ByBenjamin Kuwas, writer at
I am a 23 year old Digital Film Production University graduate. Passionate about film and my favourite film trilogy is Lord of the Rings.
Benjamin Kuwas

Disney is riding high on the back of mega successful films that have easily sailed past the $1 billion worldwide mark at the worldwide box office, 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 has 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 live-action remake to reach that milestone. Since then, each remake has made a lot of money.

So, why write an article stating that Disney needs to consider these three 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 is playing it safe and not taking any risks.

1. Take Risks

Disney switched it up with 2014's 'Maleficent' [Credit: Disney]
Disney switched it up with 2014's 'Maleficent' [Credit: Disney]

Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Maleficent (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 storylines 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.

Disney's current danger with recent box office smash hit Beauty and the Beast is that they can see playing it safe works for them. There have been rumors 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 to the animations, people will instantly compare the two when the remakes should represent the fact that they honor the animations while bringing their own spin on a well-known tale.

(Note: Since the rumors 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 remake of the original like how they rebooted Beauty and the Beast.)

2. Cast Directors With Diverse Styles

Niki Caro on the set of her recent film 'The Zookeepers Wife' [Credit: Focus Features]
Niki Caro on the set of her recent film 'The Zookeepers Wife' [Credit: Focus Features]

Many would argue that Alice in Wonderland isn’t Tim Burton’s strongest work, yet no one denies 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 while 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 original songs everyone has probably forgotten about).

It’s exciting news to hear Niki Caro (Whale Rider) has been announced to direct the live-action adaptation of Mulan (released in November 2018). Bring a female director onboard to this tale of an empowering heroine is a great move by 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 allows each director to play to their strengths so all the remakes don’t feel similar or uninspired.

3. Know Which Animated Classics To Give The Live-Action Treatment

Why Disney? WHY? 'The Lion King' [Credit: Disney]
Why Disney? WHY? 'The Lion King' [Credit: Disney]

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, Maleficent 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 as Disney throws 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 has created. 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 is 76-year-old classic, and it’s still arguably popular today — can’t we leave it in the past? Moreover, 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 are worthy of being made into a live-action film; however, the principal still stands that Disney should be more selective in its 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.

'Beauty and the Beast' [Credit: Disney]
'Beauty and the Beast' [Credit: Disney]

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. They can’t keep doing what they did with Beauty and the Beast because, in all honesty, I’d go straight to the 1991 animated classic. Let’s hope that Disney doesn't lose that curious spirit to try new things when giving their own animations the live-action treatment:

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

What do you think of the upcoming slate of live-action Disney movies?


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