Live Action Disney
With the live action remakes of "The Little Mermaid" and "Snow White" as well as a miniseries featuring "Beauty and the Beast" villain Gaston, here's what you can look forward to and why. (Illustration by Giovanna Martin, Columbia College Chicago)

Disney’s Live-Action Remakes Provide a Whole New World of Nostalgia

Although Disney’s live-action remakes have faced criticism for being unoriginal cash-grabs, their nostalgic material and ability to captivate an audience through intricate scenes provide audiences with an exceptional watch.

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Live Action Disney

Although Disney’s live-action remakes have faced criticism for being unoriginal cash-grabs, their nostalgic material and ability to captivate an audience through intricate scenes provide audiences with an exceptional watch.

When Disney works its magic and revives nostalgic storylines for modern-day viewers, tales as old as time can become as good as new. In a remarkable pattern, the iconic entertainment company has spent the past few years resurrecting many of its old animated films as live-action remakes.

Once upon a time, rumors began to spread suggesting that Walt Disney required the company to remake classic movies every 10 years. Snopes.com soon proved the gossip inaccurate, however. “Such a demand would have been highly atypical of Walt Disney, who greatly favored continual innovation over retreading the same entertainment ground. Walt reportedly rebuffed requests for more of the same by retorting, ‘You can’t top pigs with pigs.’”

Although Disney’s founder did not require remakes, the company has nevertheless revived many of their popular original films such as “Beauty and the Beast” and “Mulan.” In the near future, viewers will have the chance to venture under the sea with Disney’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid” and whistle while they watch the new and improved “Snow White.”

Despite Disney’s efforts to bring animated fairytales to life, avid Disney watchers have criticized the live-action remakes for being repetitive, unoriginal cash-grabs. On the other hand, however, many Disney fans admire the effort to reincorporate their favorite childhood characters in a life-like setting.

In a world filled with possibility and opportunity, here’s why Disney should continue releasing live-action remakes.

“I love the nostalgic myself. I hope we never lose some of the things of the past.” — Walt Disney

It’s inaccurate to call Disney crews’ recent work unoriginal and lazy. Disney+ provides some fresh and exciting films with unique storylines, such as “Cruella” and Pixar’s “Luca.” Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Encanto,” a film surrounding the Madrigal family in the mountains of Colombia, is slated to open in theaters Nov. 24. Clearly, the franchise will never stop releasing new original films — just because Disney crews also wish to retell certain stories as live-action remakes, it doesn’t mean they lack creativity.

Nostalgia plays a big role in Disney’s appeal to older audiences. When remakes bring treasured childhood characters to life, fans feel young again as they relive the tale that they once grew up with. Only this time, the experience is better.

Undoubtedly, kids love cartoons. The natural attraction to 2D films proves their interest in addictive fantasies because they don’t have much experience with the real world. Hence, when they grow up and witness live-action remakes of their favorite animated films, they can empathize with the real human beings that portray their cherished characters.

Of course, this is not to say that adults can’t enjoy cartoons or that kids can’t prefer live action over animation. Any Disney movie, whether animated or live, can appeal to any Disney fan, whether young or old. It’s the nostalgia that makes the live-action remakes so exceptional as it gives grown Disney lovers the chance to see their beloved characters and storylines portrayed in a world that is more familiar to their own. 

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.” — Mary Poppins

Johnny Depp made an iconic Mad Hatter in the live-action “Alice in Wonderland.”  Will Smith brought a powerful genie to Agrabah in the live-action “Aladdin.” And viewers got to see Oscar-winning actress Emma Stone put the cruel in Disney’s “Cruella.” 

What can be more entertaining than seeing talented actors represent fantastical heroes, villains, princes and princesses? 

A Hollywood.com article lists 25 dream casting choices for Disney classics. The article suggests “Pretty Little Liars” star Shay Mitchell for the lead role of Pocahontas in a potential remake of the animated original; and for her “flowing blonde locks and sweet singing voice,” the article suggests “Les Misérables” actress Amanda Seyfried for Rapunzel. 

