Don’t fix what isn’t broken…
Whilst Disney is in terms of creativity in a bit of a rut, it’s easy to see the appeal behind their current direction. With Beauty and the Beast just one of a string of recent live action additions to the Disney filmography to make a fortune, don’t expect to see this trend end anytime soon. And from a business point of view, why should it? Is film not a business? Is the aim of business not to make money?
I understand why Disney are producing so many live action films, and with flops like John Carter and The Lone Ranger, I almost can’t blame them for releasing these sure-fire hits. However, all things considered, I do have a genuine issue with these films. I see film personally not as a business venture, but as an art form. At least John Carter and The Lone Ranger were attempting something new (or at least weren’t stealing from the Disney back catalogue), and therefore more artistically reputable. Whilst these films may look lavish due to the Disney megabucks that go into them, they are anything but art. They are cynical, needless rehashes, void of any real originality.
You could argue that this is irrelevant, as these films are made to immerse little girls into the whimsical Disney world and to make them dream. And yes, this is a relevant point, but can they not do this over the original films, and are these films not loved by audiences of all demographics? Remake films that need to be remade, not films already considered classics by the masses. Why fix what isn’t broken, and why potentially ruin the fond memories of their older films? To make money is the sad answer. Adulterating your own material is a cheap tactic, one which many don’t mind, but I can only view these films as being in bad taste. Walt Disney would be rolling in his grave if he knew that originality and artistic craft, the reason he began making films, had been abandoned for a money-making conveyor belt. They may be popular with audiences, but this does not make them worthy of praise.
This is not to say that these are bad films. They’re not by any means. They are made by competent directors with big budgets, a talented cast, and on top of that a ready-made piece of fantastic source material sure to find an audience. The new Jungle Book, for example, was a well-made, entertaining film, as was Cinderella. These films are faithful to the original source material and do have charm and craft. The issue is not the production, but why it needed to be produced in the first place. Disney is traditionally a company of innovators, they are the most loved animation company in the world, and have made some of the best films ever. This is where the issue lies. Disney is making good films, but they should be making great modern masterpieces of animation. They need to recapture their originality.
The only potentially positive side to these live action films is that they could serve as tentpole films, merely there so that Disney can afford to take a few more gambles with fresh, but potentially Box Office bombing, material. Films like the Oscar-winning Zootropolis, an original, funny, well-made film, with a brilliant heartfelt message, make this a real possibility. It clearly had blood, sweat and tears poured into it, as opposed to being a by the numbers, formulaic film. If I see more Zootropolis’ then I might just change my stance on this matter. Whilst Disney’s live action films are the McDonald’s of the film industry – guaranteed to please you, but ultimately hollow and loveless products -, this film proves that they still have the ideas and the innovators amongst their ranks to return to their brilliant roots. Though the present is bleak there may be hope yet.