Disney are riding high on the back of mega successful films that have easily sailed past the $1 billion worldwide mark at the worldwide box office; this is including the acquisition of LucasFilms Ltd. in 2012 leading to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) which crossed over $2 billion worldwide at the worldwide box office. In addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe where each film keeps raking in the money; Disney have now hit the jackpot by giving beloved animated classics the live action treatment.
Most recently Beauty and the Beast (2017) reached the $1 billion worldwide milestone, meaning it is now the highest grossing musical of all time. Alice in Wonderland (2010) was the first Disney live action remake to reach that milestone and since then each remake has made a lot of money. So why write an article stating that Disney need to consider these 3 points to make the remakes work? Because it’s starting to feel like we’re giving critics of remakes a reason to hate them since Disney are playing it safe and not taking any risks.
1. Take Risks
Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Maleficient (2014) received mixed reviews but made a lot of money for Disney. It could be argued that the success of these two remakes is down to the fact that Disney changed up the well known story lines and brought something fresh and unique to the table.
Alice in Wonderland cerated Alice into a warrior and injected a bit more action and adventure into the mix, meaning that it wasn’t trying to stomp over the 1951 animated classic but be set apart. Maleficent switched up the tale of Sleeping Beauty (1959) and allowed audiences to see a more complex and three dimensional character in Maleficent, it helped having Oscar winning actress Angelina Jolie bring depth to the eponymous character.
The danger Disney are in at the minute is with recent box office smash hit Beauty and the Beast they can see that playing it safe works for them. There have been rumours regarding Mulan where they might not use the songs from the 1998 animation and people thought this was a bad idea; my response to them is, “why don’t you want Disney to bring a fresh perspective to a beloved animation?” If you make the remakes too similar too the animations people will instantly compare the two when the remakes should represent the fact that they honour the animations whilst bringing their own spin on a well known tale.
(Since the rumours of Mulan featuring no songs emerged it has since been claimed that there will in fact be music….let’s hope it’s not a shot for shot take of the original like how they remade Beauty and the Beast)
2. Cast Directors With Diverse Styles
Many would argue that Alice in Wonderland isn’t Tim Burton’s strongest work, yet no one deny the auteurship of Oscar nominee Tim Burton. His visual style is what sets him apart and adding in a dash of the gothic nature doesn’t hurt in making a well known tale your own.
Even Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh directing Cinderella (2015) was a brilliant move, a director of his gravitas managing to stay true to what we loved about the original whilst making tweaks and managing to stand alongside the animated classic. Unlike Beauty and the Beast where it was a shot for shot remake (apart from those boring original songs everyone has probably forgotten about).
It’s exciting news to hear Niki Caro (Whale Rider – 2002) has been announced to direct the live action adaptation of Mulan (which will be released in November 2018). Bring a female director on board to this tale of an empowering heroine is a great move on Disney, however I’m hoping that she will take risks and make it an exciting action adventure ride that it could potentially be.
Bill Condon comes from a musical background so fair enough he played to his strengths with the Beauty and the Beast live action remake, however I hope that Disney allow each director to play to their strengths so all the remakes don’t feel similar or uninspired.
3. Know Which Animations To Give The Live Action Treatment
I am not against remakes/sequels/reboots at all, but only if there is a need or a way to bring it back in a new and exciting way. With Alice in Wonderland, Maleficient and even Cinderella they all came back more fleshed out and gave reason for audiences to watch them again in a new format.
However this could be dangerous in making Disney throw away aims to create original work and revisit the films that made them who they are today. Just think about it; there are over 50 animations that Disney have made and worryingly there is a growing list of animations being given the live action treatment. Do we really need a Lion King remake? With the 1994 classic still engrained in our minds today with the help of the still popular Broadway/West End show? Dumbo is a classic which is 76 years old and it’s still arguably popular today, can’t we leave it in the past and is there really a demand to see it brought back to the big screen?
Of course all of these points are subjective and everyone will have their own opinion of which animations is deemed worthy of being made into a live action film, however the principal still stands that Disney should be more selective in their animations to remake. This would make the current remakes more impactful and special, now the notion of remaking a beloved Disney animation has lost its shine.
In conclusion, I’m all for a Disney animated live action remake only if there is a need to do so and only if there is a way to make it unique and different to make it worth my while to watch it again. They can’t keep doing what they did with Beauty and the Beast, because in all honesty I wouldn’t bother with the live action again and I’d go straight to the 1991 animated classic. Let’s hope that Disney don’t lose that curious spirit to try new things when giving their own animations the live action treatment: