Welcome to Breaking Geek, a column that just won’t go away, where uber-geek Nick Doll offers commentary, reactions, and theories regarding the most interesting news of the week (or whatever he feels like), using his expansive knowledge of all things geek! Today’s topic: The Pros and Cons of Disney’s Live-Action Remake Focus.
I’m not a fan of Disney’s current live-action game-plan.
I haven’t been from the start of this madness of remaking animated classics from my youth into nearly identical live-action films. For this reason, no, I have not seen any, nor do I plan to see any, though I am told by colleagues at my day job – a movie theater – that at least The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast aren’t even adaptations of the original films, yet nearly scene by scene remakes with a song or two added or subtracted.
With a trailer for Dumbo and teasers for Aladdin and now The Lion King on the interwebs and in theaters, it is clear that Disney’s three live-action remakes set for 2019 look to be more of the same; strict remakes with very little adjustment. The teasers themselves are recreations of famous scenes for the movies, and if The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast are any indication – why wouldn’t it be, both movies were huge successes – we’re looking at more “remakes” and not “reimaginings” or adaptations of the original films.
I set out to completely bash this live-action plan Disney is sinking too much money into, but instead today on Breaking Geek we will be looking at the pros and cons of Disney’s live-action strategy.
Pro: Loads of Money
So far, these have been an obvious win for Disney. Like I said, both The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast were huge hits! Not Star Wars or Avengers huge, but still pretty yuuuuge.
I was taught specifically about reboots and remakes as my time as an intern at Warner Bros. I was told the second reason studios love them, in addition to audiences recognizing the brand immediately as something they enjoyed…
…It’s free for Disney. They own these properties, so they don’t need to buy new ones. A Wrinkle In Time was an option Disney was paying for, they don’t pay shit to get the rights to The Lion King, Aladdin, or Dumbo. The legwork has already been done on the original animated film.
Audiences are hungry for that nostalgia, and Disney barely even needs to rewrite the old scripts. Low investment, high profits!
Con: Less Original Films (Including Adaptations of NEW Properties)
The more of these Disney makes, the less new franchises we will see like A Wrinkle in Time, Artemis Fowl, Jungle Cruise (which is based off a ride, but so was Pirates of the Caribbean), etc. But…
Pro: Disney’s Recent Live-Action Films Have Sucked and Bombed
… Is that really a bad thing? Disney is not so great at creating new franchises, even using their rides as inspiration.
Pirates of the Caribbean was a hit, and as a result, we are still choking on crappy sequels. And now they may reboot it… sigh.
Otherwise, looking back at the last ten years, it has been a rocky path for Disney to launch a live-action franchise. Marvel, Pixar, and Disney Animation have been creating new stories nearly every year – though I would argue they are too obsessed with sequels themselves – but let’s look at a few of Disney’s attempts…
Lone Ranger. John Carter. A Wrinkle in Time. That Nutcracker movie from just a few weeks ago. Those are the first that come to mind. Not great films, and flops at the box office.
But, if Disney spends most of their live-action money on these remakes, there is no chance for a new franchise to break-out unless it is made. If Jungle Cruise and Artemis Fowl crash and burn, maybe Disney will commit themselves fully to these silly live-action remakes. The death of the original story, and even adaptations like A Wrinkle in Time.
Con: I’ve Seen These Movies Already!
That’s my personal complaint and why I have yet to see any of these films. I’ve seen them! They were better as cartoons. I’d watch them if there was more adaptation going on and less scene by scene remakes with just a few tweaks – again, as confirmed by people who have seen them.
I really can’t speak to their quality, but I’m not a fan of sitting down and watching a movie I’ve seen before, unless it is an ultimate favorite like Avengers: Infinity War or Mission: Impossible – Fallout. I loved these Disney classics as a kid, sure, but I’d rather see more original Disney content.
It’s not even about the effort of going to a theater. Even when they pop up on Netflix or eventually Disney+, I just don’t need to spend 2 hours watching Aladdin or The Lion King again. In fact, I’d rather watch the original animated films for some real nostalgia.
Pro: A Visual Update for Kids Who Missed The ‘90s And Expect CG
Though these movies make gangbusters for adults who grew up in the ‘90s, a lot of them are now taking their children to movies they loved when they were young.
To be fair, a classic animated film like The Lion King probably isn’t as appealing as seeing realistic CG animals for the kids of today. They grew up on CG animation galore, from Pixar to the current efforts of Disney Animation with Frozen, Zootopia, and Wreck-It Ralph… and even other studios like Illumination, Warner Bros. Animation, etc.
Maybe kids are film snobs and their current tastes in the technology creating these films is restricted to modern methods. So, maybe the best way to get them to sit through the stories we love is to take them to a live-action/CG blend that appears more modern to them.
Con: The Lion King Isn’t Even Live-Action!
Okay, so last week’s The Lion King trailer is the best I’ve seen for one of these “live-action” remakes. But… WHAT IS LIVE-ACTION ABOUT IT?
CG animals on sometimes real backdrops, but mostly CG backdrops because that mountain is also created in a computer? Is it a live-action remake at all? Or just a remake?
There are no human actors in it, which is the main difference between Lion King and the same director’s Jungle Book.
Again, I guess kids would rather see realistic 3D modeled lions instead of hand-drawn animation. But look at images from that trailer side-by-side with the original film! The animated Simba cub is far more adorable than the realistic looking one. Just sayin’!
Pro: Actors Are More Emotive Than Cartoons
Okay, here’s the major benefit of a live-action remake, again, one that Lion King will not have.
Actors can emote better than cartoons drawn in the ‘90s or decades prior. Is Emma Watson in Beauty and the Beast more empathetic because she is a real flesh and blood human? Likely.
Not to discredit voice actors or animators, but there really is a difference between the marriage of voice and animation and an actor performing everything. In this way, the films can be better, more emotional, etc. That’s the biggest benefit I see from these live-action remakes.
But again… where is the live-action benefit of Lion King?
The world may never know…
Well, I may still hate the idea, and am saddened about the sheer volume of unimaginative live-action remakes Disney is producing, but now I better understand why they work for some people. As, based on Box Office gross alone, these films have worked out perfectly for Disney, and most audiences are satisfied with the final product.
So, who am I to judge? They may not be for me, but go have a fun time at the movies, if that’s your thing.