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The Bridge

The Student News Site of Bridgeland High School

The Bridge

The Student News Site of Bridgeland High School

The Bridge

Lights, camera, live action

The influx of Disney live action remakes
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Ella Oberle
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For the past century, the Walt Disney Company has certified itself as one of the most profitable and influential companies whose success spans across genres such as film, TV, merchandise, amusement parks and more. Few companies have amassed the same kind of success and recognizability as Disney has, especially in regard to family-friendly films. Though many of their most renowned films were released decades ago, they remain beloved and relevant in the media today. This is due to not only the films’ impact on pop culture, but for the stream of live action remakes of these films that have been released in the past decades. The release of so many live action remakes brings forth the question: are these films truly artistic reimaginings and remakes of adored films, or are they an unnecessary cash grab?

The Disney Renaissance

Firstly, it’s important to take into account how the view of Disney has evolved over the years. Specifically for Gen Z, younger people were likely introduced to Disney through films released in the period deemed the “Disney Renaissance.” This period marks the time where Disney saw success after success when releasing films, specifically from 1989 to 1999, including the release of animated films such as “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “Hercules,” “The Lion King” and more. These movies quickly became not only adored by families but critics as well, and to date are some of Disney’s most acclaimed releases. However, now that the oldest of these films is nearly four decades old, some may be less known to young children today as the audience who originally watched them are now adults. With modernizing technology and the resources available, from a marketing perspective, it makes perfect sense: remake the films with modernized production as a way to introduce them to a brand new generation. Not only should it ensure that people continue to love these films and become a fan of Disney, but releasing a film that one already knows people love and will go see in theaters is a safe way to ensure profits. So where does the controversy spark from?

Reception & Profits

It’s not that live action remakes are a new thing: Disney has been releasing live action versions of films for decades, dating back to 1996 with “101 Dalmatians.” But in recent years, it seems like every few months there’s an announcement about a live action remake releasing, and each time the media’s reception to it sours more. While opinions on the live action remakes vary film to film, one thing that can be agreed on is there is a great number of them. In the past decade, a few live action remakes include: “The Jungle Book,” “Cinderella,” “Mulan,” “Cruella,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Maleficent,” “The Lion King,” and “Pinocchio.” Films such as “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “The Lion King” all broke profits of 1 billion in the box office. The latest remake, “The Little Mermaid,” made roughly 569 million in the box office, an impressive number until one considers the budget of the film was roughly 250 million.

Not only do they vary in the box office profits, however in terms of reviews there are stark differences in reception to the original and the remake. On movie review site Rotten Tomatoes, the 1994 film “The Lion King” sits at a 93% positive review from critics. Its live action counterpart released in 2019 sits at 52%. Why is there such a gap in the critical reception for these films if the plots and characters are nearly identical? As Rotten Tomatoes critics state on the 2019 film: “While it can take pride in its visual achievements, ‘The Lion King’ is a by-the-numbers retelling that lacks the energy and heart that made the original so beloved–though for some fans that may just be enough.” One main complaint from the live action “The Lion King” is its the lack of heart, and that seemingly has to do with the realistic animation used. In the 1994 version, characters have diverse bright and human-like facial expressions that help convey their emotions. However, that’s not really the case for the 2019 version, as the characters are animated to look as realistic as possible. In trying to make the film as lifelike as possible, the emotional connection the audience has with the characters dwindles.

Times Changing

In conjunction with “The Lion King,” other live action remakes have faced criticism for their modernization. As most of the original films were released decades ago, they often are evidently from that time period as those who worked on the film were living through a certain time that is dissimilar to the present society. However, as these films are being released in today’s world, should the content within the films be updated to fit today’s society? For instance, in 2020’s “Mulan,” the character Li Shang, one of the main characters in the original and Mulan’s commander, was removed from the story because film makers thought it was inappropriate for a romance to spark between a soldier and their commander due to the power imbalance. The live action film also saw Mulan gifted magical powers that allowed her to master combat and tactics effortlessly, a stark contrast from the original where the main storyline follows her slowly gaining strength and struggling but ultimately never giving up. Are the changes necessary? That’s up for the audience to decide, however the discourse regarding certain decisions for the films is thunderous. But, nothing is quite as infamous as 2024’s “Snow White.” Though the film has yet to be released, star of the project Rachel Zegler’s comments on the original film sparked controversy as she stated: “[W]e absolutely wrote a ‘Snow White’ that [is] not going to be saved by the prince, and she’s not going to be dreaming about true love. She’s going to be dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be.” Her take on Snow White’s character is very different from the original, and it brings the question: is Snow White’s character being changed to try to please the media, or is it being changed to benefit the plot of the film? Discourse continues online, but what remains clear is Disney shows no signs of halting live action releases and at the end of the day it’s up to the individual to decide what movies they like or don’t like. Will Disney continue to release remake after remake, or will they eventually turn to focus on telling new stories? It remains to be seen, but anything’s possible at the most magical place on earth.

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About the Contributor
Ella Oberle, Copy Editor / Feature Editor
Ella Oberle is a junior at Bridgeland High School, second-year newspaper staff member and the copy and feature editor of The Bridge for the 2023-2024 school year. She typically spends her spare time listening to music or reading, though struggles to have free time as a third-year member of the color guard and choir programs. While she’s currently unsure what career she would like to pursue, she enjoys writing alongside learning about history and psychology.

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