Discussion: The Pros and Cons of Disney’s Live-Action Remakes

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Disney’s animated classics have been childhood staples for generations. The films often introduce kids to the realities of life under the guise of adorable animated  sidekicks, catchy songs, and vibrant worlds. They’re timeless classics that can be enjoyed by the whole family. So, how do you further capitalise on the success of these classics? Give them the live-action treatment. Now, the live-action remake is not a new concept, but never has the idea been so commercialised that it’s basically kick-started its own franchise. To start, this concept seemed like an exciting take on beloved classics. However, over time this concept has become more divisive. Here’s we take a look at the pros and cons of Disney’s Live-Action remakes.

Pros

1. Enhance the story

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Live-action remakes have the perfect opportunity to enhance the quality of the original story. Better yet, it has the freedom to produce an alternative take on the narrative. Does that mean removing components from the original that made them so memorable? No, but if you’re going to do a live-action remake, take the chance to give characters more layers, make it darker, or even utilise songs that found themselves on the cutting room floor of the original. Live-action remakes have the perfect opportunity to enhance the spirit of the original while offering a new take on the classics. Take Mulan, for example. Many were outraged by the announcement that there would be no music and no Mushu in the live-action remake, but you forget that the animated film is based on the Chinese legend. Here, the live-action remake chooses to combine elements from both sources and create what will hopefully become an engaging addition to the story of this legendary figure. Whether or not it’s successful remains to be seen, especially following the backlash it’s already faced, but it’s an example of how live-action remakes can enhance the original narrative.

2. Something For Everyone

Beauty and the Beast enters top 10 highest grossing movies of ALL TIME

Disney’s animated classics are a multi-generational childhood staple. They’re the kind of films that can be appreciated by all members of the family. These live-action remakes have widespread appeal and the cinematic spectacle further broaden that appeal. Whether its childhood nostalgia or a new family’s first experience with these tales, the live-action remakes have qualities that can be enjoyed by everyone.

3. Technical Skill

The jungle book mowgli disney GIF - Find on GIFER

It’s up for debate whether the likes of the Lion King and Jungle Book actually count as live-action remakes when the films are so heavily reliant on CGI. The final result of these photorealistic computer-generated animations are incredibly divisive, but even if you’re not a fan of this technique, you can appreciate the level of detail and skill that goes into creating such life-like creatures. Matching the spectacle of the animated originals is no easy feat, but, as seen with Beauty and the Beast, they can more than match the element in the remakes. Beauty and the Beast did a phenomenal job at bringing these inanimate objects to life while simultaneously ensuring they blend into the live-action backdrop. It doesn’t always work, but the technical skill on display is impressive.

Best Live-Action Adaptations: Beauty and the Beast | The Jungle Book

Cons

1. Too reliant on Nostalgia

The Lion King's Jon Favreau posts cast picture from Disney remake

The things about live-action films are how the studio believes they can get away with doing a scene for scene remake and let it be enough to please those that grew up watching the originals. This reliant on nostalgia is quite frankly a lazy marketing technique and in the long run, will not be enough to keep viewers invested in the countless live-action adaptations that are in the making. If you’re going to use nostalgia as a marketing tool, you need to have something else to make it worthwhile. A carbon live-action copy of the original animated film basically exposes all the weaknesses of these adaptations, allowing viewers to dissect the limitations of these adaptations when comparing it to the original source. It can come across as soulless, clunky, and unoriginal, severing that emotional attachment that’s so often associated with our childhood memories of experiencing these movies for the first time. Nostalgia may have worked for the first live-action adaptations but has no long-term credibility.

2. A lesser version of the classics

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This was touched on in the previous point, but if you’re going to make a live-action adaptation of classic Disney animated features, like Lion King, the biggest ask from viewers is that they capture the spirit of the film. A step-by-step copy of the animated classic does not capture that spirit. Live-action adaptations come with their own limitations, and sometimes scenes that are vibrant and engaging in the animation doesn’t translate as well in live-action. Take the 2019 Lion King adaptation. The original is quite possibly the most beloved animated films of all-time, with its stunning soundtrack, the breathtaking animation, and overall spirit of the film being one of the most immersive (and traumatic) experiences of our childhood. The “live-action” remake does not hold a candle to the original. You can appreciate the technical artistry that went into creating the film, but the end result was clunky at best. Compare that to the Beauty and the Beast remake, where additional scenes and character deviations were used to enhance the quality of the tale, creating an immersive experience that provides an additional layer to the narrative while honouring the spirit of the original.

3. An exhausted concept

headache gifs | WiffleGif

The noughties brought about this resurgence of live-action remakes, but they’re not a new concept. Who could forget the 1996 live-action remake of 101 Dalmatians? However, what started as a novelty, has quickly turned into a money-making machine. The commercial success of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and Jungle Book, proved that whether its curiosity, nostalgia or a first-time family experience, these films will draw people out. Who wouldn’t want to capitalise on its success? From a business standpoint, it’s logical to turn these live-action remakes into its own franchise. However, this latest uptake in remakes are quickly becoming saturated and if the films remain to be a cut and paste job of the original, the harder it will be to convince viewers that they’re worth the investment. Is there a place for live-action remakes? Definitely, but some animated classics are better left untouched.

Worst Live-Action Remakes: The Lion King | Dumbo

What do you think of Disney’s Live-Action Franchise?
Which Disney Classis would you like to see get the live-action treatment?

6 thoughts on “Discussion: The Pros and Cons of Disney’s Live-Action Remakes

  1. Some of the remakes have been done pretty well….like Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella and Maleficent but the others I have struggled with. The only one I really want is The Little Mermaid to be honest. But I think its just to make more money especially in seeing the lack of quality in many of these remakes. It brings ppl to the theatres because of that nostalgia you talked about but many lack any real substance–Lion King being a pure example. That one just seemed to be a carbon copy and nothing more deep that that.

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    1. Beauty and the Beast is probably m favourite of the remakes so far. I’m curious to see how the Little Mermaid translates as a live-action film, but the lack of substance is really disheartening. I was so disappointed in the Lion King.

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  2. Well, well. You clearly nailed it with this discussion. And I think it’s often why it leads to controversial/mixed thoughts on these live-action adaptations. You want to love them because of nostalgia and curiosity but then you end up hating them because they’re not like the original and don’t try hard enough to get the emotional threads right! Great post, Lois! 😀

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  3. You know me I am one of the biggest Disney nerds you’ve ever met and it’s hard for me to hate anything, and I do agree with you on all of these points. But I definitely agree at some point it’s a money grabber, I don’t think Lion King needed to be done as live action like it’s a movie all about animals the ones with the princesses make more sense and I liked in those they added aspects that people wanted to know about but never got in the animated ones. And even though I haven’t seen it yet, I do think Mulan is going to disappoint. I was extremely happy with the Aladdin one and I want sequels of that one. But I worry on how they’ll do Little Mermaid being that is my all time favorite movie.

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    1. The Lion King was the biggest disappointment yet. It was so unnecessary and I felt like the dialogue was so clunky in its execution. I just don’t see the need for all of these remakes.

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