In the wake of Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent (2014), where the script was entirely rewritten with the fairy Maleficent as both hero and villain, and Cinderella (2015) which actually had something of a storyline, Disney seem to be attempting to make their old animations more PC. Maleficent was restructured as feminist, with the underlying ‘you don’t need a man to save you’ splitting popular opinion as to whether they should have just left well alone. Other live actions recently have included an exercise in CGI in Jungle Book (2016) where the only actual real life person was Mowgli. Kudos to the kid for acting entirely against a green screen! And, it was a pretty spectacular movie, just seems a bit odd to call it ‘live action’ when I am pretty sure an entirely CGI movie should be counted as a form of realistic animation. Does anyone remember Pete’s Dragon from when they were squirming kids? Well, they did a remake of that too, released over the summer. There wasn’t much hype surrounding it, it wasn’t tooted from the heavens but Pete’s Dragon was never a cult classic. It was kind of adorable actually, I rather enjoyed it. Especially enjoyed the casting of Star Trek’s Karl Urban. Always a pleasure to have him on the screen even if he wasn’t the good guy.
I love Disney. I can see why some people don’t, but to me, there is something amazing about the singing, the possibility for hope and the downright giddiness of a good Disney. My favourite, for as long as I can remember, has been Beauty and the Beast (1991). I mean, singing furniture, a bookworm and a cursed prince? I was enchanted! I remember arguing with a friend in primary school about how it was entirely acceptable to want the library more than Snow White’s Prince Charming. So, I want you to imagine my absolute unbridled excitement when I heard there was going to be a live action Beauty and the Beast! Even more excitement when the cast were slowly revealed. Not many people could match up to Angela Lansbury as Mrs Potts, but Emma Thompson seems such a great shout! And Hermione Granger is Belle. Seems fitting.
But looking at the planned list of future live action remakes, I can’t help but wonder if Disney is attempting to beat a dead horse back to life. Some of them seem quite exciting! I mean, Mulan is scheduled for 2018 and is currently being cast, the same for Aladdin. These seem logical choices for live action remakes. Dumbo, Lion King and Winne-the-Pooh do not. Especially Winnie-the-pooh. I reiterate my argument that entirely CGI movies shouldn’t count as live action, but realistic animation. Although, it is rumoured that Dumbo is being directed by Tim Burton, so who knows what direction that will go in! There are about twelve live action movies planned over the next five years, and I kid you not, on the Wikipedia list, they are just titled ‘unnamed live action Disney movie’. I love Disney as much as the next university student who just wants to avoid life by watching the animated movies of their childhood, but even I, devout Disney-follower that I am, have to wonder if Disney has run out of new ideas entirely.
To be fair, the Alice in Wonderland, and its sequel Alice through the looking glass (2016) were awesome, and I loved them. They were whacky, and wonderful, and exciting and so much more than the Disney animation. Cinderella and Maleficent were significantly better as well. So while Disney is playing on the nostalgia associated with some of these films, I also don’t mind too much.
With remakes and sequels and Star Wars spinoffs, left, right and centre, with very little new content appearing on our Disney screens, have they run out of ideas? Is the film industry really in need of more remakes and sequels (including a Toy Story 4 – I mean, why?!) or should we accept that the glittering era of our Disney childhoods is over? We survived High School Musical and the Disney Channel, Hannah Montana and Camp Rock with barely a scratch and a few new songs on our playlist (and meme’s about Troy Bolton choosing between singing and basketball) but are Disney scraping the bottom with the live action remakes? I will be the first to admit that I absolutely adored Moana when it was released in December – it was bright, fun and had a pretty good message behind it.
But, overall, with the number of original new Disney content compared to the number of remakes planned, I am inclined to think that while the action is live, the magic is rather exhausted.