With calls to boycott Disney’s latest live-action film "Mulan" underway, it raises the idea that politics aside, all live-action remakes should be boycotted. What may seem like a cheap cash grab capitalizing on 90s kids' nostalgia has far greater ramifications on the entertainment industry.
For those unaware, over the past decade, Disney has been releasing live-action remakes of their classic animated films. These updated versions typically feature darker tones and slight changes to compliment current social issues. While Maleficent tried something new with the source material, by filling in backstory for the title villain, live-action remakes of "The Lion King” and "Aladdin" are practically the same movie with little change outside the live-action look.
Despite this unimaginative and lazy approach to adapting these films, the remakes sell – like really sell. The live-action remakes of "The Lion King", "Beauty and the Beast", "Alice in Wonderland" and "Aladdin" all made over a billion dollars at the box office. Compare these numbers to the box office sales of Disney’s recent original films "Moana" and "Wreck-It Ralph" that only brought in $643 million and $471 million respectively, and you start to see the financial appeal of these remakes.
The explosion of entertainment and technology in our culture means movies are competing for your attention – and dollars – much more than in past decades. With ticket sales dropping, it’s risky for companies to create something original that may fail. It’s also a risk for audiences to spend their money watching something new they may not like. "The Lion King" and other classic Disney films are nothing new. You were likely swaddled in Simba blankets from infancy and played with "Aladdin" toys growing up. Because the audience knows these franchises, they know what to expect when buying a ticket for the live-action remake. Even if it's rehashing the same story, as the numbers show, people are fine with that.
This is a problem because original films from smaller companies can’t compete with these guaranteed blockbusters. Consider the beautifully hand-drawn Irish film "Song of the Sea" that was an Academy Award nominee but grossed a mere $4 million on a $6 million budget. Or the film "Kubo and the Two Strings" with a unique story and visuals that won the BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and Best Visual Effects, but brought in a measly $76 million at the box office on a $60 million budget. These movies went for originality the critics recognized — but the numbers show that original is not wanted in Hollywood.
Disney understands this, and a quick look at their roster for 2019 shows that out of the 16 titles listed to be released: one was a documentary, seven were either sequels or additions to established franchises, four were live-action remakes (though not listed, "Lady and the Tramp" was released in November to make it five) and only four titles were original films ("Ad Astra", "Ford v Ferrari", "Stuber", and "Spies in Disguise"). However, these original films were technically done by Fox, meaning that according to their 2019 roster, Disney produced no original films in 2019. Granted, "Togo" and "Noelle" were released by Disney near the year's end, but that's only two original films and their absence from the roster shows a far greater priority placed on the 11 films attached to established franchises.
If we moviegoers want to stop seeing these carbon copy remakes of beloved films (as well as reboots and sequels) and start watching new and innovative stories from voices left unheard, we need to start telling Disney and companies like them with our wallets. Next time you visit your local theater, assuming it’s open, instead of catching another live-action redo, save your money for an independent film instead — you might enjoy it!
Charlene Pepiot is a junior studying English at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Charlene know by emailing her @firstname.lastname@example.org.