Disney, Where Dreams are Recycled Over and Over again

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Courtesy of Mark Willard

Disney, the home of mickey mouse, princesses, and a ton of soulless remakes.

Roberto Cotlear

Disney has really let these live action movies get out of hand. It is to the point that I do not think the people of Disney have had to critically think about new plots and dynamics for over half a decade. Of course this doesn’t count things like Marvel or Star Wars, just the remakes of their classic library. 

Technically Disney has seventeen remakes of their classic stories, however only four of those movies were made before 2014. It’s fair to say that the movie that started the whole trend was Maleficent. The movie wasn’t exactly a critical success. According to Rotten Tomatoes (a website that compiles many critical and audience reviews to rate movies) the general consensus was that Angelina Jolie’s performance was undercut by a faulty plot and a boring world. However the movie more than quadrupled its budget bringing in 758 million dollars worldwide on a 180 million dollar budget. Like sharks smelling blood, Disney executives smelled profit, and thus, the remakes began. 

Technically speaking, the Disney remakes are not “bad movies.” They are shot well, and most of them have strong acting and decent effects. However, they don’t really have a reason to exist. When a remake is made, ideally it’s because something could be changed, improved or expanded upon. A good example is the Evil Dead remake of 2013, which improved on the movies’s gore with new effects. Some are down right identical like Beauty and the beast (2017) and Lion King (2019), which are the same except for minor changes that don’t really improve or alter the story in any way. Others take the stories in completely different directions like the Alice in Wonderland reboots of 2010 and 2016, as well as the movie that started it all: Maleficent. These three movies aren’t very good, however they all bring something new to the table. Maleficent offers a new perspective on the classic story, Tim Burton brought a new look and tone in the 2010 Alice in Wonderland, and James Bodin created some nice visuals with Through the Looking glass. The movies weren’t that good, but they are respectable for doing something fresh. 

In certain cases, the live action Disney movies can actually be pretty good. A very odd case of this would perhaps be Pete’s Dragon which came out in 2016. The original Pete’s Dragon came out in 1977 and is not exactly a Disney classic. The movie had mixed reviews with one critic from Empire Magazine writing, “Another not very charming but harmless fusion of Animation and good old real life”. The remake on the other hand updated the effects, made the tone more dramatic, scrapped the fairly unpopular songs and overall just made a better movie. As a result, the remake is regarded better than the original by many critics. Pete’s dragon was a good movie and successful remake, if all the movies were like that then remakes would be much more tolerable. However, most simply aren’t like that and some almost as bad as Aladdin (2019).

There was a lot of effort put into the remake of Aladdin, and admittedly the big dance numbers are extraordinary to see. But despite its tremendous efforts, it simply didn’t work. Aladdin had a very special place in people’s hearts and with the tragic death of Robin Williams, remaking the movie wouldn’t have been very good from the start. Throw in a dull performance from the main character, unfunny jokes (especially from the Genie) and a pathetic villain—it was no surprise the movie was as bad it was. 

Disney remakes at this point are becoming forgettable; movies aren’t talked about unless the broad topic of Disney remakes are the center of discussion. Movies such as Dumbo (2019), Lady and the Tramp (2019) and Cinderella (2015) don’t get much attention anymore. Disney movies are greatly loved and above all they are timeless; they can be rewatched generation after generation and be remembered. The new remakes cash in on that timelessness but don’t quite capture it themselves. Even Pete’s Dragon, one of the best remakes, doesn’t get much attention at all.

It’s been five years since the Disney live action trend became popular and it is still going strong. COVID-19 has slowed down movie production, but that hasn’t stopped the live action disney remake train at all. According to Collider.com, there are multiple live action Disney films in the making process as of now. The only one with a semi clear date being Cruella, slated to release next year. Other movies are less certain but a live action The Little Mermaid is said to be in production along with Sword in the stone and Peter Pan (though technically Peter Pan is public domain, he is mostly well known for Disney’s interpretations).  

Disney live action movies need to slow down. They should not completely stop either because there are certain people who enjoy them, and if there are dynamic new ideas for one, then it should be explored; however, releasing two of them a year is getting a little too excessive. What is the point of fixing what is not broken?