Disney’s Live Action Lacks Magic

Nick Conner, Reporter

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The year is 2019 and entertainment has never been stretched thinner. Can any of us truly remember the last time an original idea spawned a film in Hollywood? It seems every movie ticket I buy is a sequel, prequel, or remake in some form or another, and the trailers only promise more. As of last year, Walt Disney Studios owned 27% of the film industry alone. They’re the biggest film company in the world, and they are also very guilty of pulling films from a recycling bin of ideas. One of the biggest culprits, not including Marvel Studios productions, are Disney’s recent live-action films. Audiences have had yet to see something new brought to the table, and the slate for new films in the upcoming year is a bleak reflection of every year before.


It all started back in 2014, when Disney revealed Maleficent, a prequel to the 70s animated classic, Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent tells the tale of the main antagonist from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty story. The CGI is spectacular, but the characters are reduced to a simple revenge storyline that leaves questionable character choices and plot holes. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 54%.


Next came Cinderella, a live-action remake of the original Disney classic. In the same darker, more dramatic approach that Maleficent took, Cinderella spends millions of dollars to tell the same story as before, but this time the pumpkin carriage looks cooler. Following Cinderella, The Jungle Book in 2016 made talking animals look more real than any film had ever done before. Other than that, it was almost as if I was watching a poor imitation of a story that was better told in 1967 as an animated feature.


And the next Disney live-action to hit theaters in 2017, another remake, Beauty and the Beast, made no new creative leaps in filmmaking. The film is nearly identical to its animated predecessor, but hey, now the Beast looks like Dan Stevens.


Next on Disney’s to-do list is a live-action sequel to the 70s Disney cartoon, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. 2018’s Christopher Robin presents an aged Winnie the Pooh as he helps his aged childhood friend rediscover the joys of life in an ever-so-predictable story about the stereotypical lackluster father who is too focused on his career to sufficiently take care of his family. And, following Christopher Robin, came Mary Poppins Returns, yet another sequel to a Disney classic, filled with hollow rehashes of the original’s far superior music and character acting.


Finally, we have 2019’s Dumbo, a story (remake) about a discriminated elephant that overcomes his abuse and rises to fame. Except this time there really isn’t any abuse at all, and a two hour film somehow had less story than the original hour long cartoon. Perhaps because it truly was an attempt at making the same movie twice?

Before this year is over, we will be exposed to the release of two more Disney live-action films, Aladdin and The Lion King. Both remakes of animated films already released in the 90s, they promise to bring all the high-definition and CGI you could possibly hope for. That is, if in a film all you seek to find is special effects and colorfully packaged bags. Personally, I hope for a time when story and creativity is valued in entertainment more than “making it look more realistic”, but it seems that Disney won’t be getting the message. A live-action remake of Mulan is coming in 2020 and the Disney owned Marvel Studios pumps out another live-action superhero film every other month like clockwork. Hollywood is in desperate need of ideas. They have been scraping the bottom of the blockbuster bin and recycling the same ideas for far too long now. Hopefully a younger generation of filmmakers can bring something new to the table and make an impact on storytelling that we haven’t already seen ten times before

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