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Disney’s Remaking of Classics into Live-Action Films Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 4th, 2021

Introduction

Every person has some sacred childhood memories that they carry throughout their lives and later share with their children and grandchildren. For many generations not only in the USA but also all over the world, such memories inevitably involve Walt Disney’s classic animated films. The heroes in these animations are known to millions of individuals. The songs have been translated into many languages and have become the most recognizable pieces.

The characters’ costumes have inspired many children to play games full of magic where the good always wins over the evil. Recently, however, the company has acquired a new strategy of remaking its popular classics into live-action films, making them extremely true-to-life. Unfortunately, such changes are not only a step toward modernization. Along with bringing the company profit, the live-action tendency takes away people’s childhood by altering the well-known characters and making them look strikingly different. Disney should stop remaking its animated films because by doing so, they ruin them; and the classics always outshine live-action movies anyway.

Background on the Issue

Disney’s world of magic earned popularity in 1937 with the theatrical premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (Wills 1). Despite skepticism, the play had immense success, and its creators continued developing their projects. In 1939, the first feature-length film was released, which had even more positive reviews than the play. Snow White was referred to as “a magical, timeless piece of cinema” by the most pronounced critics (Wills 2).

The studio’s population grew rapidly, and the company was viewed as synonymous with “family, fun, childhood, and the American Dream” (Wills 2) and “wholesome family entertainment” (Elnahla 114). Every next animated film became a hit that would remain in the hearts of many generations as the most touching childhood memory. Cinderella, The Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Bambi, Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Mulan – the list can be extended by many more titles that have become known to the whole world.

Disney’s fame was based on the combination of “artistry, business, and family values” (Wills 1). Artistry and family values were the factors that promoted the company’s popularity. However, business was an inseparable part of the whole production process, and with time, it introduced serious changes to the company’s work. Once the place that made visitors feels like in the “artist’s paradise,” the studio started thinking less of its established image and more of increasing its profitability (Norman 7). Hence, the era of the “new marketing strategy” began, which presupposed remaking classic Disney animations into live-action films (Elmogahzy 1). The problem is that while Disney has strengthened its financial state, it has started losing loyal viewers who have been with the company for many decades.

Claim One: Ruining the Magic

The main reason why Disney’s idea of remaking the good old classical animated films is not entirely successful is that the feelings of numerous viewers are hurt and disturbed. People who watched animations in their childhood were enchanted by Disney’s creations. Nowadays, instead of the beloved characters whose faces are recognized everywhere, Disney suggests observing movie stars dressed inexpensive costumes and surrounded by remarkable decorations.

Disney’s ambitions in this dimension are considered as the movement toward “globalization” (Sandlin 190). However, earning all the fame in the world cannot be achieved by altering well-known characters in a way that makes them unrecognizable. Despite copying the old animated heroes almost in every detail, the new live-action figures cannot compete with them in the area of tenderness, magic, and fascination.

Disney has never been an ordinary studio, and it has offered its viewers extraordinary animations that were enchanting even almost a hundred years ago. Thus, the intention to “renovate” all of its animated hits seems to make no sense. Disney’s culture has always presupposed that characters should be “adorable” or at least “interesting” (Norman 260). The audience’s acceptance of the character is highly crucial, for if they do not “resonate” with the hero, they will not take care of the storyline (Norman 260). This held true for animations, but it certainly cannot be told about live-action films. Characters in the latter do not always look pleasant or exciting, which ruins the magic of the whole story.

Claim Two: Setting Generations Apart

The second idea putting the success of live-action films under question is that they create a generation gap between those whose childhood was colored by Disney’s animation films and the ones who watch live-action movies. By copying their own work with some alterations, Disney owners have destroyed the family values cherished by many families. Thus, rather than being an “international cultural icon,” the company has turned into the one that sets generations apart (Elnahla 114).

In fact, live-action films have, even if unintentionally, introduced new topics that were not present in old versions. After the 2017 release of Beauty and the Beast, critics noted that the movie might have promoted the gay agenda by “insinuating that the character of Lefou may be interested in men” (Elmogahzy 2). Such changes, even if a minute or accidental, undermine the fairy nature of the company’s productions and can make it impossible for many families to agree on the version they would like to watch together.

In a world where people should strive for the sense of community spirit, one of their all-time favorite means of entertainment creates barriers for people from different generations spending time together. In the analysis of Disney’s animated life processes, Norman remarks that Walt Disney “didn’t like to be dazzled by fancy artwork,” enjoying a simple expression of ideas (262). Unfortunately, in the course of time, the attitude of the company to its art production changed dramatically.

In an attempt to modernize its animated stories, Disney created too deep a gap between various categories of viewers who cannot understand each other’s reasons for preferring one of the versions to the other.