Associating exemplary actors with fairytale roles has been a common trend among Disney fans. In a TikTok video with over 2.3 million likes, the account @ghoulgirlelle shared her picks for a live-action remake of “Inside Out.” She’d cast McKenna Grace for Riley, Jim Parsons for Fear and Tiffany Haddish for Disgust.

@ghoulgirlelle

I need this casting in my life #fyp #insideout #selenagomez #liveaction #pixar #ryanreynolds #adamsandler

♬ Paper Planes – M.I.A.

Rather than simply hear our favorite actors’ voices in animated Disney movies, we get to visually see them bring nostalgic characters to life through live-action remakes. The combination of well-known actors and iconic Disney characters paves the way for a charming and impressive Disney film.

“To infinity and beyond!” — Buzz Lightyear

Disney has a profound reputation for going the extra mile with its musical performances. With stunning graphics and captivating details, what may be attractive in an animated film can prove beyond exquisite in a live-action setting. 

Robin Williams’ original version of “Friend Like Me” was a huge hit; in fact, the 65th Academy Awards and the 50th Golden Globe Awards nominated it for best original song. During the music video, Genie proves his supernatural power to a skeptical Aladdin by suggesting that the softhearted thief has never had a friend like him. 

In the animated depiction of “Friend Like Me,” viewers witness all sorts of random objects and scenery while the Genie sings to Aladdin. They can see rockets, dragons, quick wardrobe changes and dancing elephants. From one action-packed scene to another, fans were unsure of how the 2019 live-action remake of “Aladdin” would pull off the musical sequence. 

However, Will Smith’s modern version of “Friend Like Me” is a prize on its own. The production crew took an animated performance and miraculously turned it into a breathtaking concert of 3D animals, fireworks and dance breakouts. 

Similar to the anticipation for the live-action remake of “Friend Like Me,” fans were skeptical of how the 2017 “Beauty and the Beast” would redo the 1991 animation of “Be Our Guest.”  Not surprisingly, the 2017 version met, if not surpassed, fans’ expectations with spectacular scenes of dancing dishes and candelabra.

Perhaps it’s true that the live-action musical performances don’t live up to the animated originals, but it’s safe to say that the live adaptations are special, extravagant pieces that deserve praise and appreciation for pulling off intricate details. Their creative and financial success makes a great case for the Disney company to continue releasing live-action remakes. 

“If you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll learn things you never knew.” — Pocahontas

By releasing enhanced remakes of popular Disney classics, production crews have the opportunity to retell an original story while adding unique elements to distinguish the live action from the animation.

One aspect of the 2015 “Cinderella” film that differs from the original is the addition of Cinderella’s mother. In the animated version, viewers learn that Cinderella’s father is a widower who feels that she needs a mother’s care. As a result, he marries Lady Tremaine.  

However, in the live-action remake, audiences witness an exchange between young Cinderella and her mother who encourages her to always “have courage and be kind.” In remaining true to the original story, her mother dies from an illness, and the father is left widowed. 

Retelling the classics gives Disney room to answer some contextual questions that fans may have had after the release of the originals. Live-action remakes can tell untold stories and give viewers the chance to walk the footsteps of a new or mysterious character. Accordingly, the audience will also have the opportunity to learn new things about their favorite childhood movies and characters. 

“All it takes is faith and trust.” — Peter Pan

Although Disney originals always end with a “Happily Ever After,” there’s no need to say goodbye to these tales when Disney can successfully pull off live-action remakes. As generations pass on these special stories, so do Disney crews with the art of live-action. 

Give remakes a chance. Relish the nostalgia and obsess over seeing the best actors portray the most iconic characters. Learn something new about the fairytale that was once presumed to be complete. Disney crews might not be turning pumpkins into carriages, but they are definitely giving tales as old as time the chance to be something extraordinary. 

Writer Profile

Michelle Buckley

Chapman University
B.F.A. Creative Writing

Michelle Buckley is a rising sophomore at Chapman University and majors in creative writing. Driven by self-expression and motivation to build a community, Buckley hopes to make an impact with her passion for writing.

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