Bibbity Boppity Boooo: Live action Disney movies kill creativity, pander to greed

When it comes to the animated film industry, Walt Disney Studios dominates the market with a long list of classic, award-winning movies. I remember getting up early on weekends when I was little to peruse our collection of VHS tapes under the TV and pop one into the VCR. I’d watch my selection, and if I could, would rewind the tape to watch it again. Those movies hold a special place in my heart because of the nostalgia of VCRs, the memories associated with them, and the quality of the movies.

Disney has decided to capitalize on all of this nostalgia by recreating some of their most popular movies and turning them into live-action films. Though I’m tempted to go into a long history of Disney and live-action movies, here’s a condensed version. Disney has always pushed the boundaries of animation techniques and has fully embraced CGI. Because they can now make traditional animated films look realistic, they are creating live-action versions, with a little bit (or more than a little bit) of CGI thrown into the mix.

These movies tend to fall into two categories: reinterpretations and remakes. Some movies that fall under reinterpretation include Maleficent, Christopher Robin, and Alice in Wonderland. I have no issue with reinterpretations. Though I have not seen all of the movies, I know that their plotlines are vastly different from the originals and are almost independent works.

What I do take issue with are the remakes. Disney has simply recycled the story of the original movie, filled in a couple of plot holes, changed characters’ personalities or circumstances slightly, and added an additional song or two. It demonstrates very little effort on Disney’s part and makes them seem uncreative and lazy.

This is not to say that I don’t like some of the movies. I loved the live-action (though mostly CGI) The Jungle Book and thought the plot and character quality exceeded the original.

 But for the most part, the live-action movies are on-level with the original or worse. Cinderella was mediocre, and it was painful to watch Disney try to keep Ella from marrying the prince after meeting him once. It was as if they realized partway through how difficult it would be plot-wise to have them meet again but tried to squeeze in one more encounter. This sort of thing has happened in all of the remakes. Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin were virtually the same story as the original and don’t stand out.

Disney can’t remake every movie, right? Well, if Wikipedia is accurate, movies in the works include (take a deep breath) Lady and the Tramp, Cruella, Mulan, The Little Mermaid, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Peter Pan, The Sword in the Stone, Pinnochio, Hunchback, and Lilo & Stitch (I didn’t even list sequels to live-action versions of the movies).

Why does Disney keep doing this? From what I can tell, money. By redoing classic movies, Disney already knows they have a winning story with lovable characters and an established fanbase. Just a little bit of tweaking and some CGI, and presto, several hundred thousand dollars domestically alone.

This technique leans heavily on the nostalgia of the original movies. The target audience is not people who have never seen the classics but rather those who have seen them over and over again.

Case in point: in the remake of The Lion King, Timon sings “Be Our Guest” to lure the hyenas instead of the original hula song. Most people I’ve talked to have loved the change, but I hate it because it relies on knowing an outside movie by Disney. It feels too much like self-promotion. Not to mention that it makes no sense how African animals would know anything about a French candelabra’s song.

This system makes Disney look greedy and apathetic. They want the money, but they don’t want to put in the work of coming up with original stories. Whether this is the case or not I cannot say, but that is how it looks from the outside.

The main reason I do not like the remakes is because it puts the originals in a bad light and discredits them. When doing remakes, Disney tries to “fix” the originals. Sure, there are some things that could have been done better in the original movies, but as demonstrated by their popularity, they earned it.

Many of the remade movies were significant in Disney history and in film history, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Regurgitating the same story and then trying to fix it feels hypocritical. The current writers are not the ones who came up with the plot. If they did not put in the work of creating a new story in the first place, who are they to tell the ones who came up with the hit that they can do better?

It all just feels disrespectful.

Disney often used fairy tales or other stories in making their movies, but they told the story in a different medium from the original and significantly changed certain elements (in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Ariel does not turn into sea foam and Prince Eric into sand).

The agonizing thing is that people will keep watching these movies as they come out, which is exactly what Disney wants. I love Disney, but I would much rather watch new movies than see ones I am already familiar with. Perhaps one day they will receive some backlash over this trend, but for now, it seems like Disney will just keep churning out remakes and the public will keep eating them up.