Column: Ryan with Reels
Like many movie fans, I was and will always be enamored with the animated films in Disney’s anthology. “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Peter Pan” and many others brought thrilling stories, lovable characters, and award-winning music to VHS collections across the globe, and my family was definitely included.
I look back at the classic movies and realize how truly amazing they were. They have infiltrated the pop cultures of multiple generations like few others have, and I can still remember almost every lyric from their soundtracks. My parents have old videotapes of my sister and me dancing and singing to so many of them, but our favorite was always “The Little Mermaid”— mostly because my sister and I shared Ariel’s red hair color.
Today’s audiences have now found themselves in the odd predicament of revisiting these stories and seeing them through a live-action lens. The characters are there, the stories are nearly identical, and the familiar songs find their way into the scenes. But there is always something missing.
Sometimes, it is the song you used to sing every day as a 6-year-old, other times it is the simple charm of a character’s appearance or voice, or it could also be the lack of the original “movie magic” and the creeping feeling that you’ve seen it all before. Whether it is a notable omission — like this year’s “Lion King” leaving the villain anthem “Be Prepared” off the song list — or a minor tweak that only the most pedantic of fans would catch, there seems to always be a sour taste of dissatisfaction by the end.
While I’ve always had this opinion about the live-action remakes, the recent reveal of The Genie for this year’s “Aladdin” is the tipping point. The shoes of Robin Williams are too big to fill, and I never expected Will Smith to be like the original Genie, but the combined CGI and real character makes me uneasy in its appearance alone. The character’s ever-evolving form throughout the original film lent itself to the medium of animation so well, and, unlike the anthropomorphic characters of “Beauty and the Beast,” he is meant to have a realistic human face, for the most part.
The question we keep asking is why Disney chooses to revamp every profitable entity, but the answer is just that — profits. Almost a guaranteed financial success, these films are a shoo-in for the studio, and now that they’ve started the trend, they won’t stop any time soon.
Before I garner the wrath of Disney fanatics, — a group I still consider myself part of — I will say that not all remakes are going to waste, and it can be fun to breathe a little fresh air into the stories we know well. “The Jungle Book” from 2016 and last year’s “Christopher Robin” were fantastic returns to their respective worlds, providing a new twist on the Hundred Acre Wood and creating a gorgeous, photo-realistic forest for Mowgli to explore.
In the end, I think it all comes down to the dichotomy of our expectations versus the final product that ends up on screen, including the balance between creating something new and holding on to the old. To my disappointment, “Beauty and the Beast” seemed to be a shot-for-shot remake of the 1991 original, but it also would have been inexcusable to remove the “Be Our Guest” musical number or the banter between the castle’s servants.
While they often seem unnecessary and are a surefire way to divide Disney fans, the live-action remakes can still do some good and remind us what our childhoods once revolved around. I don’t want to dissuade those who want to see each new release, but I’ll always be partial to