Article By: Leela K.
Edited by: Norbu D.
Visual by: Erica N.
There has been a recent wave in Hollywood wherein studios take popular animated films and “improve” upon them by converting them into live-action remakes. The assumption that live-action movies are inherently better due to their adherence to the laws of the natural world, which degrades the genre of animation.
It is a mistake to dismiss animation, as both an art form and storytelling medium, due to its degree of realism. The beauty of animation is that it does not rely on hyper-realism and the constraints of our world. On the contrary, its use of caricatures and over exaggerations can capture an incredible amount of creative depth in characters and stories that reality cannot. Looking at the bigger picture, it becomes clear that the true purpose of Disney’s ever growing list of live-action remakes is not to comment on the value of animation, although it indirectly does, but a quick way to exploit nostalgic fans.
For evidence, look no further than Disney’s 2019 The Lion King live-action remake, a retelling of the 1994 animated classic. A movie that broke several box office records, raking in a whopping $543.6 million globally with only box office sales (McClintock, Pamela), clearly an economic win for Disney. However, in comparison to the original, the critical approval decreased by 40% and audience approval of the reboot also decreased on Rotten Tomatoes, despite the plot, music, major characters, and studio behind the project remaining mostly the same. This is similar to the reboots of Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Dumbo, Aladin, and the countless other live-action remakes Disney has produced within the last 5 years. This means that Disney no longer needs to exert themselves with making new and original content, because they can just sit back and use their new formula, which consists of taking beloved stories and converting them from animated classics and then cranking out reboot after reboot, for as long as they like while still profiting in a couple hundred million dollars every year.
However, Disney’s corporate greed is no surprise. Especially, when the company’s past CEO, Michael Weisner, openly claimed, “We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective.” Though harsh and direct, it is true that Disney is a business, therefore one of their main objectives is to be turning a profit.
The problem with this mentality arises due to the fact that, while Disney makes an enormous profit, audiences, artists, and art suffer. Especially, since competition from other studios has declined in recent years as Disney has absorbed their rivals: Lucas Films, Pixar, Marvel Studios, and 20th Century Fox. This makes it difficult for new opportunities to make creative work to open as Disney has little interest in this. They are no longer an avenue for new stories or art styles, but rather serve as money making machines that require directors to churn out the same stories with a fresh coat of paint every 10 years or so. If this cycle continues, artists will become more and more confined to this mold, and forced to be held back from creating new lovable characters and stories full of creativity. The feeling of nostalgia when we see old disney films could possibly never be replicated for newer generations if this cycle does not stop.
“The Lion King (1994).” Rotten Tomatoes, 2019, http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_lion_king.
McClintock, Pamela. “’The Lion King’: All the Box Office Records Broken.” The Hollywood Reporter, 23 July 2019, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/lion-king-all-box-office-records-broken-1225928.
Eisner, Michael. “Michael Eisner Quote.” AZ Quotes, 2003, http://www.azquotes.com/quote/721141.