In Disney’s 1994 classic “The Lion King”, Mufasa urges his son Simba to “Remember who you are”. Disney is taking this advice to heart as they prepare to re-release this classic, and many others, as live-action remakes.
Director Tim Burton kicked off the trend of remaking animated classics as live-action films back in 2010 with Alice in Wonderland. For the most part, it has proven to be quite successful, with re-imaginings of Beauty and the Beast and The Jungle Book becoming sizable box office hits.
This is unsurprising when you note that Disney has always depended on nostalgia. Its earliest animated successes were variations of stories everyone had been told in childhood including Snow White and Peter Pan.
The current trend works in a similar way by taking tales as old as time which will appeal not only to children but also to a generation of adults with a nostalgic connection to the story.
Disney’s ticket sales have skyrocketed as a result of live-action remakes. In the last decade, the company has released six remakes making more than $4.85 billion worldwide, according to ComScore data.
The Mouse House is continuing this initiative in 2019 with remakes of “Dumbo”, “Aladdin”, “The Lion King” and “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”, despite the latter originally not been scheduled for release until 2020.
With the launch of Disney’s new streaming service Disney+ expected in late 2019, it appears that this fast-tracking is an attempt to boost its stockpile of films.
Up until this point, Disney productions have been streamed by providers such as Netflix and Captain Marvel was the first film not licensed to any streaming services.
That means “Dumbo” and every other Disney movie that hits theatres from now on will likely follow suit. With 16 live-action remakes including “Pinocchio” and “The Jungle Book 2” already in production, Disney is really gearing up ahead of the launch.
However, while this strategy will almost certainly be profitable for the studio in the short term, by investing more and more into live-action remakes, Disney is moving further and further away from what makes it unique.
As children, the thought of seeing our favourite animated characters outside of their animated worlds was a dream, but the reality of live-action is that it is merely a poor substitute.
When Belle and the Beast had their iconic dance in the 2017 version of Beauty and the Beast, we did get to see Belle as a real-life actress dancing in the ballroom. The Beast, however, is just a more complex animation of his original version. Because our emotional attachment will always lie with the original, the dream is only barely realised.
While the live-action remakes will certainly increase numbers at the box office temporarily, it will not result in the production of films that will continue to generate revenue for the studio into the future.
It is modern classics such as Moana, and Frozen that will continue to make the company money and lead to the production of new merchandise for years to come.
Disney will need to look towards its next original movie to capture the hearts of the new generation of moviegoers.
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