Like many people, I look fondly upon Walt Disney Productions. As a child of the early 2000s, I grew up loving many Disney animations and musicals, and they are fun and light-hearted and perfectly made for kids. Today, I still love many Disney franchises like Marvel and the Pirates of the Caribbean.
That being said, I have noticed a trend in the last several years. That is the recreation of Disney animated films in live-action. There were several before it; however, I think the decline of the trend started with the 2015 live-action Cinderella. Now, this movie was certainly not the worst of Disney’s remakes. However, I find that it is not at all a very memorable movie.
The most notorious of the live-action Disney remakes are Aladdin, Mulan and The Lion King. Though these movies performed well in theaters, they faced criticism on the internet. Aladdin had the great opportunity to use beautiful Desi colors and clothing. Indian culture utilizes some of the most vibrant colors, perfect for a live-action interpretation of a colorful cartoon. However, Disney failed to correctly take advantage of this and ended up with clothing that looked too much like costumes.
The criticism for the Mulan movie is that essential characters from the original film were removed and the story was simply not as good. Again, the movie performed well in theaters and on Disney’s streaming service Disney+, but the quality of the film was mediocre at best. The Lion King remake had a stellar cast, but most people found the CGI to be on the uncanny side. Many believed that it was too realistic and needed to be a better blend of cartoon and real-life features.
My criticism, however, is on the concept as a whole. In the next couple of months, Disney will be coming out with a new live-action Cinderella movie starring Camila Cabello and a live-action Little Mermaid film starring Halle Bailey. While I appreciate the effort put into these movies, they lack creativity and genuine initiative.
To me, recreating a movie that has already been mapped out is a cash grab. It is an easy way to use people’s nostalgia to get them to buy movie tickets without putting as much work into the production. As someone who loves filmmaking, I find that this sucks the spirit out of the art. Making movies should be about creativity and about bringing a whole new world to life. I believe that Disney needs to stop recycling its old ideas and invest in new ones.
My other criticism is the performative diversity. I do not mind a diverse actor or actress playing a character not originally of their race, gender, age, or anything else. I do mind Disney pretending to be progressive by simply changing the race of a character in a recycled story instead of writing new real stories about diverse people. Minorities need their own stories; they do not need to be thrown into an account that had never intended to represent them in the first place. That is performative activism meant for public relations and box-office sales only.
I look forward to more movies from Disney like Soul and Luca, and I only hope that their live-action productions will one day follow the lead of those movies and have more creativity and real diversity.