Disney Live Action Remakes
If Disney's going to spend buckets of money on remaking animated films, why don't they concentrate on the ones that need to be remade or given a sales boost? (Illustration by Amelia Fins, Montclair State University)
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Disney Live Action Remakes

These films just don’t have the same appeal in live action.

Most of us have seen the classic Disney animated movies like “Aladdin,” “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast,” and the media giant has made adaptations of these movies along with other animated hits into live action films. Disney tries its best to maintain the original storylines in the live action films, but multiple problems still make them pale in comparison to their original counterparts. Here are four of those problems.

1. The facial expressions on characters are a lot easier to get right in animation. 

No shade to the actors in Disney’s live action remakes or whoever animates the live action animals’ faces, but facial expressions overall come off a lot better in the original animated films. Especially in “The Lion King,” the animals during a lot of scenes had no emotion on their faces and that made the saddest scenes almost laughable instead of heart-wrenching like they should’ve been.

A review of the 2019 live action version of “The Lion King” made an astute observation that “the sharp zoom-out of Simba ‘yelling’ “Nooooo,” his small mouth agape with no emotion in his eyes, gave the effect of a well-kept taxidermied animal.” Due to the fact Disney tried incredibly hard to keep this movie hyper-realistic, Simba’s emotions that came through perfectly in the animated version of “The Lion King” were almost entirely lost in its live action counterpart.

A similar problem emerged in the live action version of “Beauty and the Beast.” While in the animated version, the Beast’s humanity and emotions shine through in his animal form. His emotions progress throughout the film, and he eventually becomes less scary and more relatable, even likable.

In the live action movie, however, you can’t tell what the Beast is thinking from his facial expressions. He’s not nearly as expressive due to Disney wanting him to look as animalistic as possible. The animated Beast was mad at times but also confused, conflicted and ashamed, and you could tell. The live action Beast most of the time just seemed … angry. Animation did the Beast a favor and developed his character much better than live action ever could.

Facial expressions and characters’ ability to emote (whether they’re animals, humans or objects) translate to audiences much better through Disney’s animated movies. Live action only limits the amount of expression these characters can realistically have and sacrifices relatable emotions to the audience for realness.

2. Disney keeps the live action narrative almost entirely the same. 

Most of us have seen “Aladdin,” so we know what’s going to happen before we even watch the live action remake, because Disney won’t change the storyline pretty much at all. There are some minor tweaks to the dialogue, but the main plot doesn’t change. Disney also doesn’t improve on any scenes with the changes they do make.

They could’ve delved into Aladdin’s background more or expanded on critical scenes, like the one where Jasmine finds out Aladdin was lying about his identity. All Disney did was change the dialogue around a little bit, add a few tidbits here and there and then call it a day.

Going back to “The Lion King,” there was a golden opportunity for Disney to further explain what happened to Simba, Timon and Pumba when they were living their Hakuna Matata lifestyle while Simba grew up. However, the 2019 version merely copied the animated movie’s song sequence and showed the trio walking along without any further context or expansion on what they got up to.

It seems Disney isn’t interested in reimagining any of the classic movies so audiences could get both a fresh take and still maintain the nostalgia for the original. Instead, Disney chose to capitalize on people wanting to see their childhood favorites come to life and not change anything other than the animation style.

3. They only remake movies that did well, not ones that might actually need a remake. 

In recent years and with basically all Disney’s live action remakes, the multimedia conglomerate only seems to want to do the movies that fared best in the box office when they were animated. Redoing the most popular animated hits serves as an easy cash grab from audiences who are nostalgic about their favorite Disney movies, and from kids who want to see those stories come to life.

Disney knows live action remakes of movies like “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Dumbo” will bring in the most money because they were so popular when the animated versions came out. They know people will watch, which is safer than trying anything new or remaking less popular Disney movies.

What about “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” or “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” for remakes?  “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” got a bit swept under the rug during its release and wasn’t as popular as Disney’s more famous films, probably due to it being some of the company’s heaviest and darkest material. However, it has huge potential for a live action remake and there’s so much Disney could do with the ominous scenery, the gargoyles and Paris’ political climate at the time.

Disney should remake movies that need more attention and could use a reboot. “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” has a lot of potential as well because there’s a diverse cast, strong plot and good moral lessons people of all ages will understand. “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” also didn’t do nearly as well in the box office as some of Disney’s most successful movies.

Only remaking animated classics that brought in the most money and were popular is a transparent move designed to bring Disney more money without it having to change much. Instead of focusing on new material or remaking the lesser-known classics, Disney still chooses to stick to what is safe and profitable.

4. Disney is treating animation like a lesser medium than live action. 

It’s bothersome that Disney, for whatever reason, is cementing this notion that animation is just “kids stuff” and live action movies are somehow for adults. Despite this, Disney is producing the exact same movies as before, but in some cases, they are just more forgettable and uninspired. The art of animation is one that has been around for over a century, and animators do an amazing job of telling stories through their chosen medium.

The live action remakes Disney has been dishing out over the past few years don’t come close to the magic animators were able to create decades ago with a pencil and paper. These are stories live action film makers are just now being able to tell, but they don’t feel like upgrades from the animated versions. If you look at side-to-side comparisons of scenes from Disney’s live action films with their animated counterparts, the animation is far superior.

It’s understandable some people might want to see how animation looks when brought to life, but Disney’s classic animated movies aren’t only for children, nor are they lesser just because they are animated. Animation gives characters the emotion and nuance they need to be appealing, while live action seems to suck the soul out of those same characters.

Overall, Disney’s live action remakes are pretty problematic, and though they rake in quite a bit of money, people are starting to realize the problems. There’s no merit in recreating the same movies only to bring back nostalgia and to have audiences watch them merely because they remember the original. Disney preferably should be creating new material, and if the company is going to do live action remakes, they should not tell the same stories repeatedly. It’s lazy, money-hungry and does no justice to the animated origins of these movies.

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