The plethora of Disney remakes is beating a dead horse
Instead of creating new and original films with new characters and storylines, Disney has recently chosen to play it safe by either recreating its own classic stories or producing unnecessary sequels. Whether it be Aladdin, Disenchanted, Mary Poppins Returns, or Mulan, the long list of Disney remakes has resulted in criticisms of beating a proverbial “dead horse” and have contributed to a growing frustration of tainting what people loved about the originals.
The conversation around live action remakes was revived recently after Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, announced plans to create a live action remake of Moana, less than 10 years after the computer-animated, musical, and action film was released in 2016. Twitter was up in arms about the announcement, criticizing Disney for their lack of originality and borderline laziness.
“It’s pretty depressing that animation is literally the reason Disney even exists yet they contribute to its disrespect at every given opportunity,” said Twitter user Okiro (@TheFirstOkiro). “Moana came out in 2016. It’s not even a decade old yet. A live action remake isn’t just disrespectful, it’s pointless.”
The majority of Disney’s live action remakes have been considered flops, some financially and many critically. Both Mulan and Cruella suffered the effects of the ongoing pandemic, forcing Disney+ subscribers to pay to lease the film for $30 on the platform on top of the base subscription price. Prior to that, several other examples reveal that simply remaking animated films doesn’t guarantee critical success. Of the19 Disney live action remakes, only nine of them are rated higher than 60 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, with films like Pinocchio, Maleficent, 101 Dalmatians, Dumbo, and Aladdin all falling under the “rotten” scale. However, there hasn’t been an undeniable financial box-office disaster yet, so there’s no reason to believe that the Disney remake is going away anytime soon.
This focus on remakes marks a missed opportunity for the creation of new stories and animation styles. By relying too heavily on remakes, Disney may miss out on chances to innovate and push the boundaries of storytelling in new and dramatic ways, especially through animation. Tangled and Encanto, for example, have been praised for being Disney’s first major ventures into 3D-hair-animation, as a result of decades of design and innovation. According to Insider, Encanto distinguished itself as the first Disney animated film to depict the full range of hair textures, from 1A to 4C. The focus on switching to live action remakes or sequels may diminish or withdraw efforts to create something new, pioneering, and interesting.
The lack of originality seems to stem from Disney’s strategy of risk-aversion, at the cost of decline in audience interest and a loss of the magic that made the original films so esteemed. Nostalgia-bait films have quickly become a not-so-secret recipe for success in Hollywood in the past 10 years. With popular releases like the Marvel Universe and the revitalization of the Star Wars sequels being culprits of this fanservice practice. Why create something new when you can build off of an already existing fanbase or audience and guarantee a respectable financial return?
With the live action Peter Pan & Wendy movie set for release this April, and the live action Little Mermaid film set for May, only time will tell if the growing dissatisfaction amongst audiences will lead to any substantial change in Disney’s marketing and production behaviours in the future.