Is rebooting old Disney animated films a good idea?

By Melissa Farthing, Staff Writer/Artist

Picture yourself walking into your local movie theater. Before you step into the building, you notice something eye-catching written across the glowing lights of the marquee. Can it be? It is. Your favorite Disney animated movie! Forget that other film you were planning to see; it’s time to indulge in some sweet nostalgia! Before you purchase your ticket, you peruse the various movie posters hung upon the wall. There it is! The poster for your childhood film. But WAIT! Something about it seems uncanny. Instead of featuring the classic, hand-drawn animation, the characters on the poster are played by real-life actors or CGI-produced animals. “This isn’t the movie I remember!” you exclaim. What the heck happened?!

I’ll tell you what happened: Disney started rebooting their animated movie library. If you are a Disney nerd like me, you’ve probably noticed that in recent years, Disney has been remaking their animated movies into live action features. Why? The main reason is because they sell. People are always looking to experience nostalgia, and one way to do this is by watching new versions of their favorite childhood films, perhaps with their own children. This is why the box office numbers for these remakes are usually staggeringly high. 

No matter how much money these reboots bring in, a big question still lingers: are they a good idea? In my opinion, yes. And no.

See, I believe that these movies can be a good idea if they are done right. If your remake is nearly a carbon copy of the original, like The Lion King, your audiences may find it boring and trite. On the contrary, if your remake is almost nothing like the original, like Dumbo, you’ll be left with a product that’s unrecognizable, and yet, unable to stand alone as its own thing. The best way to approach a remake is to stay true to the source material while adding elements that are new and innovative.

Two Disney remakes that I feel followed the positive formula are The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast. The 2016 version of The Jungle Book borrowed elements from both the 1967 Disney film and the collection of short stories written by Rudyard Kipling in 1894, of which the first film was based off. This gave the remake a fresh feel while still maintaining the fun, carefree tone of the old Disney classic. Beauty and the Beast’s plot was, surprisingly, very similar to the 2D animated film produced in 1991. However, what differentiates the two movies are the new elements added in the remake not seen in the original version. In the 2017 film, more info is given on Belle’s mother, and new songs, like “Evermore,” prevent the soundtrack from going stale.

Although there have already been thirteen theatrical Disney remakes (three in just the past year), the reboot train won’t stop chugging anytime soon. Not including the Lady and the Tramp remake coming to Disney+, the next remake that will be released is Mulan, hitting theaters on March 27th, 2020. Maleficent, Mistress of Evil is arriving even sooner: October 18th, 2019. Technically, this is merely a sequel to a remake and not a true remake itself. Other retellings to come include The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Lilo and Stitch and more.

Whether you are a fan of Disney remakes or not, it appears that they will not stop anytime soon. All I have left to say is that I sure am looking forward to that live-action Frozen movie in 2035!