Claim Three: Not So Much Live After All

Finally, those opposing the idea of massive reincarnation of the classic animations note that live-action films are more action than live, which undermines trust toward the company. Disney has a “jampacked live-action production schedule” and claims to make its new releases of old stories natural and close to real-life (Elmogahzy 2). However, what was possible to depict in animation cannot be done with real animals. It is not possible to train forest animals to help Cinderella wash clothes or make a lion sing in The Lion King. As a result, modern versions of the classic stories are not as lively as their creators claim them to be. In such a situation, a reasonable question to ask is whether traditional animation has really lost its power.

Animators working for Disney in the previous century did not lack professionalism or talent. Each of the characters coming out from their work was unique, memorable, and highly entertaining. Exactly because of those features did they find their way to the hearts of millions of young and adult viewers. Additionally, because of the animated appearance, it was easier for Disney’s characters to draw the public’s attention to serious problems. The classic animated movies had the power to raise “the consciousness of societies” by showing people’s inhumanity from the “perspective of other species” (Elnahla 114).

Those stories empowered “bookworm characters,” encouraged female leaders, and increased the audience’s favorable treatment of “handicapped and ethnic outcast” heroes (Elnahla 114). Disney animators used drawing as a medium to tell “a beautiful, stylized story <…> that resonated with children and adults alike” (Di Placido). Renovated versions of these stories do not convey the same level of promoting acceptance and kindness.

Claims of Opposition: New Technologies and Higher Profits

Despite numerous negative opinions, there are many people who consider Disney’s advancements as a positive idea. Elmogahzy argues that remakes are “what Disney makes best” and that they have become the “cornerstone” of the company’s strategy (2). Live-action films are more modern and thus appealing to younger viewers who may find animation boring after being exposed to multidimensional movies and games since their infant age.

Another argument in favor of the company’s decision is that Disney wants to sustain its profitability and even increase it. After all, “reselling old stories with a new, shiny coat” of computer-generated imagery is “an immensely profitable activity” (Di Placido). In modern cinematography, where photorealistic effects are some of the most popular approaches to making movies, one can easily lose popularity if one continues to employ old-fashioned methods.

Refutation of Opposition

However, Disney is not merely one of many companies providing entertainment. It is the one: the producer of smiles, tears of sympathy and happiness, joy, and many other sincere feelings for many decades. No modernization can win over Disney’s traditional simplicity and charm. No dazzling photorealistic effects can eclipse animators’ drawings that have remained most alive of all. It is not possible to surpass the impact that the classic Disney animated films have created.

Conclusion

Taking into consideration the arguments, it is relevant to conclude that Disney should cease remaking its animated movies because by doing so, they only ruin the fairy-tale in which people have believed for decades. Many people are negatively surprised by the company’s innovative ideas since the latter contradict the long-lasting effect that Disney’s creations have been producing. Animations that have been enjoyed several decades ago become brutally transformed to suit modern cinematography, which cannot be accepted by some loyal viewers.

Moreover, it has become impossible for families to spend time together watching favorite films since there is a generation gap induced by the double nature of many classical movies. Finally, whereas live-action films do incorporate much action, they are not live in all instances. Thus, it seems viable to note that old-fashioned animations are more suited to feature fairy-tales than modern versions full of special effects but lacking ingenuity. On the other side, advocates of remakes state that the modernization of Disney’s content helps to win new audience groups and gain considerable profit. However, remakes cannot outshine the charm of traditional Disney’s stories.

Works Cited

Di Placido, Dani. “Forbes. 2018. Web.

Elmogahzy, Amany Yeahia. A “Whole New World”: Race and Representation in Disney’s Live-Action Remakes of Aladdin, The Lion King, and Mulan. Master’s Thesis, Auburn University, 2018.

Elnahla, Nada Ramadan. “Aging with Disney and the Gendering of Evil.” Journal of Literature and Art Studies, vol. 5, no. 2, 2015, pp. 114-127.

Norman, Floyd. Animated Life: A Lifetime of Tips, Tricks, Techniques, and Stories from a Disney Legend. Elsevier, 2012.

Sandlin, Jennifer A., & Julie C. Garlen. “Magic Everywhere: Mapping the Disney Curriculum.” The Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, vol. 39, no. 2, 2017, pp. 190-219.

Wills, John. Disney Culture. Rutgers University Press, 2017.

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"Disney’s Remaking of Classics into Live-Action Films." IvyPanda, 4 June 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/disneys-remaking-of-classics-into-live-action-films/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Disney’s Remaking of Classics into Live-Action Films." June 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/disneys-remaking-of-classics-into-live-action-films/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Disney’s Remaking of Classics into Live-Action Films'. 4 June.

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