By: Chris Parris
The year 2019 has been a major year for the Walt Disney Company. Among their releases are Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, Frozen 2, Toy Story 4, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Also among Disney’s releases for this year are four remakes of their classic animated movies: Dumbo, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Lady and the Tramp. Aladdin and The Lion King, in particular, have grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. As of July 2019, Disney has released ten live-action remakes of their classic animated movies, with twelve more slated to be released in the 2020’s. Disney has been making billions of dollars. However, is Disney making too many remakes?
Image Source: E! News
In March of 2010, Disney released a live-action remake of Alice in Wonderland. Made on a budget of $200 million, the movie grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. Nine years later, we find ourselves surrounded by remakes that Disney has made and released, with many more to come in the next decade. Remaking their classic animated movies is a financial move due to the fact that it is less risky since audiences are familiar with the storylines and characters. Disney knows which movies were successful in the past and that they would be successful again as a remake. They also have a loyal, sentimental fan base of adults, parents, and teenagers who remember the classics fondly. There are also children who are ready to experience these stories for the first time in their lives.
The individual who has been leading the crusade to remake Disney’s classic animated movies is Sean Bailey, the president of the company’s motion picture productions. Bailey was appointed to the position in 2010 by Disney CEO Bob Iger. Also leading the crusade is Alan Horn, Disney’s chief creative officer and co-chairman. Bailey and Horn dig through Diseny’s animated archives for stories that are nostalgic and can resonate with modern-day audiences. In 2017, Bailey mentioned in an interview with Deadline that Disney is trying to mimic the success of Marvel. “Marvel has Iron Man, Captain America and Thor; we have Cinderella, Snow White and Belle. Pairing those characters with great live-action talent and technology, something that Walt [Disney] always aspired to do, just seemed a smart way to go.”
Something else that is worth a mention is how Sean and Disney’s creative team look at the concept art and deleted scenes from the classic animated movies. They look for anything that could be added to the original story; in order to get new ideas. Another thing that Sean mentioned in his interview was asking questions about the original stories. For example: “What was Maleficent evil?”. Disney used that question alone to make a movie where Maleficent is the protagonist.
One of the things that Disney takes advantage of with their remakes is nostalgia. They are very well aware that the children who grew up with these classics are adults now; adults with money. Now that is not to say that Disney is not trying to aim for families. Families are their main demographic as a matter of fact. But if Disney could make and release remakes that appeal to the nostalgia of these now grown-up children, they could make some serious money.
Now, is it a good thing or a bad thing that Disney is releasing so many remakes? From a financial standpoint, it is a good thing. Making live-action remakes is less of a risk even though they typically have a lower critical rating than the classics. But in regards to lacking original ideas, it is a bad thing. However, statistically, Disney films that are based on original ideas tend to bomb at the box office. Mars Needs Moms, Tomorrowland, A Wrinkle in Time, The Lone Ranger, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, and John Carter either underperformed or made losses at the box office.
In the next decade, several of Disney’s classic animated movies will get the live-action remake treatment. Remakes of Mulan, The Little Mermaid, The Sword in the Stone, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Lilo & Stitch, Pinnochio, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Robin Hood, and Peter Pan are either in post-production, pre-production, or in development. Disney will continue to be the king at the box office as long as they release live-action remakes.