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Tale as old as time: The money-grubbing problem with Disney’s live-action remakes

Graphic by Ethan Nelson

For a while now, Disney has been taking animated films from the ‘80s and ‘90s and remaking them into live-action movies that have been nowhere close to their predecessors in terms of quality. With the upcoming releases of “Peter Pan and Wendy” and “The Little Mermaid,” live-action remakes show no signs of improvement.

Disney is banking on nostalgia and expects that people will eat these movies up, and they’re right. Although these remakes don’t receive much critical praise, they have certainly raked in a ton of money at the box office. “The Lion King” (2019) became the best-performing animated film ever, beating out the original. 

With the knowledge that fans will watch these movies no matter what, Disney has very little reason to put huge amounts of effort into them. As a result, the films end up being shadows of their former selves with huge downgrades in their looks, music and performances.

Specifically, the music lacks the power and emotion of the originals. Emma Watson’s singing in the “Beauty and the Beast” remake is completely drowned out by autotune, which makes it hard to feel any emotion. The remake of “The Lion King” does an even worse job with lackluster music and visual components. These scenes lack the fun visuals of the original, especially the song “Be Prepared.”

The looks of all these remakes are also substandard. Even though they are supposed to be more realistic, the animation often appears more unnatural. Everything appears incredibly washed out and even in dark scenes, it all seems to glow with a strange light, making it feel very produced. This becomes even more pronounced in brighter scenes where it becomes difficult to look at. 

So, besides making Disney a ton of money, what is the point of all these remakes if they just end up worse than their originals? There isn’t one. People can always return to the older films if they want to. Digital animation technology is improving so quickly that they already look dated, while the originals have a timeless quality. 

As it stands right now, Disney doesn’t seem to have learned anything ahead of the newest remakes. “The Little Mermaid” looks about on par with the other ones and “Peter Pan and Wendy” looks even worse. To top it all off, a live-action remake of “Moana” was recently announced even though it isn’t even a decade old yet. 

Disney is creatively bankrupt and fans seem to be catching on. Only time will tell if this translates to any meaningful change in future live-action remakes.

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