Disney’s recent phase of retelling virtually all of their most popular animated films is something that has become such a large and inevitable part of the studio that it’s unquestionably a normal and accepted element of the company. While some have been marvelous, (The Jungle Book, Cinderella, Pete’s Dragon), some have been moderately delightful (Beauty and the Beast, some of Alice Through the Looking Glass) and some have been awful (Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland), there’s no doubt that these movies contribute much to what the modern Walt Disney Company looks to achieve in the new era of Disney branding, but while these films are fantastic money-generators for Disney shareholders and some of them are excellent fan-service to die-hard Disney fanatics like myself, I believe there’s truly another element that exists along with these films, one that I believe will actually hurt the Disney company in the long run, and for many years to come.
To understand why these films might actually impact the company, it’s important to take a look at the way the current company operates. When Beauty and the Beast opened in theaters in 1991, it was instantly greeted warmly by audiences and critics, making it a landmark achievement in the Disney library. That spectacular film quickly spawned off sequels, theme park attractions, a Broadway show, and a live-action remake. The reason why Beauty and the Beast lives on is that it’s remembered as a spectacular film, and there’s a massive amount of nostalgia value to those that grew up with the film that the nostalgia factor is what’s driving the legacy behind these films. If anything is clear, Beauty and the Beast would have remained relevant the same way Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has because Disney was maintaining the legacy of these films, and that these movies were still touching the heart of millions. But what happens when you replace those timeless films, with newer, updated versions? Will the original films have the same impact to today’s kids as they did for their parents? Which versions will be remembered twenty-five years down the line by the kids of today?
It’s difficult to say if Disney has a plan for these live-action films further down the line, or if it’s just a quick phase the company will go through and be done with by 2025, but if these films prove to be financially successful, and the kids of today build the same sense of nostalgia for say, the 2019 version of The Lion King as audiences did back in 1994, it would be difficult to imagine that the company wouldn’t want to cash in on what will be nostalgia by the time 2030 rolls around, giving the ability for the kids of today to share with kids of their own. Therefore, Disney will either find itself at a crossroad, determining which version of The Lion King to keep alive or even possibly drowning out the original version in favor of the more recent, and newly-nostalgic version of this film. In addition, if not for these remakes, Disney’s films would have lived on regardless, as decade-old films like Snow White and Mary Poppins have proven.
Because of these remakes, the future of the Disney legacy finds itself at the beginning of a confusing crossroad, and it is one that may take at least five years to take effect, or might not even take effect at all depending on how much Disney is dedicated to keeping the legacy of their originals intact, but it certainly puts Disney in a bit of a confusing position. While this company has certainly done some amazing work, and are dedicated and passionate to staying true to the source material of each film they tackle, a film like Beauty and the Beast raises the question: Why remake a movie already so perfect in its definitive version, if you have nothing to add with a new film? Perhaps if I was a Disney shareholder, my opinion of these films would be quite different, but while these films are certainly providing a wonderful cash-grab for the studio, they run the risk of throwing the entire Disney brand into limbo in the near-future, which hopefully, is something that Disney is concerned about.
Something that’s clear about these movies is that they are not going anywhere at any time soon. These movies are something that now is such an instrumental element in the new form that Disney is taking and the monumental box-office revenue being received by them, that a new lineup of films is obviously on the horizon, which consists of Mulan (2018), Mary Poppins Returns (2018), The Lion King (2019) and Aladdin and Dumbo (both with release dates to be announced) just to name a handful. Even though we’ve loved some of these films, the most important thing that we can hope for, as Disney fans, is that whether or not these future films are spectacular or mediocre, that Disney never forget about the animated classics that helped these films be made possible and the legacy that was all started by a mouse.