Disney needs to put live action back in the bottle


photo by Disney

The Lion King (1994) and Aladdin (1992) are two of the most iconic movies from Disney, and were re-imagined in 2019 for live-action. The two films generated more than $1.3 billion in total.

Nothing compares to sitting at home in front of your boxed television as a child, jamming out to “Hakuna Matata” with animated Timon and Pumbaa, listening to commentary from iconic characters and loving every second of it. Re-watching these movies reminds us of our childhood or even adulthood, but coming back to it years later, will it be the same? Did live-action The Lion King bring anything new to the story? Can Will Smith replace Robin Williams in Aladdin?

Recent movies such as Dumbo, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and Christopher Robin have been adapted from their timeless cartoons to live-action counterparts with much speculation, catching the attention of passionate Disney fans. The consensus is the movies are okay, but not as good as the originals. It is common sense. You are comfortable and change is bad.

Though we’ve seen some remakes in the past (The Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians) Disney has been really pushing to turn out some more revenue, having us ride along on this live-action roller coaster.

The influx of films from Disney is likely because of Disney Plus, Disney’s streaming service coming November 2019. Parents are more likely to buy the subscription with fresh content appearing.

So we come to the question: are Disney live-action movies better than the originals? In short, no. The long answer is more complicated. Don’t get me wrong, the movies are great, but none of them have surpassed the originals, and don’t seem to stand alone in imagination or creativity. Trying to recreate something while keeping it exactly the same was not the smartest choice for Disney. If you are going to redo it, make it more original.

The movies are still going to make money, and will have a generally good response, but messing with something already good to begin with just ruined the feeling of the movie before it even began. Nothing could ever surpass the nostalgia associated with the original aspects and cast, so why even bother?

The 2019 rendition of Aladdin had some problems. In reality, the movie was fine, the plot was cheesy, but the cultural stereotypes were very apparent. In 2019 standards, that is dangerous ground to walk on. But when it came out originally in 1992, it was fine.

Speaking on character decisions, staying true to traditional cultural dress would seem like a good idea, but it would have felt more like a blast from the past if they kept the genuine style of Ja’far and Princess Jasmine. The movie was like a trip to Disneyland, with characters dressed as if they were not the characters, and there was definitely a disconnect. The animal side-sicks were also not memorable.

Not to mention, we are so inclined to love Robin Williams then when Will Smith was cast we were all a little apprehensive. But Will Smith is Will Smith and he did fantastic. It would have been more magical if the Disney genies decided to add a little something extra to the story, such as a new character or maybe a different scene. The Lion King was like this as well, copied frame from frame, based on the 1994 animation.

The animation and CGI in The Lion King were interesting in most parts and had good voice actors which helped the movies overall feel. Though, sometimes the animation was too much and took away from character personality. And of course, nothing can replace the hand-drawn artwork from the original.

The Lion King and Aladdin are the most recent live-action films, but others were produced as well, with the same reaction. Just a little disappointing, but still a good try.

Reminiscing was an experience, and to the common eye, they were good movies. But making something that is exactly like the original and messing with an already good movie was a mistake, they should have let it be. Times have changed and if they would have strayed farther from the original story, it would have been more enjoyable. This might have made Disney fans upset, but still, bringing something fresh would have been a nice surprise.

Whether you like these live-action stories or not, Disney is not stopping, more movies are coming soon to theaters near you: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019), Lady and the Tramp (2019), Mulan (2020), Cruella (2021), with many more to come. These movies will hopefully bring something new to the story, especially Mulan. But with Disney’s strange history so far, it will be interesting to see how they adapt the story if at all.