working on were extraordinary, the story was so sweet, Tim was such a dream, the cast was so lovely.” Plus, he quipped, “it’s also nice to do something that my children can see.”

Jay Maidment/Disney

Farrell, 42, plays Holt Farrier, seen above in an exclusive first look with Eva Green, who plays aerial acrobat Colette Marchant. Holt is a former horse showman who returns from World War I a widower and having lost an arm, coming home to his two children and a circus on the verge of financial ruin, run by Max Medici (Danny DeVito).

“What once was my home and a place where I was incredibly comfortable, is now a place that I feel very estranged from,” Farrell said.

The story of Dumbo, a baby elephant born with abnormally large ears who is separated from his mother and shunned by other elephants, serves as a reminder of the importance of “inclusion, acceptance, kindness, and support,” Farrell explained. When Dumbo is introduced to the circus audience and his large ears break free of the ties holding them back, as seen in the image below, the crowd boos him.

Disney

“It’s kind of a very aggressive moment, pure social bullying if you will,” Farrell said. But the adorable baby elephant’s big ears enable him to fly, thus making him a sensation that draws the attention of V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), the owner of a successful attraction called Dreamland, where Dumbo stars alongside Colette. But Dreamland is not all it seems, as Holt discovers.

See the first teaser trailer for the film at the top of this post. Dumbo will soar into theaters on March 29, 2019.

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