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Dan Stevens and Emma Watson in this image from Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
The Beast (Dan Stevens) and Belle (Emma Watson) in “Beauty and the Beast.” (Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

A plague is traversing the Magic Kingdom, and its name is “live-action remake.” Like Sleeping Beauty’s cursed blessing, stories marked by these words are doomed to have their legacy snuffed out in exchange for a colorful, high-tech, big-budget, soulless adaptation.

As mature and serious adults still watching children’s movies, I and many readers see this trend's tragedy. We have lived through the Masterpiece era that gave Disney a permanent place in our hearts. We know that there are incredible storytellers, animators, and composers in Disney’s creative kingdom, so why all these lame live-action remakes? Here are a few reasons we want to see them fly away and never land again.

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Erasure of the Original’s Legacy

Halle Bailey in this image from Walt Disney Pictures
Ariel (Halle Bailey) in the live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid.” (Image: Walt Disney Pictures)

Do you remember your parents trying to get you to watch black-and-white films as a kid? The slower pacing and lack of flashy effects and colors made it seem so boring compared to recent movies. Well, that’s what it’s like trying to get today’s kids to watch a 50-year-old cartoon version of a Disney film when there’s a newer, flashier version.

Think the 1989 “The Little Mermaid” is the real Little Mermaid? Prepare to have your soul crushed when your kid tells you they liked the new one better. Of course, most adults agree that the meticulously hand-drawn masterpieces were a much better show of artistic merit and heartfelt storytelling, but kids don’t have taste. They only know what excites them, which would be fine were it not for sacrificing beloved works of art in exchange for that renewed excitement.

Obvious Cash Grab

Colin Farrell, Nico Parker, and Finley Hobbins in this image from Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), Milly Farrier (Nico Parker), and Joe Farrier (Finley Hobbins) in the live-action remake of “Dumbo.” (Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

This is the reason many people have such an adverse reaction to yet another Disney live-action remake. They’re raking in all this money without really doing the work. It feels like the big-budget equivalent of hiding the practice test under your desk during an exam. Disney built its name by taking worldwide legends and converting them into animated musical films — already a big creative shortcut. Now they can’t even be bothered to find new legends to rewrite!

In 2019, five live-action remakes were released, including “Dumbo,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” and “Lady and The Tramp.” Compare this to previous decades that saw one Disney feature film per year. The volume is like an unfeeling production line designed to prey on curious and nostalgic Millennials and their kids who just want the latest thing.

Conversion to Live-Action Is Difficult

Will Smith in this image from Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Genie (Will Smith) in the live-action remake of “Aladdin.” (Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

There’s a reason animation will always be a popular medium for storytelling. In an animated world, reality is largely suspended. Things that wouldn’t make sense in our world of laws and physics can happen. Seeing a real actor defy gravity or survive an otherwise fatal injury raises more follow-up questions than seeing it happen in a cartoon.

Cartoon characters have big personalities that don‘t translate well to live actors. Will Smith did his best with the Genie in “Aladdin” but couldn’t have made the character as exaggerated and zany as its cartoon counterpart without looking ridiculous. Trying to change the character can backfire, too. Cartoon Jasmine was so sheltered that she didn’t know she needed to pay for an apple at the market. In the live-action, we see an attempt to modernize by showing a much more socially aware Jasmine redistributing food to poor children. However, she ultimately still chooses the life of a royal, leaving the unintended implication that she is hypocritical and out of touch.

Over Reliance on CGI

CGI Nala and Simba in this image from Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Nala (Beyoncé) and Simba (Donald Glover) in the live-action remake of “The Lion King.” (Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Let’s address the elephant graveyard in the room: “The Lion King.” The 1994 cartoon was one of the best films that was almost never made. Initially underestimated as B-tier, the timeless original story, world-class musical score, and team creativity just oozed off the screen, making it one of the biggest surprise hits in film history. So was it necessary to spend $260 million on a scene-for-scene remake with photorealistic CGI? I mean, it didn’t even have on-screen actors.

Over reliance on CGI seems to be a trend with Disney remakes. Maybe it’s bridging the gap between fantasy and reality, but too often, it’s compensation for lack of workmanship. It’s an off-Disney example, but look how good “The Lord of the Rings” films, achieved by thousands of hours of manual labor, still look compared to the big-budget, CGI-heavy “Rings of Power” series on Amazon Prime Video. Disney live-action adaptations frequently fall into the same mistake, throwing money at CGI while neglecting manual artistry in departments like costumes, animatronics, and stunts.

Songs Don’t Hit Like the Originals

CGI Lumière in this image from Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Lumière (Ewan McGregor) in the live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast.” (Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Cover songs are never as good as originals, and it’s the same with Disney soundtracks. Reborn versions of classic songs in Disney live-action remakes often include Broadway-style chorus numbers performed by the new cast or a modern update in collaboration with a famous pop star. This doesn’t have the same impact as a single, often unknown voice actor, putting all the emotions of the character into a brilliant studio recording. Like many of the other criticisms here, it feels like Disney is neglecting the songs’ emotions in favor of throwing more money at them to make them bigger and showier.

