Feature Article

Disney Really Needs to Stop Making Live Action Remakes

Disney has been on a kick lately rebooting all of its classic animated films. They started this year with Beauty and the Beast, and will continue with upwards of 20 classics set to get the live action treatment. Although it’s Disney and we all love their animated classics, Mickey and Co. really need to stop rolling these cartoons through the 3D live action printer. There are a number of reasons, with the most important being the product’s integrity. The real reason Disney is making these films in live action is money. Now, I understand it’s a business, and a business’ primary responsibility is to make money, but is that worth sacrificing the integrity of the product you’re selling? The logical answer is no.

Some people may ask “Mike, what’s wrong with remaking a movie so younger people get to enjoy it?” The answer is simply nothing, but it’s a question asked in a vacuum. There is no reason to make it simply for a younger audience as you can quite easily watch the original versions. The beauty of the original version of any film is that it is based upon the time in which it was created. All of these aspects, whether it be current events, sports or society in general during the time period, all have on an impact on how the film is portrayed. When you remake a classic film, it’s human nature for the director to want to add one’s own “flair” to it, and this loses the scope of the original. This was most recently seen in Beauty and the Beast.

I went to see the film the day it came out with my wife and kids. My middle daughter, 5 years old, is the biggest priss you’ll ever meet and adores both Belle and Rapunzel. She loved it, but she also loved the 90’s version which she saw first. The core of the film was not an issue, and it pulled off the main parts of the story without any flaws. The issue with this film, however, was the added fluff. First off, it was exactly 45 minutes longer than the original, and about 43 minutes of that was unnecessary. Those two minutes excluded are those which explains why the townsfolk actually forgot about the existence of Beast’s castle, as it was always a question after the original. Gaston riding off with Maurice in order to save Belle, the Beast’s song as Belle rides off, the ball at the end – all of this was completely unnecessary to the film. The list goes on as well.

Changing even a minor piece to a film can be hazardous when it is so well known and adored by many the world round’. I noted we were made aware of how the townsfolk forgot about the Beast’s existence. This took about two minutes and answered a question without changing anything or altering the story. Therefore, it’s a good addition. The rest, such as the Beast’s song and Maurice/Gaston search party didn’t serve a purpose, didn’t answer a question and did nothing to advance the narrative. If so, then why add them at all? The answer is easy. It’s ego. Any director has to put their own imprint on a film. This in itself is normal and expected, but sometimes we need to protect these directors from themselves as changes can negatively impact the overall film.

All of Disney films are so well known. You can flash a picture of any character from any film, and kids would know who it was. They are the film equivalent of Call of Duty, FIFA, Madden and Pokemon. No matter what they do, or how bad they are, they are going to make money hand over fist. This alone should not be a reason to make the film, especially when it comes at the expense of negatively impacting the very product which made you famous in the first place.

Below, we take a look at some of the live action remakes Disney has planned and why they are a bad idea.


Lion King

The Lion King is another one scheduled for “live action”. I use quotes because quite simply, this can’t be a true live action film. There is not a single human being in the original Lion King. Disney is surely not about to use live animals (duh), so this will just be a CGI focused, new-age cartoon. Disney was able to get James Earl Jones to come back as Mustafa, and secured Donald Glover as the voice of Simba. Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick, who played young and old Simba respectively, will not be in the film. The Jungle Book 2 was a disaster, and that at least had a human kid in it.

A cartoon’s main function is twofold: 1. Provide laughter through satire, and 2. look like a cartoon. The cheesy looks and jokes are given a pass because it’s a cartoon. Real life films receive a much different burden of perception, and deservedly so. When you make something that is supposed to be “real life” or live action look like a cartoon, it never goes over well with fans. Case in point, look at Smaug in final Hobbit film. It looked incredibly off due to running at a higher frame rate than most films, and it caused a lot of complaints.

This Lion King remake seems like it is going the way of watching a narrated Planet Earth episode, which is just something I’m not interested in. Also, is Disney really going to throw a “real” lion off a cliff Mufasa style? Gotta say, it’s a sure way to traumatize some kids.

Pinocchio

Seriously? Disney is kidding with this one, right? This will be more along the lines of a male version of the horror film Annabelle with the night terrors caused from seeing an actual kid play a fake, wooden doll thanks to the wonders of computer animation. Some of these remakes have directors and actors cast, or atleast lined up if not officially signed. Fortunately, Pinocchio doesn’t have any such news for it yet. Hopefully, it’s a long time (as in never) before we hear of a live action Pinocchio remake. No good can come out of this.

Mary Poppins

Just no. Julie Andrews is a goddess and has one of the most beautiful, natural voices I’ve ever heard. Ever. This is one of those films, similar to Aladdin, that will never live up to the original no matter who you get to star in it. Of course, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Emily Blunt have been named to star. While this isn’t a live action remake as the original was live action, this film will be a sequel to the original. What could Mary and the Banks family possibly be doing that is so interesting after the first movie? Nobody asked for this story, nor does anyone need it. As talented as Lin-Manuel Miranda is, this film should not get anywhere close to a movie theater.

