It took me one interview to realize that they weren’t going to get it right.
It was with Bill Condon, director of the “Beauty and the Beast” remake, posted on YouTube a couple of years ago.
He was addressing the question on everybody’s mind: Why remake a near flawless film?
“Technology has caught up to the ideas that were introduced in that movie,” he responded.
At best, the statement seems ignorant. “An American Werewolf in London” transformed David Naughton into a hairy creature a decade before the original “Beauty and the Beast.”
At worst, it seems like a slap in the face to the animators. It’s as if Condon is saying, “Well, Disney couldn’t do it in live-action, so they got stuck with you. Your movie would’ve won its Best Picture nomination; if only the technology was up to date!”
That was the moment I lost faith in these Disney live-action remakes. Seven adaptations later, my faith has not been regained.
“Mulan”’s live-action make-over was supposed to come out on March 27, but it was delayed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I wasn’t going to go see it anyway. Watching the crowning achievement of the art of animation, “The Lion King,” be turned into an unholy, photorealistic abomination last year ensured that.
But thinking back on that “technology” comment made me realize what really irks me about these remakes. It’s not the auto-tuned singing, the bland acting, or the blue, CGI Will Smith.
For me, it comes down to a matter of craft.
Disney, as a company, has had innovation in its blood since releasing the first-ever animated feature film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” in 1937. Walt Disney himself was never one for repeating projects, as stated in Tony Anselmo’s “The Disney Poster Book.”
“I don’t believe in sequels,” he said. “I have to move on to new things.”
With this ambition came artistic struggles, which lasted long after his death. According to the documentary “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” “Aladdin” suffered a massive production overhaul, and “The Lion King” was originally deemed a dud by key Disney staff members before its success.
The wonder of seeing such beautiful creations come from places of passion and tribulation is nowhere to be found with these remakes. Being based on wildly successful properties and existing when Disney is inching closer and closer to empire status, these movies are almost guaranteed to be financially successful. The House of Mouse has no reason to live life on the edge when derivation and laziness are more than enough to get by.
Why do I care? Well, it’s sort of personal.
When I was young, I watched the “making of” documentaries that followed the Disney movies on VHS. These programs left me dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe that filmmaking was something you could do when you grew up.
Since then, I’ve become determined to pursue screenwriting and directing, making my own short films in the process. Because of Disney’s creations, I had a passion and life goal at a very young age. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have discovered the power of cinema.
To see some of the most important pieces of art in my life reimagined by filmmakers and actors who don’t seem to give a shit isn’t just frustrating. It’s downright heartbreaking.
So why are we still supporting this middle finger to imagination?
The time has come to tell Disney we don’t want these remakes anymore. An important step is skipping “Mulan,” whenever it comes out. Every dollar spent on a ticket is another endorsement of the status quo.
Technology, dear Condon, is improving every day. But moving cinematic experiences take a special kind of innovation, one that simply wishing upon a star won’t get you.