Disney Live-Action: Nostalgic or Uncreative?

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It appears that Walt Disney Company has struck yet another goldmine: live-action adaptations of animated classics.

This recent Disney trend has already produced several successes, including the likes of Cinderella (2015) and Beauty and the Beast (2017), which earned a grand total of $544 million and $1.3 billion respectively in the box office. With hundreds of animated classics under their belt, it seems as though Disney has boarded a runaway train to a rapid increase in wealth. But is wealth becoming a priority for this 94-year-old company?

Disney fans may also be questioning the increasing number of sequels. Those due to premiere in the next couple of years include Ralph Breaks the Internet (a follow on from Wreck it Ralph), Frozen 2 and even a Toy Story 4, to name just a few.

So, is Disney simply trying to over-monetise a successful formula or are they wanting to provide fans with more screen time of their favourite characters? Although there are obvious advantages of a tried and tested plot, known costumes and set designs, Disney faces the challenge of meeting the high expectations of fans who have grown up watching and loving these animated Disney classics.

Naturally, Disney is not taking this responsibility lightly and is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into production teams, sets, and of course the famous faces portraying these popular characters. These celebrities include Angelina Jolie, who played Maleficent in the 2014 adaptation of Sleeping Beauty, and Harry Potter’s Emma Watson who portrayed Belle in the 2017 adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.

Disney have made the point that these live-action films are not simply live recreations, but rather a 21st century take on old animated classics. This has proved particularly evident in character development; Angelina Jolie, who played Maleficent, showed this villain in a very different light, giving more human emotion to the character in order to understand her route to evil. This humility was something which the original Sleeping Beauty (1959) did not detail.

Likewise, Emma Watson revealed in press interviews that the Walt Disney team wanted to portray Belle as stronger and more empowered than in the 1991 animated film. This was perhaps a nod to the modern day feminism movement, and Watson, a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, was the perfect actor to bring this portrayal to the screen. It seems as though these 2D characters have not only physically come to life, but now display an emotional complexity which makes them much more personable.

It is safe to say that, rather than a simple remake, these adaptations have achieved the balance of including modern day themes and messages whilst remaining true to the original story, combining new interest whilst delivering the satisfaction of childhood nostalgia.

So, whether you feel cheated out of innovative Disney films or excited to see your favourite classic come to life with a modern twist, prepare to see more and more of these money-making films hitting the big screen in the next few years.

In fact, the most recent adaptation, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, is due to release in UK cinemas on 2nd November, so you’ll have the chance to make your own decision.

Emma Prentice

Image Courtesy of Disney