Disney’s Live Action Remakes: Has the company continued Walt’s Legacy?

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The DisIndsider

Disney’s live action remakes bring the original magic from beloved stories to modern film.

Mylie Brown, Photo Journalist

The Walt Disney Company is famously known for bringing unmatched magic to the big screen and making dreams come true. From the original fairy tales animated by Walt himself to the recent film adaptations of these classic stories, it’s safe to say that there isn’t another company that creates timeless tales like this one. Disney’s mission was to inspire individuals from around the world through his unique storytelling, and since his passing, the question arises: Has his company continued to follow his legacy?

In the last thirteen years, Disney Studios has taken a new approach to bring this magic to life by remaking the original animated films into live-action adaptations. Starting with one of Walt’s first stories, Alice in Wonderland (2010), the company has made over fifteen other remakes since then. These retellings of the ageless stories are controversial to audiences, however, as some believe they are lazy projects that lack original narratives.

Aladdin was pretty good. Both the remake and the animated movie have their pros and cons, but I think it was worth the watch since it’s similar yet also told from a different perspective.”

— Bassam Dadabhoy (10)

Many live-action remakes stay true to the original films and lack individuality. For example, critics claim that the newly released The Lion King (2019) is almost identical to the 1994 version, except with more realistic animals. Since the movie is entirely CGI, many fans question why they should spend their time watching the film as it’s the same as what they have already seen in the past. Other live-action films like Cinderella (2015), Beauty and the Beast (2017),  Aladdin (2019), and Lady and the Tramp (2019) are all very similar to their original portrayals. Yet, the stories are given more meaning, and the plot is further developed.  This overall makes the films more successful and better enjoyed by audiences of all ages. Bassam Dadabhoy (10) stated when asked about his thoughts on the only remake he has seen, Aladdin, that “Aladdin was pretty good. Both the remake and the animated movie have their pros and cons, but I think it was worth the watch since it’s similar yet also told from a different perspective”.

In contrast, some of Disney’s beloved tales, such as Sleeping Beauty (1959), and 101 Dalmations (1961), were given many changes. Both adapted stories follow the journeys of not the protagonists seen initially but rather the villains. Aurora’s twisted tale, Maleficent (2014), was a phenomenal film that portrayed both the hero and the villain in a positive light. It was a new, mature, and unseen project from Disney that truly left an impact. The same goes for Cruella (2021), which left audiences in awe as they could now view the original story differently. 

Just over a month ago, Disney released a new live-action remake straight to the streaming service Disney+, Pinocchio! Pinocchio was  interesting , as the story was very similar yet the original magic wasn’t quite there. The film was frightening, dark, and – spoiler alert – lacked the happy ending we all know and love. Pinocchio didn’t even transform into a real boy! Some viewers even noticed glitches in the CGI of the mischievous wooden puppet, which is surprising to see in a Disney film.

The pattern seems to be that the live-action adaptations released straight to Disney+ appear poorly made and not properly cared for. Also, the films don’t get very much attention which is disappointing as the original films are so loved. The potential for these magical stories seems to be wasted.

At the D23 event hosted by Disney, it was announced that the live-action The Little Mermaid is set to be released in theaters on May 27th, 2023. To fans’ luck, a promising new remake to avenge the recent project has just had a teaser trailer released! Viewers are excited internationally for one of their favorite stories to be back on the big screen, especially with a new take as Ariel is portrayed by the amazing singer and actress Halle Bailey. Halle will be the second African-American Disney princess ever and is already an inspiration to many children and adults worldwide. Following the teaser trailer, a live-action Snow White was also announced, starring Colombian actress Racheal Zegler. It is exciting not only to see these adored stories be remade but to witness Disney create films that star actors and actresses of all different ethnic backgrounds, bringing representation to many more people. Although Walt did not get to witness his projects be remade into our more modern fairytales, his legacy is still followed by Disney filmmakers today. Walt always hoped to inspire others never to stop dreaming, and Walt Disney Pictures continues to do so through new, more diverse, powerful retellings of his classic films.