The Problem With Disney's Live-Action Remakes

Yesterday, I discussed why a Xena remake should be happening. Today, I'm going to tell you why Disney's recent slew of remakes should not be happening. Does it sound hypocritical? There's a big difference between an ongoing series and a feature-length work of art expanded from a two-page fairy tale. Disney animated films are timeless classics that should not be messed around with. Beginning with the fairest of them all, Disney has revolutionized the way that we see fairy tales, giving us a streamlined look, voice, and personality for each princess. They are so good at creating modernized versions of classic stories that stay true to the heart of each tale. Why, then, do they find it necessary to give us watered-down clones of their classic masterpieces?

The answer, like most things with Disney, is money. These remakes are just an extension of the Disney cheapquels that Michael Eisner put out in the '90s. Beginning in 1994 with Return of Jafar, Eisner soon realized that Disney could profit immensely from half-baked productions based on films that they had put a lot of money and effort into. This began the sequel era, which lasted for over a decade. In my personal opinion, the only good thing to come from this era was Cinderella III: A Twist in Time, as referenced in my "Cinderella" post. I hesitate to even count that with the other cheapquels since it was developed from a pre-existing show called "Twice Charmed" from Disney Cruise Lines. This stage show clearly had a lot more work put into it than the writing teams behind the cheapquels, which were made from ideas that were less thought-out than most fan fiction stories.

The sequel era had barely come to a close when Disney began announcing live-action remakes of the vast majority of their beloved animated classics. The remake era technically began in 2014 with Maleficent, but this was more of an experimental film and not quite a direct translation of Disney's 1959 animated classic, Sleeping Beauty. To be quite honest, I thought Maleficent was the only remake so far that had any sort of inspiration behind it instead of just being a quick cash grab. With a screenplay by Linda Woolverton, who penned one of the greatest animated movies of all time, Maleficent was in pretty good hands. It did exactly what the voice over narration at the beginning said it would do, telling an old story anew. It showed us a gorgeously whimsical part of Sleeping Beauty's world and answered a lot of questions in the back of people's minds, such as why Maleficent hated King Stephan and his family so much and why she didn't have wings even though she was a fairy. I can understand why some hardcore fans may have seen as a betrayal, though, since it did make some major changes to the original story and turned some beloved characters such as Prince Phillip and the three good fairies into losers so Maleficent could transition from villain to hero.

Despite Angelina Jolie's killer performance as the wicked fairy turned good, Maleficent's mixed reviews made Disney realize it wasn't worth taking more risks with experimental films, so they started making live-action movies that were direct translations from their animated counterparts. In 2015, they released Cinderella, which was based heavily its sister movie from 1950. This one, however, was not a musical and showed us a little of Cinderella's mom and some more of the nameless price, now called Kit. Really? Kit was the best name you could come up with? I guess it beats Charming. That was all well and good, but for the most part, the movie was unoriginal and uninspired. I don't even think I gave it the time of day in my "Cinderella" post. There just wasn't anything in it that was so revolutionary that it warranted yet another "Cinderella" movie to be made. It did pretty well in the box office, though, because unlike Maleficent, it was safe. Everyone knew what to expect, and they got exactly what they paid for. This was the beginning of the end for Disney's creative team as far as live-action movies go.

Continuing the topic of uninspired remakes, Beauty and the Beast came out earlier this year. It was certainly not a tale as old as time as much it was as an easy cash grab for the studio. If you disagree, just look at how willing they were to change the script and costumes at Emma Waton's request just so they could have some star power as a key selling point. Not on that, but the star they picked could not even sing even though the movie is a darn musical! None of that mattered because Emma Watson fans and fans of the original movie would be buying tickets regardless, even if Belle's iconic ballgown looked like a yellow prom dress from a thrift shop. Thus, we can now see the problem with Disney's live-action remakes. Even my husband admitted he might have liked the new Beauty and the Beast if he had not seen the mind-blowingly amazing work of art from 1991. When you've already achieved perfection, you will never be able to duplicate it, try as you may, so it's best to just move on.

Now, Disney was originally planning to make their live-action Aladdin movie a bit more inspired by doing a prequel called Genies, about the untold backstory of everyone's favorite blue genie. Unfortunately, this project seems to have disappeared as mysteriously as Genie in his lamp, since Disney recently announced their new cast for a more traditional live-action remake of the animated classic. Perhaps, like Maleficent, they felt that Genies would be too risky than it would be to just do what they already know will sell. Also on the horizon are a live-action Little Mermaid movie, a live-action Lion King (which really just sounds like glorified CGI), and a live-action Mulan, among others. It is too early in these productions to know what to expect from these, but prospects are not looking good based on recent observations.

Everyone knows that the Disney corporation is the master of retelling old stories. What happens when they run out of older stories and start retelling their own? We get unoriginal uninspired cash grabs that make a mockery of the art and creativity behind the originals. Just when Disney had hope for more original content by slowing down on their endless list of sequels, we now have an endless list of remakes to look forward to. It's a shame that they've lost track of their vision over the years and can't stick to doing what they do best.


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