A Sincere Plea

We don’t blame Disney. If someone offered you millions of dollars to tell a story you already knew, you would take it. With a couple of exceptions, these films have made Disney a lot of cash. It's just disappointing to fans who love Disney for the heartfelt storytelling that now feel the brand is hollow and capitalistic with each new remake released.

Dear Disney, please stop with the remakes. We wish upon a star for the next era of Disney classics. Take those creative minds currently wilting in basement offices and allow them to weave real magic again. We want new heroes, adventures, and songs for our six-year-olds to sing on repeat (please!). We want to feel something there that wasn’t there before.

18 thoughts on “Dear Disney, Please No More Live-Action Adaptations

  1. Lord LaughyPants says:

    I’m waiting for the live action remake of A Goofy Movie.

  2. Carol Sandberg Howe says:

    Thank you so much for voicing every aspect of what’s missing in Disney live action remakes.

    I mourn for the potential lessons the originals have to teach this generation of children.

    Children are already over-exposed to flashy emotionless video-game images.

    The original Disney creations could offer the balance so badly needed to teach our children to pause and reflect on the possibilities of beautiful songs, creative images and positive life lessons.

    Shame on you, Disney, for selling out for the quick, easy revenues of these remakes in place of promoting the wonders and possibilities of pure imagination.

    —Carol Sandberg Howe

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m a man who still loves classic cartoon Disney but I like the remakes and see where they go. some of them hit some don’t and I think peter pan is not as bad as people complain it is You act like there’s never going to be a Disney animated movie ever again when there coming out I can’t for wish and the little mermaid and people saying there runining the old ones by making live action is Bs they can always watch the old ones whenever they want

  4. Deb says:

    I agree completely. Disney live action movies use to be amazing and made you feel connected to the characters. Homeward Bound is an amazing story and though technically it to was a remake, it was a fantastic adventure. Disney use to care about ALL the people who watched their movies, and now they just want to please a “certain type”. If you are not that “certain type”, you are racist and your opinions don’t matter. Disney says the older movies were wrong and had inappropriate things, but really, the old movies just don’t fit in their perfect little box. Disney is suppose to be magical and wonderful and you cant put all that in a box. With the new little mermaid movie coming out, Disney wanted to pat its own back and say,”We made it better! The beautiful red head you once loved is now gone and been replaced with black actress who will do exactly what the character did in the old film. Except now she’s the right color! We would also like to make sure the villian in the story is played by a white actor. We don’t what to send children the message that black people are villians. If white people are the villians then it’s ok. We have also changed some lyrics that nobody has ever complained about and ‘fixed’ them.” If anybody goes back and watches the little mermaid Kiss the Girl scene you will realize Eric NEVER tries to force Areil into kissing him. Areil actually gets her face right in front of him to kiss him and he turns away. The people at Disney don’t have any creative thinking and just want to bash the older movies, change things that didn’t need changing, blackwash characters and and call it progress. When I was little, one of my all time favorite movies was Princess and the frog. I didn’t care that Tiana was black, I cared about her cause she worked hard for her dream. She never gave up and when she had the chance to get everything thing she wanted, she didn’t take it. She knew she didn’t have to sell her soul to get what she needed. That movie has a special place in my heart. Having black characters is not what I have a problem with. I have a problem with white people being erased and replaced. Create new characters and new story lines and quit trying to “fix” the old ones.

  5. Aion says:

    While i kinda disagree with this, Aladdin would like a Word, that reboot or whatever was AMAZING

  6. Disney Fan says:

    How about no. there are many of us who enjoy these live action remakes.

  7. Brian says:

    I like them but I wish they wouldn’t change stuff

  8. Brooke says:

    100% Agree!!

  9. Liz says:

    Let’s all be honest, Disney is to blame and it’s because they don’t have any respect for art. They don’t want to pay writers for new material, designers for new concepts, or put money into anything that requires effort. Disney, like all the other empires on earth, is crumbling while hoarding.

  10. Random reader says:

    Honestly couldn’t have put it much better.
    You can’t fix what isn’t broken, and trying to force in extra context mostly leads to a lot of pointless, and excessive fluff.

    Heck it feels like the people who made the Mulan remake didn’t even watch the original movie

  11. Matthew says:

    I agree 100%.

  12. Beaux Peterson says:

    This is so true to my hearts sentiments. Dear Disney please bring back the magic

  13. Alexandra says:

    This is exactly my feelings

  14. Jemima y says:

    I’m not agree with you… Everyone have a different opinion and me I like the Disney , Live – action like the lion King and a life action have to be different that the old one we have to innovate

  15. Anonymous says:

    No screw that, I want the live action lilo and stitch!

  16. RapunzelFan says:

    I just had this discussion with my teacher colleagues! Children would love a new, fantastical story with fun songs and silly sidekicks. There are so many creative minds working for Disney…unleash them!

  17. Anonymous says:

    This article is false and not true. Everything Disney studios does is a masterpiece.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I think any one who has a problem with any remake of any o e of the Disney movies, if not based on the talent of the actors is dealing with a form of racism and cant cope with the way the world is changing.

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