It’s no secret that The Walt Disney Company is partial to its live-action remakes. After all, no one’s twisting their proverbial arms. Many of the latest remakes are wildly creative and fans at the theatres seem to enjoy the revisiting of the classics.
Several of the live-action reimaginings of classic films have landed the Walt Disney motion picture studio in a remarkable place financially. The remake of 1991’s Beauty and the Beast in 2017 by Director Bill Condon earned $1.2 billion at the box office worldwide, and this year’s reimagining of Aladdin followed suit with a gross of over $1 billion. Jon Favreau’s movie that served as a live (or CGI-rendered) take on The Lion King surpassed Frozen with a gross of more than $1.6 billion worldwide. (The Frozen sequel may trump those lions, though.)
Fans also enjoyed the live-action remake of The Jungle Book and Tim Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland. So the studio certainly isn’t at a loss for an audience. In other words, what’s the reason for Disney to be concerned that they’re producing too many. It’s far too lucrative for them to discontinue the trend.
But those opposed to all the remakes, as well as some fans of the remakes, have asked whether the continual stream of remakes means that the entertainment powerhouse has somehow run out of ideas. And it’s not because they only like animated features.
That’s apparently a question on the minds of a lot of people—even top execs in the industry. During a meeting of the minds roundtable discussion assembled by The Hollywood Reporter that involved Hollywood’s top film executives, Disney’s Chief Creative Officer and Co-Chairman Alan Horn was asked whether there is any end in sight for the stream of remakes.
Horn didn’t beat around the bush, not for a minute.
“There is no question that we, at some point, are going to run out of the kinds of films like Aladdin or Lion King,” Horn explained. “We have taken a step past that now so Maleficent is a step away from Sleeping Beauty, and Cruella (2021) is a step away from 101 Dalmatians.” And then Horn clinched his answer: “There is no question it’s a finite universe.”
It sounds like Horn is looking forward to telling new stories about characters already born into the Disney universe.
In the case of Maleficent, the evil villain is given a backstory, as if to give a reason—not an excuse, mind you—for her terrible behavior. Elements of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty are touched upon in the film, but the story is from Maleficent’s point of view. Cruella will also tell a backstory that leads up to her affinity for fur coats made from the spotted coats of Dalmatian puppies.
A film simply titled Prince Charming is in the works at Disney as well, in which the story is told from the perspective of the prince’s brother who is a bit of a black sheep.
It’s true that Disney has already begun looking at remakes of some of their lesser-known and non-traditional films, such as Kenneth Branagh’s version of Cinderella.
Still the list of live-action remakes already in the works is lengthy (and seems to continue to grow). We’re awaiting (some of us impatiently and some of us without bated breath) the releases of Lady and the Tramp next month via Disney+, Mulan, Snow White, and The Little Mermaid.
And we’re just getting started.
Only time will tell whether Horn was caving under the scrutinous pressure of his colleagues, or if Disney really will begin to take a different approach to its new live-action addiction. But even those fans who aren’t so keen on the live-action remakes still remain Disney fans, and if nothing else, their affinity for the brand mixed with pure human curiosity continues to draw them in—whether they want anyone to know it or not.
What’s your take on the continual stream of live-action remakes? Let us know in the comments section below.