The Problem with Disney Remakes

Blake Blanchard, Staff

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With the recent trailer for Disney’s Aladdin remake, the question of why these remakes of beloved classics are needed has arisen. The most striking part of this trailer is the reveal of Genie, played by Will Smith, that can leave a bad taste in the mouth. This is what lead me to the conclusion of why I am not a big fan of these live-action remakes. In the attempt of creating a photorealistic version of these fantastical tales, things that are fine in animation become lost in translation: For example, Chip, the teapot in Beauty and the Beast (2017), is a just teapot with a face printed on the side, compared to having some actual facial features in the original, such as a defined mouth and eyes. The inherent flaw with depicting these fantastical elements in live-action form is that you are reasonably constrained by reality. On what you are able to suspend your disbelief in animation, you cannot do the same in reality. Another remake on the horizon, The Lion King, is not quite live-action but, instead, is photorealistic animation, defeating the purpose of making an animated movie in live-action by reanimating it.


The other problem with these remakes is that they either tell the same story or are of over-popularized films. While some of these remakes such as Maleficent (2014), a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, shares some plot elements with the original, but does involve a change of characters and plot enough to be distinctly different. However, the more recent lineup of remakes seem to be direct remakes of each plot. Movies such as Beauty and the Beast (2017) are effectively the same film as the 1991 original, only adding some new bits of backstory for some characters, along with clearing up some minor plot holes about the disappearance of the Beast’s castle. This year, we are getting remakes of both Aladdin and The Lion King. From the promotional material available, it seems as though they will follow the Beauty and the Beast method of remakes, where it is simply a retelling of events that we have already seen. Has a company as large and varied as Disney become so creatively bankrupt that they have resorted to retreading old ground?


One may wonder why these films are being made if they are just trying to recapture the magic of our beloved classics. That can be easily answered from the corporate perspective of Disney: These movies make a lot of money. 2016’s The Jungle Book made just under $1 billion in worldwide box office revenue, while 2017’s Beauty and the Beast made over $1.2 billion, and each of these films had a budget just under $200 million. Taking this into account, from the perspective of Disney, these ventures are a safe way to, in essence, print money.