Disney Remakes Aren’t Stopping Anytime Soon

The trailers of the upcoming Disney live-action remakes have generated a mixed array of reactions. This year we have Dumbo (March 29), Aladdin (May 24) and The Lion King (July 19).

There are seventeen Disney live-action remakes in development with big hitters lined up such as Mulan (March 27, 2020). That’s hardly surprising given how much success the recent reimagining of their classic animated movies has been.

In 2017, Beauty and the Beast grossed over $1.2 billion at the global box office, while The Jungle Book was met with very favourable reviews upon its release in 2016 and pulled in an impressive $966 million worldwide. CinderellaMaleficent, and Pete’s Dragon have also seen success.

From Disney’s perspective all these remakes make sense as it is able to reintroduce timeless stories to a younger generation which is more familiar with newer animation style. Disney is also well aware of the power of nostalgia and that it has an award-winning story-telling formula. Hence, remaking a classic with new star power (except for James Earl Jones – None can replace him as Mufasa) is a guaranteed money maker.

These films also give Disney the opportunity to correct some mistakes of the past and adjust to changing times. For example, when Dumbo was released in 1941 the crow’s song “When I See an Elephant Fly” was criticised, even at the time for having racist undertones. We can expect this to be corrected in the new film.

Regardless though, when all is said and done these remakes are doomed to be a footnote in a larger legacy of the original films that took the world by storm and made the Walt Disney Corporation the powerhouse it is today when it led the 90s animation renaissance.

As Disney became a household name to more than one generation we have come to expect better from the company which is still around since 1923. Yes, Disney’s formula of make a film, push forward sequels, digitally remaster, remake and restart the entire cycle makes money but creating revenue through quantity can sometimes bring down quality.

When watching a classic Disney film the two elements that people of all ages look forward to are the colourful animations which bring a world of fantasy into your living room, and the original music which will be stuck in your head till you’re over 80. Yet in these recent additions fantasy is sometimes sacrificed for realism and the music which was previously sung by highly acclaimed Broadway star is now sung by Hollywood A-listers who can act and kind-of sing.

When watching the remake of Mary Poppins I found that the part which I enjoyed the most was when the cast found themselves inside a porcelain bowl. The scene was highly reminiscent of the animations which landed the original a multitude of awards in its day. That scene led to an extra year in production and several animation experts had to be brought out of retirement to oversee the process.

Amongst these remakes stand the more recent animations like CocoMoana and the iconic FrozenThese newer films stand on their own merit, and have created a legacy of their own by defining younger generations. Promises of nostalgia and rekindling love for the classics is well and good, but nothing beats falling in love for the first time.

The irony is, with all of the flaws in these recent films if the rumours about a new Fantasia (1941) sequel based on the sequence “Night on Bald Mountain” turns out to be true, I would be first in line to buy a ticket. Also, for the floated Cruella movie.


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