Disney repeatedly bores me senseless
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 But I’m gonna go ahead and ignore those old fuddyduddy, outdated standards of the written word that prize originality and take a more — shall we say — cinematic approach.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 NZME’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 computergenerated animated remake looks eye-poppingly real but also a complete and utter waste of time.
Harsh? Nah. This thing is shotfor-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 kick-started 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 schmoe 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 their 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 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 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? Spitpolished remakes of oldies or film flashbacks that focus on such fun, kid-friendly 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-theedges-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 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.