Disney is right on track for world domination, juggling several different powerhouse franchises after their Marvel and Star Wars takeovers. And now they're set to start one of the biggest franchises ever, with their collection of live action remakes of classic animated fairy tales. Nothing is sacred as the Disney juggernaut gets ready to smash the box office, but are they building towards some kind of shared cinematic universe to rival Marvel's? And just what are we going to be spending all our money on for the next decade or so?
Remakes, Reboots, and Sequels, Oh My!
The idea of giving animated classics the live action treatment isn't really new: Disney have been using this ploy ever since the 101 Dalmations remake in 1996. And after Maleficent took over $700 million worldwide in 2014, you could practically see the dollar signs appear in Disney's eyes, as they came across a sure fire way to earn billions upon billions, without going to the trouble of coming up with original ideas.
Cinderella was next in line to be remade, which was a pretty dull choice on Disney's part. This fairy tale has to be one of the most overdone in Hollywood history: there are 9 films titled Cinderella in total, dating from 1950, and scores of movies based on the same story with alternate titles (eg: Drew Barrymore's Ever After). Maleficent offered an alternate perspective at least, and maybe that's why 2015's Cinderella performed modestly in comparison, yet its $400+ mil take is still impressive overall.
So get ready for many many more remade Disney classics! Impending movies are 2016's The Jungle Book, [Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass](tag:780359) (also 2016), and Emma Watson's ready to wow audiences in Beauty and the Beast (2017). These are just the movies with release dates: there's also Mulan, Tim Burton's Dumbo (bizarre directoral choice there), Pinocchio, and Sword In The Stone to look forward to.
Following the Cinderella route, these films are straight adaptations of the source material, though Beauty and the Beast will be closer to the animated version, even featuring the songs. So what's the reason for Disney's latest fad? Variety's Steven Gaydos thinks he has a clue...
"The key concept is risk aversion. Hollywood is desperate to find things that are essentially presold. They like films they can test-market and know there’s an awareness, an appetite, and fanbase."
As you may have suspected, it's not just about making money but about making easy money - there's always the danger that something original will flop, and these days every studio is banking on tried and tested stories. The biggest blockbusters have fans before they're even in the concept stage, boasting new CGI to make everything up to date, with a healthy dose of nostalgia to boot. It's no surprise that every studio out there is employing the franchise tactic, with the landscape of Hollywood littered with reboots these days.
As a consumer though, this reboot trend can be interesting... as long as the studios take the chance to be imaginative with their source material. Cinderella certainly didn't hit the spot as far as originality is concerned, but then it was never pretending to be a reworking of the classic tale. Will Disney just continue with these strict adaptations, or does Maleficent herald a departure from the norm?
Not A Remake, But A Re-Imagining...
Among Disney's plethora of cookie-cutter remakes, there are a few films that will examine an alternate perspective to a well known story. To rival Warner Brothers' Pan, out this October, Reese Witherspoon is producing and starring in Tink, which as yet has no release date. This film will supposedly draw more from the original book than the animated film. An Aladdin prequel, Genies, has also been announced, which will tell the story of how the Genie got trapped in the lamp to begin with. An intriguing idea, this film is set to expand the mythology of the much-loved classic, as it will be set almost entirely in the world of the Djinn.
Winnie The Pooh will have an adult Christopher Robin rediscovering the world of his youthful imagination, and following directly in Maleficent's footsteps, Cruella de Vil is supposedly getting her own film (though this has had a rocky road to pre-production). Perhaps the most bizarre of Disney's announced movies is Night On Bald Mountain, which will take that one part of Fantasia and turn it into an entire story? Ok. And Maleficent herself may be getting a sequel: Maleficent 2 is still very hush hush, but Angelina Jolie has hinted that she would return as the morally ambiguous fairy.
These re-imaginings are a nice counter to the straight-to-live-action adaptations, so at least Disney has some variety planned for the next few years of Hollywood domination.
Does Disney have a plan beyond making stacks of dollars? Maybe. There are some who've theorised that these live action films share one canon, and will build towards an epic team-up a la The Avengers. That would certainly be out of the box thinking - could we get a team of Disney Princess(TM) fame saving the world from Night On Bald Mountain's demons?
At this point, no idea is too wild for Disney to consider, but we'll probably have to wait at least a decade to find out. Until then, at least Disney's got plenty of remakes to entertain us with!