Sometimes it seems as though nothing is sacred to Hollywood — any franchise might fall victim to the reboot machine at any time, and there's nothing we can do about it. Precious childhood memories are haphazardly splattered with CGI and then tossed back out to sea to see how much more money they can reel in. But is it really that sad and simple? Does rebooting a movie truly strip it of all magic, or can it sometimes make a story even more magical than it was before?
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For the next few minutes, feel free to set down that heavy cynicism you've been carrying around and bask in the glory of these eight childhood classics that were rebooted the right way.
1. The Lord Of The Rings
Raise your hand if you've ever seen the animated, 1978 version of the Lord of the Rings? Peter Jackson did, and it served as a major inspiration for his live-action series that followed in the '00s. Ralph Bakshi's animated LOTR was actually quite advanced for its time, using an illustration technique called rotoscoping, which involves first shooting scenes in live-action and then tracing them onto animation cells.
The 1978 LOTR did well at the box office, grossing $30,471,420 (that's $112,770,300, when you adjust for inflation) on a budget of merely $4,000,000. Unfortunately, it fell just short of critical success, and the follow-up movies telling the rest of Tolkein's story were never made. Enter Peter Jackson, and the beloved trilogy we know today. While his films are hardly as family friendly as the previous version, there's no denying that he told the story with a fantastic eloquence that would have made both Tolkein and Bakshi proud.
If you've never seen it, check out this clip from the beginning of the Lord of the Rings (1978) to see how it stacks up to the later one:
2. The Wizard Of Oz
It's only natural that a reboot would surpass its predecessor in terms of technology, but how advanced could a movie released in 1939 possibly be? Well, in comparison to the original Wizard of Oz, which came out in 1925, the 1939 reboot had two major advantages: sound and color.
The first Wizard of Oz was a silent movie starring Dorothy Dwan, a popular actress at the time. Despite the talent of everyone involved in the original film adaptation of Frank Baum's classic novel, a silent, black and white movie starring even the most incredible actress can't compare to the sound of Judy Garland's voice singing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," or the moment when she opens the door to Oz and we first glimpse the brightness of the Yellow Brick Road.
You can actually watch the entire 1925 Wizard of Oz online. (At the time, a live pianist or group of musicians would have played music in the theater while the film played.)
3. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey
Countless pets in the '90s and beyond proudly bore the names Chance, Shadow and Sassy. But did you know those weren't the original names in the story? Sheila Burnford's original 1961 novel was about an older English bull terrier named Bodger, a young yellow lab named Luath, and a male Siamese cat named Tao. Walt Disney kept these names and breeds the first time he adapted the story for the screen in 1963.
The second time around in 1993, Bodger the Bull Terrier became Shadow the golden retriever, Luath the lab became Chance the American bull dog, and Tao the Siamese cat became Sassy the Himalayan. In addition, the renamed pets had their own voices, courtesy of Don Ameche, Sally Field, and Michael J. Fox, as opposed to just one narrator telling the story. But the final heartwarming scene, where the son is resigning himself to the fact that Bodger/Shadow was simply too old to make the journey, right up until the joyful reunion, remains pretty much the same in both versions.
4. The Parent Trap
The role that catapulted Lindsay Lohan to fame was actually a recreation of the same story, based on the German book Das doppelte Lottchen (Lottie and Lisa) written in 1949. Disney first turned the story into a movie in 1963, starring Hayley Mills as both Susan Evers and Sharon McKendrick. The names might have been changed to Hallie Parker and Annie James, but the plot remained similar in 1998, right down to the scene where one twin has to cut the other's hair.
Hayley Mills might have been cute, but the first parent trap didn't have the parental appeal of Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson. The original was also sorely lacking in British accents and secret handshakes.
5. A Little Princess
Shirley Temple was the cutest little kid around in her day, but sometimes her movies themselves used to get overshadowed by her incredible star power. Such was the case with the 1939 version of A Little Princess, a beautiful retelling of Frances Hodgson Burnett's children's novel by the same name.
When Liesel Matthews stepped into the role in 1995, her status as a relative unknown allowed for the audience to accept her more completely as Sara Crewe, the kind and spirited heroine of the story. Plus, the addition of color made the contrast between opulence and poverty so stark and visually interesting, even children could appreciate it fully.
6. Freaky Friday
The original Freaky Friday features Jodie Foster as Annabel Andrews and Barbara Harris as her mother, Ellen Andrews. Later, the roles would become Lindsay Lohan's Anna Coleman and Jamie Lee Curtis as Tess Coleman. The second screenplay swapped water-skiing for a second marriage, but adds in the Stevie-Nicks-style makeover scene for Jamie Lee Curtis.
Jodie Foster's might be a legend, but the various obstacles the characters come up against in the first movie simply don't hold up with a modern audience: Annabel tries to cope with the chores of a stay-at-home mom, including making a dinner for her husband's coworkers, while Ellen gives a spot on recount of the Korean War in history class (because she lived through it), right after breaking her school's electric typewriters. Then there's the matter of Annabel's love interest, who underwent a serious upgrade between 1976 and 2003:
7. How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Arguably the Christmas special that packs the most nostalgic feels (right up there with Rudolph and A Charlie Brown Christmas), there will always be a spot for the 1966 cartoon How The Grinch Stole Christmas in the holiday line-up. But the live-action version that followed in 2000 managed to strike a balance between using its feature-length running time to add new subplots, spectacular practical effects that paid homage to the cartoon original, and remaining true to Dr. Seuss's tale.
Underneath all that makeup and fuzz, Jim Carrey is the lovable comedic genius he always is, and makes the entire movie a worthwhile watch for Whos of all ages.
8. Pete's Dragon
Where The Wizard of Oz added color and sound to the reboot in 1939, today, filmmakers add CGI. This year, Disney's Pete's Dragon got the CGI treatment — turning the once cartoon-animated creature into a realistic visual smorgasbord, without losing any of the cartoonish innocence of the original. Enormous, green and fluffy, new and improved Elliot was the perfect antidote to the fearsome beasts of Game of Thrones or The Hobbit.
If you have yet to see the latest Pete's Dragon for fear of tarnishing the memory of the original, consider this: The 1977 version holds a respectable Tomatometer score of 50 percent, and an audience score of 61 percent. But the new one trounces its predecessor in both categories, with a Tomatometer score of 86 percent and an audience score of 80 percent. Check out the trailer for yourself:
Did you know that these movies were reboots? Which was your favorite?