Disney Remakes: The Collapse Of Creativity For The Sake Of Nostalgia
Choosing nostalgia over creativity, we explore the successes and pitfalls of Disney and their continuing trend of live-action remakes.
Animation and live-action films very rarely cross-over into the threshold of conversion; but this could is all about to end. With the release of 19 different live-action adaptations of classic Disney movies on the horizon, it’s impossible not to be concerned about the ambitious idea. Disney is renowned for its visual mastery in story-telling with animation, and the majority of the films that have now been listed to be remade are causing a lot of controversy amongst fans. Whilst some are all in favor of the plans, others are not particularly enthusiastic.
The hugely anticipated release of the reinvented version of Beauty And The Beast back in March completely tore down all its barriers and was adored world-wide by audiences; not to mention it raked in a whopping $1.14 billion in its opening week at the box office. But what we should be delving into is how this adaptation was such a roaring success, and whether it can be repeated for others of its kind?
After such a triumphant result in terms of money-making profits and audience admiration, it’s understandable to see that others are following suit. For instance, live-action versions of Mulan and The Lion King are set to be released in 2018 and it’s recently been announced that Aladdin is in the pipeline too.
There are now a further 14 spin-offs and remakes in addition to these that are on the rumored list – but is it possible for them all to match up to the success of Beauty And The Beast, or is it merely a dangerous move for Disney?
At the core of all of this is the raw nostalgia of rediscovering films from years ago and bringing them into the future with us. With the massive advancements and developments in the technology industry, filmmakers and studios are offered abilities that were not possible ten or twenty years ago. The opportunity to create HD and 3D imagery, as well as use audio-visual techniques like never before are the primary factors that are driving the inspiration to take a second look at films we have all loved in the past.
There is something commendable to be said for the special effects teams and artists working on productions like this. These talented teams are capable of literally bringing animation to life before our very eyes; which is something that is highly credible. The use of mesmerizing technological effects with the backbone of an outstanding technical team makes these reconstructions of our favorite movies rather difficult to pry ourselves away from. If anything, it can be narrowed down to the curiosity element we all feel.
When classics like The Lion King and Mulan are being remade to return to the big screen, most of us find it very hard to steer clear of them. It’s the inquisitiveness within us that makes us reach out for those cinema tickets and forces us to give them a chance. It’s also the nostalgia factor that keeps us hooked. Reliving the movies we loved as children connects us to them almost automatically, without questions or second-guessing. It produces that emotive link between the watcher and the film itself, which reels in audiences all over the world.
But nostalgia can only take us so far. It wouldn’t be very enthralling if we were to see our favorite films butchered and ruined because they’ve been overly tampered with or the story has been completely changed. A remake can only work when it preserves the necessary components of a film and is consistent with the story. Beauty And The Beast worked because the director was insistent on maintaining all of the original characters, original songs, physical features and the narrative of the original picture. But it also worked because other touches were added as an attempt to make it innovative and give us an extra look-in to a story we all thought we knew so well.
The real cause for concern is stemming from the anxiousness a lot of us are feeling with regards to the upcoming remakes. Beauty And The Beast may have worked its magic on audiences and rendered us all with peaceful minds about the quality of Disney remakes, but is it a sign of things to come, or was it just an exception?
How Far is too Far?
It’s obvious that live-action remakes are becoming a bona-fide trend, because whilst it’s arguably the most recognized, Beauty And The Beast certainly wasn’t the first in line to take to the challenge. In addition to The Jungle Book and Alice in Wonderland, there’s also been Cinderella and Maleficent in recent years. These are all films that made a lasting impression on Disney fans, and they all prided themselves on their outstandingly huge casting choices and production budgets.
Because of this, each of them were extremely well-received and made billions of bucks between them – they were even responsible for some pretty primitive Oscar wins! But at the root of all of this lies the question: Is Disney diving into the risky zone of fixing things that were never broken in the first place?
While it’s tempting to sweep this under the rug and accept it as a similar twist on the superhero movie genre, or seeing it as proof that Hollywood has no new ideas, there is something far more revolutionary going on here. Is animation in danger of being replaced completely? Is this all just a slow shift towards CGI live-action becoming the expected default routine for these stories?
This is a gradually rising concern amongst movie fans. Animation is something that generally shouldn’t be erased from our screens. It’s a world of escapism like no other, where boundaries are limitless and make-believe becomes believable. Whilst you could argue that CGI has the same impact, there’s still the underlying issue of destroying our old favorites with brand new visions and stories.
Animation always works in favor of the movie, because the artists are rarely trying to be realistic — they’re more focused on telling the story in the best way possible. That’s rarely the case on a live-action remake, for the simple fact that there’s an additional layer of reality immediately placed upon proceedings. Visual effects are fine, but good acting will win over the audience no matter what, and cartoons have the freedom to act more than re-creations of reality ever could.
Cause For Concern
The reason this has turned into more of a disconcerting issue amongst the more hardcore Disney fans now is because it’s starting to all become very real. Just last week, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner were confirmed to be the two actors taken on board to play the renowned roles of mischievous meerkat, Timon and hearty warthog, Pumbaa respectively. Not long before that, it was announced that Donald Glover would be taking the helm for the ambitious role of Simba, for which he has expressed his own apprehensions about due to the heavy pressure of maintaining its widely loved brilliance.
On top of all of that, it’s been rumored that Beyonce may be stepping up to the plate to play Nala, which might be a step in the wrong direction. Is it wise to allow the central role of Nala to be overshadowed by the tour-de-force of Beyonce? Many are arguing that these roles should be open to lesser known actors as a way to boost their attentions within the film industry; not international singers who don’t necessarily have any place in an actor’s studio. Contrary to this however, it might not be suitable to have less-recognized names behind the faces of such notorious characters.
Perhaps the bigger names are the catalyst for these movies to succeed, and without their backing, may not be able to get off the ground quite as easily. With this in mind – and something that could give fans that little bit of rest-bite – is the news that the main man himself, James Earl Jones, will return to reprise his original role of Mufasa in the remake. Could this be a green-light signal that they are on track to producing a terrific remake, or are they just clutching at old straws? Only time will tell.
Another example of these recent breaking-news announcements, was the revelation that Will Smith is first in line to play the beloved Genie in the remake of Aladdin. This has sparked even more controversy and disappointment, particularly with fans of the late, great Robin Williams who was mostly recognized for this role and embodied it to perfection. It’s not possible to bring him back to re-create the role of course, but need there even be a remake in the first place?
Continuing with this pattern, further rage was felt on behalf of Disney fans when it was declared that the remake of Mulan will not include any of the original songs or musical pieces. The soundtrack of the original movie is arguably one of the most enjoyable and emotive elements of the story; so will it work without it?
As it stands, all we can do as a collective group of Disney supporters is speculate. There are many unanswered questions about what lies in store for the remakes of some of our most treasured Disney classics, and until we give them a chance to prove us wrong, we can only merely ponder about the risk of ruin.
To many of us, it’s second knowledge that animated movies can do things that even the most sophisticated CGI can’t — or, at least, isn’t given the chance to when applied to live-action contexts. With that in mind, isn’t it time that filmmakers accepted that, and moved on from trying to re-create what already exists in favor of trying to create something new?
Are Disney remakes paving the way for new audiences to immerse themselves in the universe of Disney mania? Or are they just simply causing the collapse of genuine creativity for the sake of nostalgia? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
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