Disney, the multimedia conglomerate studio, is a name synonymous with fantasy and childhood. However, I am losing faith in their ability to bring dreams to life with their endless factory rehashing of popular films, seemingly only in the name of money. Please Disney, stop with the live action remakes.
In defensive of the studio, it has been decades since the release of the original Cinderella, The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast, so in many ways remaking the films will arguably spell-bind a whole new generation of children. The fairytale genre foundation is built on taking the essence of a story and conceptualizing it over a plethora of genres such as books, plays and films. Walt Disney himself didn’t think of the bewitching tales of Snow White or The Little Mermaid, those rights belong to the Brothers Grimm, or Hans Christian Anderson to name a few. But the brains behind the studio took the tales and reinvented them for a new audience enticed by the fantasy animation could provide – just as an older generation were lost in the spoken tales when they were first created.
The cute elephant in the original film brought floods of tears to my eyes, but I don’t know if I will have the same reaction to this ‘live’ remake
However, where I draw the line in the reinvention of the tales is ‘live’ action adaptations featuring animals. The very concept of a ‘live action’ Dumbo is, at best, false advertisement and, at worst, an uncanny nightmare. The trailer for Dumbo was recently released and fortunately there appears to be a large cast of flesh and blood actors filling character roles. However, this only drew attention to the obvious CGI quality of ‘Dumbo’ – even more so when he had clown makeup on. I felt no sympathy for poor Dumbo, I felt disturbed by him. The cute elephant in the original film brought floods of tears to my eyes, but I don’t know if I will have the same reaction to this ‘live’ remake. Perhaps more so with Tim Burton’s auteur style of gothic eccentricities added to it.
Despite the trailer for Dumbo not striking a chord with me, the real elephant in the room, or perhaps cat, is the remake of The Lion King which is set for release next year. For context, The Lion King was for me the gateway into the things I am most passionate about in life – films and animals. I watched both the original and the sequel excessively, always crying when ‘Mufasa’ died and reciting word for word each character’s key lines. The very idea that Disney is recreating such a classic and integral part of my childhood is saddening and the fact that the CGI will be labelled as live action insults my 5 years of film academic study.
Now, I know that Disney can’t use real animals for their film, animals don’t talk and using real wild animals in films is archaic and cruel. However, they shouldn’t say it’s a live action remake when it most certainty is not. Unless Simba is going to be replaced by a human, the entire ‘cast’ are mere pixels on a screen painted onto people and puppets running around in green morph suits. There doesn’t seem to be anything remotely ‘live’ about that.
I don’t want to judge Disney too harshly until I’ve seen a trailer for The Lion King, however I will refer to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe for an essence of what talking lions will look like. Now, I liked the Narnia film, it was fantastical and beautiful aesthetic wise – but Aslan was terrifying to look at. There is an entire field of academic study surrounding the ‘uncanny’, and without trying to bring Freud into my distaste of corporate greed, I feel it’s relevant when discussing CGI. CGI (or computer-generated imagery) is a masterpiece of film technology. It has revolutionized film making and can create vast fantastical worlds from nothing, from dragons to space, with CGI it all looks tangible and breathing. However, CGI works best when kept to a fantasy setting.
I am certainly not fooled into believing meerkats sing ‘Hakuna Matata’ on the African plains
In no way would I be suggesting The Lion King is anything but pure fantasy, unless zoos and David Attenborough are hiding something from us. I am certainly not fooled into believing meerkats sing ‘Hakuna Matata’ on the African plains. However, most of us have all seen a lion in real life. Zoos, whatever your ethical opinion on them, are an important part of childhood and many school trips in primary school are to visit them. So, when I saw a close up shot of Aslan talking in the aforementioned Narnia film, it was slightly disturbing. It looked so close to real, but something wasn’t quite right, and that has the power to create an uncanny unease.
Obviously, Disney is on a roll with their live action remakes and certainly won’t stop if the cash keeps talking, but when embarking on remaking films with ‘familiar’ animals, they need to be cautious. Done correctly, they will create a magical film that will entice an audience and become a firm film favourite, regenerating interest in well-loved tales. However, done incorrectly, the CGI animals will look strange, not quite real enough and therefore lift the veil behind the magic of film production. Whilst I appreciate the renewed interest in Disney, arguably my very favourite studio who I have much to thank for, they should stick to what they do best – animation, and not the CGI kind.