I would definitely identify myself as a person whose love for Disney is completely timeless, much like the classics that I grew up with. However – and I think we can all agree – Disney has taken a very strange and disappointing turn in the last few years and has been churning out less than satisfactory content.
I think it would be very difficult for Disney to lose its magic. Synonymous with the name is the idea of fantasy and escapism, but perhaps this is less likely to be the case for those who are growing up with the latest Disney releases. Sure, children these days will get to experience the wonder of Frozen and Coco with their indisputable creativity and beautiful artwork. It is a shame, however, that they will not be able to experience the same classics that people like me got to experience, as most of those have been recreated as pretty poor ‘live-action’ films, which are likely to be seen before the animated originals.
The first live-action remake I can remember that was truly awful was Cinderella (2015). I came across it scrolling through all the television channels and was excited to see something I had yet to experience. I was beyond disappointed. The usual magic and fun of a Disney film was nonexistent. I was bored. When the film ended, I was left with an empty feeling and couldn’t understand why what I had just watched was just so bad. Little did I know that this was just the start of more terrible remakes.
The wondrous nature of the animated world is that, yes, we know it’s not real. You get to watch these things that are clearly not true, but you watch and wish that they were. When the people look like actual people, it takes away from the magic and places it more in The Uncanny, a weird realm where things look like how they actually do, but something is very, very wrong. That being said, I’m not against live-action Disney films. The 2000s remake of 101 Dalmatians was a great piece of cinema, with the best acting out of any live-acted Disney film so far. Similarly, fantastical ones, like Alice in Wonderland, pass the bar for being a fulfilling watch, so there clearly is something wrong with Disney’s current take on retelling.
Disney films, like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Mulan, were loved for what they were. The remade versions strip away some part of the original and replace it with a new plot or character or song. There is always something off about each one, which is the problem of remaking as you will always find a way to disappoint the original fans. And, by god, did they disappoint. Beauty and the Beast has become known for its terribly autotuned soundtrack after the casting directors went for famous faces rather than those who can fulfil the desired criteria; Mulan changed genres by removing its fun-loving sidekick and falling short of matching its target audience; Aladdin was just horrendously underwhelming.
While it must be hard to come up with original concepts, friends over at Pixar appear to be doing the job quite well. Remaking films where only the name is the same is more of an advertising technique than it is an adaptation, and is disappointing to see from a company which I still believe to be the maker of childhood dreams. And it can’t just be the excuse that live-action is a harder seller, because they’ve already proved themselves wrong by putting both animation and live-action in one perfect film: Enchanted.
As a viewer, I’m expecting more, but as a lifelong fan, I’m really wishing on a star and praying that the past few years of remakes are not going to be indicative of Disney’s future.