Tinker Bell and Peter Pan

While Peter Pan is being remade, again, no word on any stars or directors have been announced. There have been multiple versions of Peter Pan already done in live action. The most recent was 2015’s Pan starring Hugh Jackman, which was solidly awful on all fronts. It was a Peter Pan that abandoned the story we know in favor for a new one, but in live action rather than cartoon. It had brutal fighting, at least for the level a Peter Pan film should have, and it felt forced the entire time. Ironically, the best version of Pan in live action is 26 years old with Hook back in 1991. Dustin Hoffman played an incredible Captain Hook, and while although cheesy, the film stayed true to the cartoon.

Tinker Bell, on the other hand, won’t be having Julia Roberts star this time around. Instead, Reese Witherspoon has been given the nod. Despite the fact that this sounds like incredible typecasting, I actually do think that Witherspoon would play a good Tinkerbell. On the other hand, why do we need a standalone Tinkerbell film again? She has always been a supporting character. They are supposed to have a kind of mysterious aura surrounding their backstory and origins, it’s what makes them successful. Standalone films, whether animated or live action, remove that stigma of mystery and eliminate any version of them you have in your own head. Plus, supporting characters in title roles never pans out well. There is a reason for supporting roles, it’s mostly for filler and to prop up the title role. When you start expanding on origin stories or support characters, it only feels forced. It’s almost as if the developers know this while making the film, and then go out of their way to avoid it by stuffing tons of useless story in. Viewers pick up on this, and the cycle perpetuates itself.

Mulan

Now, I believe that Mulan has the best chance to succeed of all the Disney animated films. I still wouldn’t make it though. The reason why is quite simple. Of all the characters, they are all actual people with the exception of Mushu, of course. It would be easy to tell the story, but the fight scenes would be the key to its success or failure. We all know Mulan was a girl who tricked her way into the Chinese Army. The fight scenes were fine in the cartoon, because it’s obvious that this tiny girl is not going to beat giant Hun fighters in a fight. Things like this get a pass in cartoons. It’s much harder to make these fights look realistic in live action films. A human being’s grunts, grimaces, reactions, eyerolls, etc are all incredibly obvious when faked. This makes it much harder to film a fight scene where Mulan rips through giant Hun fighters with ease seem natural in real life. It becomes the focal point of the film (rightfully so) if not done properly, and the film suffers as a result.

A live action remake has a two-fold problem as you not only need to find an actress that can fight, but also sing the musical numbers. I’m not sure about her musical prowess, but Iron Fist’s Jessica Henwick could be a great choice. We know for sure she can fight after her role as Colleen Wing, and she is able to visibly demonstrate taking a hit while making it look believable. Her cage fight scene against the two guys was an incredible match, and the best part is that it was not watered down with your typical girl vs guy Hollywood fight antics.

Others that Disney has in the making

  • Dumbo Tim Burton is directing so this should be an absolute “no” right off of the bat. Kids have enough issues without Burton messing up their minds more. We’ll probably end up getting some sort of zombie Dumbo from him. Also, all elephants have been confirmed to be CGI as well. So, there’s that.
  • Sword in the Stone – King Arthur as a child along with Merlin
  • The Little Mermaid
  • Prince movie The princes get their own movie? Not sure who was asking for this one. Haven’t even heard of this being a thing until now..
  • Genies – Just no. Stop it. Do we need a prequel to see what the genie was doing before Aladdin? No Robin Williams, so no thanks.  It’s bad enough that a live action Aladdin movie with Will Smith as Genie and a Power Ranger as Jasmine has been confirmed. A genie solo film doesn’t need to be a thing.
  • CruellaEmma Stone plays the villain this time
  • Winnie the Pooh – this time Christopher Robin is all grown up and goes back for a visit. Yeah, that is so not creepy at all. Really.
  • Jungle Book 2
  • Maleficent 2 – Angelina Jolie is back, but why? How much more do we really need to know about her? And do we care enough to make another movie?
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 
  • Rose Red – Snow White’s sister, on her own adventure trying to save Snow White after she bites the apple. Make. It. Stop.
  • Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers – Based off of the TV cartoon. Again, not sure why this has to be a feature film as there is no real fanbase crying out for it.
  • Chernabog – This is literally the devil from Fantasia. Sooooooo nobody sees an issue with Disney making this into a live action film…for kids….uh huh

All of these are set for live action remake / reboots in the near future. As you can see, some have directors and casting already announced while others do not. I’ve enjoyed all of these original films, but there are many that don’t need to be told. Chernabog, Rose Red, Genies and Princes are all films with no solid reason to make them. They are based on current characters that nobody really knows, and their individual films do nothing to advance the narrative of the original films.

I’m all for new characters, and if Disney wants to make live action stories based on these new franchises, then I’ll be all in so long as it’s something that interests me. Even the most die hard Aladdin or Snow White fans can admit in their heart of hearts that money seems to be the sole reason for making these movies. It’s unfortunate, because as mentioned above, sacrificing the integrity of the product you’re selling for money is never a good long term solution. While Disney will still make money hand over first, it doesn’t mean it’s right to do so.

Hopefully, most if not all of these fall by the wayside before they are made. Believe me, we’ll all be better off in the long run.

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mikeboccher

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  • Look, Disney should stop overdoing this because some Disney movies get live action remakes and some don’t. In fact, Dumbo the remake should get cancelled right now. I was hoping a live action Pooh should get canceled, but it has been announced for this year and now I’m done for. So we should have a TV reboot for CDRR instead of a live action movie.