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Disney is out of ideas

Disney continues to produce remakes instead of anything new

Anika Anderson, Staff Reporter
Originally published January 11, 2018

Anika Anderson

Anika Anderson

Dawn spills warm light onto the cobblestone streets of a quiet village. The brightly colored shutters of a simple cottage burst open and a girl with sparkling eyes full of hope breaks into song. So begins Belle’s story in Beauty and the Beast, both the Disney live action version from 2017 and the original animated version from 1991.

In the past few years Disney has pumped out several successful remakes of their old classics. The remakes peel the well known characters like Maleficent and Cinderella from the classic animations and recreate the magic in live action. Seeing Cinderella’s dazzling blue ball gown sparkle as she races down the steps of the palace in real life — or as close to real life a movie can be — bringing the childhood fantasies of fairytales to life. Seeing the Disney fairytales acted out by real actors instead of an animated drawing makes the stories more relatable and realistic for audiences.

However, despite the wonder and fantasy Disney remakes create, they aren’t new or innovative. Disney is falling back on what has worked in the past instead of providing audiences with imaginative and creative concepts.

There’s nothing wrong with the remakes really; the recreations of original animations are stunning and the acting performances of empowered young actresses like Emma Watson and Lily James are superb. Despite the fantastic visuals, nostalgic songs, and talented actors, the stories have already been told.

Phenomenons like Star Wars weren’t born because producers sat back and redid the same story. At this very moment a thrilling and unique concept is probably being cast aside in favor of redoing something old and successful. Although Star Wars may be considered by some as a fairytale in space it had a new setting, new characters, and its plot wasn’t directly taken from an old story. Disney could be making the next Star Wars, and not the next remake; the next big movie sensation. Instead they are retelling their classics. Again. Get over it, as much as audiences eat up remakes, they would respond even more so to something new and exciting.

Reproducing an oldie is a safe bet for Disney. Beauty and the Beast (2017), the remake of the 1991 animated classic, made $1.264 billion worldwide at the box office while the original made $425 million, according to IMDb. Because people are already familiar with the stories, people are willing to see them again in live action form. People already know they will like the story so they will see the new version.

In the past few years, Disney has made remakes of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderellathe Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast. In 2019, remakes of Dumbo and Aladdin are set to be released while the Lion KingMulanthe Little MermaidPinocchio, and Cruella, a backstory of the villain from 101 Dalmations, are being planned.

Disney isn’t the only one remaking films, other move corporations are remaking old hits because it is safer than producing something completely new. Warner Brothers made $255 million with Blade Runner 2049 this year, a sequel of the original Blade Runner from 1982,  and over the summer Marvel released another remake of Spiderman that raked in $725 million, and in 2016 Columbia Pictures earned $229 million by remaking the 1984 classic comedy Ghostbusters with all female leads.

It is compelling for audiences to see powerful young women in the stories of their childhood; the everpresent message of ambition and perseverance inspiring young children and old romantics alike, but that’s not why the movie industry is remaking them.

Casting badasses like Emma Watson, a successful actress and UN ambassador for women’s rights, and Angelina Jolie, a well known actress, director, and prominent humanitarian, encourages audiences to embrace the importance of women. These remakes are portraying the power of women and the female experience because they usually center around a female protagonist.

Sadly, Disney’s intention is not to promote feminism, it is to make money. The remakes are just catering to the the audience who wants to see the old fairytales with updated characters. The success of the remakes is undisputed with them pulling millions, even billions, at the box office, and this financial success is what Disney is primarily interested in. Disney is, after all, a corporation.

Disney has also been increasing the diversity of its casts to appeal to a larger audience, although the only non-white protagonist of a recent remake was Mowgli from the Jungle Book. Beauty and the Beast had a white lead but included a racially diverse array of side characters and the upcoming Aladdin movie will star another person of color.

The remakes give Disney a chance to diversify their cast and portray more groups, making their characters relatable to a wider audience. With a more diverse cast, side characters in interracial relationships, and hints at a homosexual character, Beauty and the Beast attempted to amend its original set of homogeneous characters.

As much as one would wish Disney was overhauling its stories for the better of society, the real reason behind these noble efforts isn’t to be more inclusive or to update their stories to be more current, although that is the pretext. The real reason for remaking the classics is to make money. By having a more diverse cast, Disney can rake in the cash from more people who see themselves reflected in the films.

These new remakes bring new perspectives and a fresh look, but they are the same stories and ideas as before. The movie industry needs to take some risks and stop falling back on the successes of the past.

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Disney is out of ideas