My Problems With Live-Action Disney

Disney movies are a staple of thousands of people’s childhoods. It’s understandable why these now grown children would want to give the stories a new twist. But is it really a good thing?

My Problems With Live-Action Disney

Disney movies are a staple of thousands of people’s childhoods. They are films they grew up watching and have continued to love. Whether because of the beautiful dresses, the fantastical universes, or the happily ever after, Disney films have stayed in the zeitgeist for decades.

I find that the appeal of Disney movies often lies within an escape from reality. The viewer is allowed to delve into a candy-colored reality where feelings can be put into song, animals and objects villains and heroes are clear cut, and there’s always a happily ever after. Sure, those ideas aren’t always realistic but I would argue that’s the appeal.  

Live-action Disney leaves these ideas behind in exchange for a universe more deeply rooted in reality. Take 2017’s Beauty and the Beast. In the original movie, Belle’s mother is not in the picture. We never learn why in the original. However, the 2017 version allows Belle to travel back in time (via a magic book gifted to the Beast) to her mother’s deathbed in Paris. We see Belle’s ill mother, sick with the Bubonic plague beg Maurice to take Belle away. This scene is heavy, and between the frightening plague doctor and Belle’s mother’s scars, the scene has the potential to frighten and disturb young children. And honestly, it took me out of the story. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t like the Disney I knew.

This isn’t to say that you aren’t allowed to make sad movies. Of course, that’s fine, our world is not happy all the time. However, the world Disney has previously established has clear-cut happy endings. That’s what a lot of people love about them. Plus, Disney movies are mostly for children. Beyond providing an entertaining movie, Disney movies also often teach kids about life and different morals.

The remakes’ aesthetic often matches the heavier subject matter. The original cartoons have bright colors, vibrant animation, a distinct art style, and characterization. Live-action Disney tends to have a more muted color palette, moodier lighting, and boatloads of CGI. I think Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is the perfect example of that. The original Alice in Wonderland is notorious for its bright colors and trippy animation. Burton’s style is the opposite. Burton’s films often have dark colors, moody lighting, and creepier themes. And his version of Alice in Wonderland falls in line with that. Except it’s boring. It keeps the aesthetics and sacrifices interesting and original plotlines and characters.  And I find that’s the case for a lot of Disney’s remakes. You just can’t capture the vibrancy of a cartoon world in real life.

But perhaps my biggest issue with Disney remakes, beyond altered storylines and weird aesthetics, is that there’s no reason they exist. I can appreciate wanting to take a film you grew up loving, and putting a unique, personal, twist on it. But often these remakes are a shot-for-shot remake of the originals. These movies always have the distinct feel of a cash grab, pandering to people’s nostalgia for these films and combining it with actors they love. It’s just Hollywood narcissism and burnout. There are thousands of original films from people passionate about the art they’re making that never sees the light of day, in favor of these boring remakes that add nothing new to the original film, and exist solely to make money.

There are good reasons to remake these films, like adding more diverse casts of characters and removing segments that may have aged poorly. But most of these films aren’t made for any of these reasons.  If you don’t have anything to add to or elevate a story, what’s the point of remaking it? It’s no longer art for the sake of art, it’s art with ulterior motives. Which makes it less fun to watch! When you know someone poured their heart and soul into writing, directing, filming, a movie, it makes watching it more enjoyable. If you can see the passion in a film it elevates the viewing experience. These films are lacking in that, and it makes them less fun to watch. if you want to watch a Disney film, just watch the original.