By Malak El-Lamie
Disney just announced the making of yet another live-action depiction of an old classic tale : The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The mega company has already released 8 remakes and 4 more are scheduled to come out in 2019.
This begs the question: can the live-action films ever do the original versions justice?
HUGE shoes to fill…
There’s no doubt that classic Disney movies hold a very special place in our hearts. No matter how old we get, we never get tired of watching them over and over. We all probably still sob every time we watch Mufasa die.
Needless to say, reboots of such iconic tales have impossibly high standards to live up to.
Our beloved childhood movies are practically untouchable works of art. They’re incomparable to anything they can come up with these days, and most of their sequels were total flops. Many diehard fans feel like trying to replicate or expand them beyond what has already been said and done undermines their magic. They don’t need to be modernized or updated for kids to enjoy them; that goes against the essence of their timeless charm. No matter how ‘good’ their newest renditions are, they’re inherently destined to disappoint.
…Or harmless trip down memory lane?
Yet, it’s important to remember that most of the animated features were themselves retellings of old fairytales. On one hand, releasing these live-action films can keep the iconic classics’ legacy alive for future generations to enjoy. It’s an unfortunate reality that the classic cartoons are considered as outdated animation for the current younger generation. Adapting the fairytales to modern representations like CGI acts as a way to revive their appeal. This doesn’t mean they’re trying to replace the old films, they actually want to nudge more kids in their direction.
To be fair, some of the new depictions were actually pretty decent movies, namely Beauty & The Beast and The Jungle Book. While watching them, they evoked a gushing wave of nostalgia and the iconic songs gave us all the feels. Others offered a fresh and interesting new perspective to the stories we already know by heart. Maleficent, for example, gave us a fascinating backstory to the infamous villainess. While these movies are definitely not upgrades, they can nonetheless act as a reminder of why we fell in love with these stories in the first place.
Final verdict : they work.
Perhaps the intent behind live-actions isn’t to compete with their predecessors. Disney is probably aware that they could never upstage their own masterpieces, nor is it in their interest to do so. However, we tend to forget that Disney is first and foremost a company, and like any company, profitability is its number one priority.
At the same time, these films attract a much broader audience than regular family/children’s movies would. The typical age barrier practically doesn’t exist. Both kids and adults – especially the highly nostalgic 90’s babies – will flock to the cinemas to see their favorite childhood movies come to life. The goal behind these back-to-back releases is simple: make more money, and indeed they did.
Upon its release a couple of months ago, The Lion King’s trailer initiated a global frenzy. The one-and-a-half-minute clip broke records and became the most viewed trailer in Disney’s history. The film’s summer release is probably the most highly anticipated movie of the year. Despite the controversy surrounding them, people do actually show interest in these remakes.
The fact that reboots are so successful is a tribute to how widely adored the original films still are. Hence why they’ve generated a whopping 6 billion dollars in the box office. Disney has taken the phrase if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it quite literally. One thing’s for sure: whether we like it or not, it’s a highly lucrative business strategy.
Blocking new opportunities?
In sum, while there’s no room for comparison between a classic & its replica, we can nonetheless enjoy both of them. However, instead of allocating hundreds of millions of dollars from its budget towards recycling the same plotlines, maybe Disney should invest in its own revival instead.
A couple of reboots is fine, but with 15 more still in production, perhaps Disney has gone a bit too far. More remakes means less original works. It would be wiser to start producing a new collection of better quality animated features that could someday go down as classics as well.