With Walt Disney Studios gaining over 7 billion dollars in their live-action remake industry, it’s no wonder that the rapidly growing company is so consumed with the reimagining and rehashing of old animated classics. They’re a real money-maker, especially with their appeal to a large demographic of family entertainment that draws in nostalgic adults and young children alike.
The Disney remakes have dominated the studio since 2014 with the release of “Maleficent,” and have gone on to make mass-grossing hits such as “Cinderella,” “The Jungle Book,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Aladdin” to name a few. Disney’s newest release “The Lion King” gained over 1.5 billion dollars worldwide, easily making back their overall budget of 260 million dollars, and additionally achieving the rank of the 9th highest-grossing film worldwide, surpassing the original 1994 movie of the same name.
However, the amount of money a film makes in the box office does not always align with its quality. Audiences are split on whether the “live-action” remakes are lacking the imagination and heart of the animated films that they were based on, or whether they provide higher levels of complexity and maturity with their realistic makeover.
The remakes that have currently come out over the last decade have been a variety of shot-for-shot remakes, remakes with different storylines than that of their originals, and reimagining’s centered on the perspective of a new character. Each form has its form of popularity.
On Rotten Tomatoes, over half the movies have a rating of 55% or lower, with a common consensus of the films lacking energy and heart. This tends to happen when movies follow a verbatim storyline of the original like “The Lion King.” This doesn’t inherently mean that the movie was bad in terms of photography and composition, but simply that it adds nothing new to the movie experience.
The other extreme is completely revamping the story to be unrecognizable from the original but coming off as dull and over-complicated. Works like Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass” are prime examples of this, as Burton tries to create a heroine-prophecy adventure movie, capturing a cynical, war-torn wonderland. “Pete’s Dragon” (2016) also changed its plot beyond recognition of the original but gained a high rating of 88%. However, the movie was average and ultimately remained forgettable.
The best policy is to meet in the middle. Adaptations that add new songs or additional plotlines along with preexisting nostalgic narratives are predominately more successful and tend to gain a higher rating. This is shown with “The Jungle Book,” which gained a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and was praised for improving upon its predecessor with a surprising new ending, beautifully animated settings, and evolved main characters. Other films like “Cinderella,” “Aladdin,” and “Beauty and the Beast” applied similar techniques and all received ratings above 70%.
Recently, Disney has given the green light to future remakes like “Mulan”, “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame,” “Lady and the Tramp,” “Cruella,” and “Maleficent 2,” among many others that will be shown in theaters or Disney’s new platform: Disney+. Hopefully, these remakes can introduce new ideas and storylines without losing the beloved characters that audiences treasured from the originals.
Alexandra Gerges // Staff Writer