Neils Skellig is the secondary antagonist in the 2019 remake of Dumbo. A hunter hailing from South Africa, he is summoned by V.A. Vandevere to take care of a certain mother elephant who he fears will distract Dumbo from performing at his very best.
Neils is Vandevere's right-hand man. Throughout his duty, he follows Vandevere wherever he leads him to, working for the corrupt company Vandevere Enterprises. Just like Vandevere, he thinks Mrs. Jumbo is a distraction to Dumbo during performance, much to Vandevere's corrupt behavior. He also seems to have little morality to most others, man or beast. An example of this was when Neils made Holt to keep Dumbo on his good side after Holt compliment on Neils' (likely elephant) skin shoes.
Behind the scenes
Joseph Gatt was enlisted to play Neils, but he didn't want to overdo the performance. "It would be very easy to play him that way," he says. "That's not my personal style of how I like to work, and I was really pleased when I met Tim Burton and one of the first things he said to me was, 'You know, you’re going to be frightening enough just by doing nothing, by being.' I said, 'Oh. I think that's a compliment.' So, everything is just played very real, very down to earth."
Role in the film
Neils Skellig is introduced as Vandevere's right hand man alongside Colette Marchant. As the circus travels to Arkansas, he tells Holt Farrier to take care of Dumbo on his good side (after the handler complimented his shoes that may be made of elephant hide) just as he leaves the stable. Later during an act with Dumbo and Colette, he notices that Dumbo escaped into the Nightmare Island attraction to find Mrs. Jumbo much to his and Vandevere's worry. As he reunites with her, Neils, Vandevere, and his guards take him away because she is considered a distraction to him much to Holt's protests.
Later during a plan to take Mrs. Jumbo away, Neil sends the guards to do so as the circus performers use their acts to distract the dangerous animals, disable the lights, and open the gates. Neil sends the guards to undo those actions while he secures the back door of the transport vehicle just as he does not notice the performers taking over it while noticing two of the creatures, Reptilla and Werewolf, going mad as he notices them taking over it.
At Vandevere's office, he and Neils confront Max Medici, urging him to find the missing troupe just as they take him to the backstage area as he gazes upon Holt's children, Joe and Milly. Later when Dreamland is being destroyed, Neils corners and tries to arrest them, but Holt arrives to the rescue on his horse and ties him to it, much to his angry protests in defeat just as Holt, Joe, and Milly and manage to escape from the tent with help from Dumbo. It is unknown what happened to Neils afterwards.
- Neils' last name, "Skellig", is possibly derived from Jack Skellington, a character from The Nightmare Before Christmas, another film Tim Burton worked on.