Remake a Film Out of You

Is Disney going too far with live-action adaptations?

Illustrator: Sophie Stephens

Illustrator: Sophie Stephens

With the recent success of live-action adaptations of their previous works—such as “Cinderella,” “The Jungle Book,” and “Beauty and the Beast”—Disney is just getting started with its newest film trend of adapting its animated films into live-action movies. “Mulan,” “The Lion King,” “Aladdin,” and “Peter Pan” are but four of the 21 live-action adaptations set to film in the next couple of years. Considering how successful the past adaptations were, it’s no surprise Disney is going about this new series of films. In short, they sell hard. However, is there any sort of artistic merit in remaking these animated classics?

Being honest, the artistic merit of these live-action adaptations is minimal at best. Sometimes remakes are necessary in order to update a dated piece of media, but it often comes at the cost of originality. This was evident in the Beauty and the Beast adaptation, which, aside from minor changes, follows the original source material to a T. While the remake has received mixed to positive reactions from critics and audiences, it doesn’t hold a candle to the original source material, which is still beloved by people old and young, and is still regarded as a classic. There are a couple of exceptions of course. “Pete’s Dragon” was a pretty forgettable movie from Disney’s early days, so a remake with updated technology is rather welcome. The same could go for lesser-known Disney movies such as “The Sword and the Stone” or “James and the Giant Peach,” both of which are getting the remake treatment. However, most of these other pitched adaptations could easily fall into obscurity after the initial success. Who would remember the “Mulan” remake when compared to the original, animated movie with charming characters, memorable songs, and gorgeous animation? Same goes for “The Lion King” or “Dumbo.”

Who would really remember the “Mulan” remake when compared to the original, animated movie with charming characters, memorable songs, and gorgeous animation?

That’s not to say all of these live-action adaptations are unoriginal. Some of these will take newer spins on Disney classics or focus on beloved characters from the films, such as a film centered on Peter Pan’s fairy companion, Tinkerbell. Possibly the most interesting of these is a Winnie the Pooh movie centered on a grown-up Christopher Robin returning to the Hundred Acre Wood, a concept guaranteed to pull at heart strings. However, some of these films run up to the line of being questionable. I love Robin Williams’ Genie from “Aladdin” as much as the next guy, but he worked much better as a supporting character than he would as the main protagonist. Yet, there are talks of an “Aladdin” prequel called Genies focusing on the Genie’s backstory. That’s not even mentioning other oddball films, such as one based on Snow White’s sister, Rose Red and another based on….Chernabog? The demon from the Night on Bald Mountain segment from “Fantasia”? Really? On one hand, these spinoffs do offer some creativity and expansion on the mythos of the previous films; however, some of these films seem like massive stretches.

Disney is not a company to let a marketable idea, or a chance to franchise a group of films, slip by it so easily (look at the Marvel or Star Wars cinematic universes). However, these live-action adaptations do not seem to be the perfect films to capitalize on. At least Marvel and Star Wars movies offer enough creativity and world building to be marketable and beloved by millions of moviegoers. The live-action adaptations, meanwhile, are neither loved nor hated, but seem to stick in the horrid middle ground of being digestible and agreeable, but also forgettable. Also, with 21 of these movies planned in the near future, they may quickly go into the cash-grab movie mold much in the same way as the slew of direct-to-DVD Disney sequels. To be fair, they may not turn out as bad as some of those sequels, but they have just as much soullessness. Disney prides itself on heartfelt, joyful, and original movies that transcend time to become classics. Even today, Disney is still on a roll with movies like “Frozen,” “Zootopia,” and “Moana” that are beloved, and guaranteed to become Disney classics. The creative spark behind the company is still going. If these live-action adaptations are enough to keep the money ball rolling, then so be it. But with Disney pumping out to-be classic movies, the need to recreate its previous films seems a little redundant at this point. Sorry Disney, but I’ll stick with the classics for now.