Nostalgia. It’s one of the hottest trends in Hollywood. Sequels, prequels, remakes and reboots are all the rage. They tap into that inner feeling of wonder people associate with their favorite childhood movies. No genre elicits more nostalgia-hype than Disney animated movies.
In order to fully cash in, Disney has been fully focused on live action remakes of their old animated classics. Remakes of Dumbo, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and Aladdin have already debuted with remakes of Lady and the Tramp, The Lion King and Mulan on the way.
Given technical advancements in special effects, imagery once thought to be impossible outside of animation is in every blockbuster movie. If there ever was a time to adapt Disney animated films to live action, it’s now. Right?
Although the live action The Jungle Book was met with critical acclaim, other Disney remakes have seen far from similar results. Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin were both met with mixed reviews, and Dumbo turned out to be a total bomb.
There seems to be a precipitous drop in quality from the originals to these new remakes. This begs the question, how could 20th Century animation be more attractive to audiences than modern day CG effects? As it turns out, there are a few reasons.
The Beauty of Animation
The reality is, what made Disney movies so special was the animation itself. The cartoonish contortions of animated characters. The friendly, anthropomorphic faces of animal characters. The unique artistic drawings. They’re all difficult, if not impossible, to replicate. We aren’t just watching people act, we are seeing a finished work of art, drawings of great artists coming together to make one moving picture.
Bad Special Effects
Modern day CG effects can do a lot, but they still haven’t crossed the uncanny valley. Characters like Genie and the Beast have an unsettling look to them. After Will Smith’s Genie was first revealed, the internet went ablaze with comments about how horrible he looked. Some movies have pulled CG characters off quite well (Matt Reeves’s Planet of the Apes trilogy comes to mind) but most fall short of total realism.
The original movies are stacked with all-star talent. Robin Williams comes to mind. His performance as the Genie set the standard for decades to come. Even lesser known actors such as Paige O’Hara and Robby Benson in Beauty and the Beast still brought their A-game, creating generation defining performances. In the remake, Emma Watson and Dan Stevens are meh. Will Smith is fine, but he doesn’t come close to Robin Williams. Actors can’t hope to replicate the exaggerated, cartoonish movements of the animated characters. Even though they tried to make the character their own, it’s impossible to watch these movies and not compare them to the originals.
Living Up to the Originals
1991’s Beauty and the Beast won the Golden Globe for Best Picture and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Aladdin was also nominated for the Best Picture Golden Globe. Most of the other animated originals have long lists of awards and nominations for their exemplary quality. These films have set the standard of success so high that it’s nearly impossible for any reboot to live up to that standard.
It might not be fair, but that’s simply how it is. Anything short of fantastic will be viewed as somewhat of a failure. As much backlash as Aladdin has gotten leading up to its release, it’s actually doing pretty good at the box office. Critics have turned around on it as well. One looming thought still towers over all of its successes: It’s not as good as the original.
Disney will no doubt continue on this nostalgia-trend of live action reboots. They’re also likely to keep raking in huge amounts of money. All that being said, with a catalogue as iconic as the Disney vault, one thing will always remain the same. Nothing beats the original.