Disney’s Live-Action Remakes: A Loss of Creativity?

From The Lion King to Aladdin, many beloved Disney films are being given the chance to come to life in Disney’s recent obsession with live-action films. This has led many fans to think that the company is losing its creative edge. What happens when a company, which has won more than 84 Academy Awards over the years, runs out of ideas?

Disney’s new formula of live-action remakes works great and brings a huge profit to the company without requiring much effort. For instance, the 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast is currently Disney’s second most profitable production, making 1.26$ billion. They take an old story, which will appeal to the younger generation, as well as their parents and the middle ground generation of adults that have a nostalgic connection to the original films (myself included). By casting some well-known and loved celebrities in the new productions and with the help of 3D technology, you are left with a recycled Disney film that is guaranteed to be successful. Take the upcoming Lion King for example. Just a few days after the movie’s trailer release, it became Disney’s most-watched trailer, and the box office sales are certain to match.  The remake would not create such anticipation if it were not for the existence of the original.

The new remakes are unquestionably profitable for the studio, however, they compromise what got Disney to its current success level; hand-drawn animation, original songs and a sprinkle of fairy dust. Fresh and original storylines are what makes Disney movies magical, and they are obviously not out of them yet, considering that Tangled and Frozen are already regarded as modern-classics. Without new storylines, there are no risks being taken.

The Disney Renaissance is justifiably the most well-known era of musical animation. This flow of 2D animated Disney films began in 1989 with The Little Mermaid and lasted for about ten years. All of the films produced during that period, including The Lion King, are what is known as “traditional animation”. When thinking of traditional animation, the image that comes to mind is that of hand-drawn frames displayed one after another, resulting in movement and action. In fact, that is how the original Lion King was created. However, the film includes “cel-shaded” computer animated scenes. It is impossible to distinguish the differences between the two, because the technology of the digital animation makes the 3D models appear hand painted to match the rest of the film. Most animation producers are now using this practice, as it saves time and adds an extra layer of quality production that would not have been achieved without CGI. This is a fair use of the technology available to better the result, but not every film produced nowadays goes through the same process.

The lines between traditional animation and CGI technology are progressively blurring, leaving animators wondering if this new helping hand is worth compromising their art for to make their job easier. The focus of animation should be to go beyond realism. I grew up with Disney and to this day, I drag my 20-year-old self to the movies every time a new film is released. Animations are a form of imagination put onto paper. Surely, the new versions of Disney classics play a great part in the development of CGI technology, but they do not add any artistic value or originality to the films. Instead of adding any new elements to the story, Disney’s live-action films just compromise the artistic development of the company. It is concerning how this new take on animated films is degrading the original 2D design style that everyone knows and loves, slowly resulting in the death of the art form that is not- by any means- perfect, but is important.

[Maria Kostoulia – @emkinq – she/her]

[Image Credit: flickr/Travis Wise]

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