With the new ‘Mulan’ to hit Disney Plus in lieu of theatres on September 4th and a live-action ‘Hercules’ recently announced, now’s the perfect time to reflect on the veritable Pandora’s box of live-action Disney remakes that have hit the screen in recent years. Though this phenomenon has its origin in the 1994 blockbuster ‘Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book’ starring Jason Scott Lee, it didn’t start to really take off to the extent that we see now until 2015’s ‘Cinderella.’ Remakes have been churned out at increasingly swift rates, coming to a head in 2019 with the release of four such remakes—’Dumbo,’ ‘Aladdin,’ ‘The Lion King,’ ‘Lady and the Tramp,’ and ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,’ a follow-up to 2014’s ‘Maleficent’.
But hot take: stop.
Disney movies are well-known not only for their beautiful animation, satisfying stories, and, of course, the childhood memories they have the power to invoke, but for the ways in which they combine old stories and new artistic mediums in innovative and imaginative ways. Which the remakes are not. They are at best okay, and more commonly contrived and unoriginal, deliberately tampering with the very elements that made the originals so wonderful. YouTuber and cinema critic Lindsay Ellis put it quite aptly in her refreshingly frank and illuminating review of 2017’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ remake, a comprehensive example of this trend. The film, as she emphasises and I agree with, is offensively useless in its existence in that filmmakers added seemingly calculated responses to pedantic, logic-obsessed viewers smugly pointing out plot holes in the original (“the whole castle was cursed because of the actions of a bratty ten-year-old?? ThAt’S nOt LoGiCaL!!!!”), but also kept elements from the original. Inevitably this clash damaged much of the intended morals of the story.
More attention should be given to developing and releasing new, original content, rather than constantly, cheaply rebranding old favorites to try to capitalize on childhood nostalgia. Let’s hope that we get to see more such original content like the upcoming flicks ‘Soul,’ ‘Raya and the Last Dragon,’ ‘Encanto,’ and ‘Luca,’ rather than more of these pretty messes of nothing.
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