‘Tale as Old as Time’ and Time Again

It has long been stated that there are no new ideas in Hollywood, and Disney seems to have taken this as advice as opposed to criticism. The studio has been releasing remakes over the past few years, including the live action “Cinderella.”

They have since put out live action remakes of “The Jungle Book,” arguably “Sleeping Beauty” through the “Wicked” wannabe “Maleficent” and most recently “Beauty and the Beast.” Since all these ventures are making Disney millions, the movies are going to keep coming. Disney has already announced remakes for “Aladdin,” Mulan” and most bafflingly “The Lion King.”

“The Lion King” bothers me because the movie only provides two awful options. One: film beautiful barren landscapes in Africa and then CGI in a bunch of animals that don’t look they belong there, or two: just shoot it with people, but then you would have to call it “Hamlet.”

I will admit my possible bias here: I love 2-D animation and have been saddened by its disappearance in mainstream films. So the fact that Disney, the biggest studio in animation, has decided that its originals aren’t good enough, bothers me.

Albeit, this likely has more to do with turning a profit opposed to the studio being ashamed of its past successes.

I will also admit that Disney’s two latest animated films were very good: “Zootopia” being a colorful and unique world with some clever social commentary, and “Moana,” a film nice to look at and the music was good.

But it still bothers me that these remakes exist. I’m not opposed to the idea of taking a film that was either weak or had some other problems, but had a really good idea and they want to try again. In fact, I welcome it. Give me another attempt at “Treasure Planet,” for example.

But nearly every movie on Disney’s remake list are its well-known hits, with “The Lion King” at one point being Disney’s highest grossing movie ever and “Beauty and the Beast” being the only animated picture to be nominated for Best Picture.

I have heard the argument that these remakes are attempts to modernize and fix problems in the originals, but honestly, this feels like a cop out. “Cinderella” was a less-defined character in the original, but she was infinitely more proactive and motivated in that version. She becomes more passive and accepting in the remake, and in my opinion less likable. In the new “Beauty and the Beast,” there are fixes to plot holes, but perhaps my own nostalgia is blinding me about the Beast’s age (rose wilts on his twenty-first birthday – “10 years we’ve been rusting” = 11-year-old cursed prince). Fairy tale logic is a fickle thing.

The truth is that this is less about making the company’s movies better through remaking them and more about Disney having a low risk, high reward business strategy.

Every one of these films will make money, and Disney is a business, so this trend makes fiscal sense, but as a consumer, I want Disney to stop backtracking and work forward.

“Zootopia” and “Moana” made plenty of money for the studio – “Zootopia” even picked up an Oscar.

Maybe it is the shameless cash grab that sours me to this trend. If you enjoy them, that’s great, but I want something new, not something I used to own on VHS.

 

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