It’s safe to say I am a Disney enthusiast, they are timeless classics that appeal to all ages. But how do people feel about Walt Disney Studios revamping these classics into a live action film? Personally I think it’s a great idea to retell these stories for a modern day audience. However I can see from both sides of the coin.
It could be argued that in 2010 the “Fairy-Tale Adaptation” began with Tim Burton’s billion dollar grossing film Alice in Wonderland. The film was a huge box office hit and the sequel is already being filmed for a release date of 2016, entitled Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass. Whilst the film was met with mixed reviews, it did receive praise for visual style and special effects. This resulted in Academy Award wins for Best Art Direction and Best Costume.
What made this adaptation unique was how it strayed from the traditional take of the Lewis Carol tale, as envisioned in the 1951 animation. Alice would become a warrior in Burton’s adaptation, and it would shake things up for a 21st Century audience. This is why I respect this version and I am excited to see what the followup will entail.
Fast forward to 2014 and Disney releases their twist on their classic animation Sleeping Beauty, with the Angelina Jolie fronted Maleficent. Interestingly enough, people were worried the film would flop because of its darker take on the tale. This film was a risk for Disney, a risk that paid off in full. Maleficent grossed over $758 million at the worldwide box office, which marks Jolie’s biggest commercial hit of her career and became the fourth highest grossing film of 2014. Whilst it was far from perfect, Jolie totally owned her character and allowed the tale to be seen from a different point of view.
Following the success of Maleficent, Cinderella was released in March 2015 and so far has earned more than $340 million at the worldwide box office (and still counting). Interestingly enough, the Kenneth Branagh version has been met with critical praise, for Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent received mixed reviews. Whilst the latter two films mentioned were box office hits, critics were keen to point out that Cinderella remained faithful to the original and yet managed to update it for a modern day audience.
Regardless of it’s critical reception, Disney have obviously tapped into a growing market and have already started planning adaptations of their animations. In March 2017 they will release Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. Disney have recently announced their plans to release a live action version of Mulan (release date TBC). Two versions of The Jungle Book are being released (Disney version being released in 2015 and Warner Brother version being released in 2016) and Winnie the Pooh has been given the green light for a live action make over.
On the other hand, I do see the other point of view where Disney could be accused of lacking originality. People have grown up with these animations, including myself, and have their own connection to them and fear these adaptations may taint them. The great thing about the live action adaptations is that it gives directors creative freedom to go deeper into what the animations explored, without disowning what came before.
Straying away from fairytales, a quote from Jurassic Park is appropriate for this post: “Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Is this true for adapting animations into live action feature films? Whatever the answer is, it seems to be working. Personally, I welcome someone to share a new take on a well known tale.
I loved how even with Universal’s Snow White and the Huntsman, they created a new version for a well known story. I loved Jolie’s take on a classic villain and I’m interested to see what the sequel to Alice in Wonderland (having a 6 year gap in-between both films) has in store. I love Disney animations, but I’m just as excited to see these universally known classics adapted for a modern day audience.