House of Mouse ever chas­ing its own tail

Dis­ney’s ob­ses­sion with the past ru­in­ing movies, and child­hoods

The New Zealand Herald - - Entertainment / Timeout - Karl Puschmann

Stop me if you’ve heard this one be­fore . . . is what I would usu­ally say when broach­ing a topic I’ve broached be­fore. But not to­day, friends. No. Be­cause this isn’t a re­hash of an older col­umn. It’s a mod­ern re­boot. A fresh take on an old clas­sic. A warm fuzzy walk down mem­ory lane that both you and your kids can en­joy.

Okay, no. You got me. It is a com­plete re­hash. But I’m gonna go ahead and ig­nore those old fud­dy­duddy, out­dated stan­dards of the writ­ten word that prize orig­i­nal­ity and take a more — shall we say — cine­matic ap­proach. Which, go­ing by box of­fice stan­dards, should see this col­umn rocket right to the top of the Her­ald’s “Most Read” chart by around lunchtime.

That’s right, we’re talk­ing movie re­makes and how nos­tal­gia is ru­in­ing both movies and child­hoods ev­ery­where. The former be­cause these days some­thing can’t be new with­out hav­ing been old first, and the lat­ter be­cause this is short-chang­ing kids out of fun and ex­cit­ing new things.

Case in point was the first trailer for The Lion King re­make, which roared on to YouTube roughly a week ago. Mis­tak­enly, and re­peat­edly, re­ferred to as “live-ac­tion” this com­puter-gen­er­ated an­i­mated re­make looks eye-pop­pingly real but

also a com­plete waste of time.

Harsh? Nah. This thing is shot-for-shot ex­actly the same as the trailer for the 1994 orig­i­nal. To me, that’s a point­less ex­er­cise.

Where’s the orig­i­nal­ity? The cre­ativ­ity? The artistry? The sense of won­der­ment and dis­cov­ery? It’s not on the screen, that’s for damn sure. That the king of the lions now looks photo-re­al­is­tic in­stead of charm­ingly an­i­mated is not worth the trade-off in my book.

It also feels a waste of di­rec­tor Jon Favreau’s tal­ents. Dude wrote the 90s in­die clas­sic Swingers, and kick­started the Mar­vel cine­matic uni­verse di­rect­ing the highly en­ter­tain­ing Iron-Man. Imag­i­na­tion and vi­sion, he got. So why copy some­thing that’s al­ready been done? This isn’t homage, it’s a pho­to­copy. Any shmoe could do that. I hope the movie is more than this.

Maybe it’s a Dis­ney thing. They’ve gone plum re­make crazy. Along­side

The Lion King they’ll also drop their re­make of Dumbo and their re­make of Aladdin next year, while in 2020 they’ll re­lease their re­make of Mu­lan.

But that’s not all . . . other re­makes in the works at the House of Mouse in­clude Pinoc­chio, Lady and the Tramp, The Sword in the Stone, Peter Pan, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Lit­tle Mer­maid and Lilo & Stitch.

Once all those are re­made Dis­ney will have pretty much ex­hausted its back cat­a­logue — hav­ing al­ready re­made Cin­derella, Beauty and the Beast, Al­ice in Won­der­land, The Jun­gle

Book, 101 Dal­ma­tians and Pete’s Dragon over the past few years — and be ready to start re­mak­ing the

Has there ever been a duller time to be en­ter­tained?

re­makes for a new au­di­ence of chil­dren and an old au­di­ence of par­ents who loved the orig­i­nal re­makes when they were kids . . .

To be fair, Dis­ney aren’t just mak­ing re­makes. They’re also squeez­ing out se­quels and pre­quels at a fi­bre-filled pace. Some are straight up fol­low-ons like (groan) Toy Story

4 and Malef­i­cent II, while oth­ers let a smidge of orig­i­nal­ity sneak in, like the re­cent Christo­pher Robin and the up­com­ing Mary Pop­pins Re­turns.

Un­for­tu­nately with those last two Dis­ney de­cided to bury the magic and won­der­ment deep down un­der a moun­tain of bleak, bor­ing adult con­cerns. Dear old Christo­pher Robin has life dump on him for a solid 40 min­utes be­fore Pooh shows up to re­mind him how to have fun and to spend time with his fam­ily, while Mary Pop­pins can’t af­ford a spoon­ful of sugar be­cause the se­quel takes place dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion. You know . . . for kids!

Has Dis­ney lost the plot? Spit-pol­ished re­makes of oldies or film flash­backs that fo­cus on such fun, kid­friendly top­ics as eco­nomic down­turns and the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of adult­hood. Re­ally, guys?

The time has come to take off our nos­tal­gia gog­gles. Make some­thing new gawd­damnit. And not just tin­ker­ing-around-the-edges-new like Pooh and Pop­pins. And no, adap­ta­tions like A Wrin­kle in Time and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms don’t count, Dis­ney. Make some­thing prop­erly new. Some­thing we haven’t seen be­fore. Or, bet­ter yet, even thought of be­fore. Some­thing to get ex­cited about.

It pains me to think of the ta­lent cost be­ing sunk into these pro­jects and what they could be creat­ing given the ex­act same re­source. We’re los­ing worlds and sto­ries and rel­e­vance. Has there ever been a duller time to be en­ter­tained?

But don’t take if from me. While he was alive Walt Dis­ney him­self fa­mously re­fused to let his name­sake stu­dio pump out any se­quels, de­spite eco­nomic and fan pres­sure to do so.

“I didn’t want to waste the time I have do­ing a se­quel,” he said. “I’d rather be us­ing that time do­ing some­thing new and dif­fer­ent.”

It ap­pears his team didn’t get the memo.

Photo / Dis­ney

Dis­ney’s 2016 live-ac­tion Jun­gle Book re­make is yet an­other ex­am­ple of a re­tread in place of orig­i­nal­ity.

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