Disney live action remakes fail to “live” up to their animated counterparts


Lesley Paulino, Opinion Editor

When I was younger I was always fascinated by the bright colors and amazing art style of animation. The beautiful animation was what set Disney apart from other studios. Disney artists used this medium to their advantage, making sure viewers couldn’t tear their eyes from the gorgeous colors and expressive characters. With this common mindset, it’s no wonder that Disney has grown to become the largest film studio in the world. Despite this historical feat, Disney is slowly taking away this X factor that made their most popular movies successful by turning the beloved animated classics into live action movies.  “Aladdin”, “Mulan”, “The Lion King”, even “Pinocchio” have suffered from the fate of becoming “live action movies”, all of which fall short when compared to their animated counterparts. 

“The Lion King” has been the biggest let down when compared to the animated counterpart. The realistic animals were supposed to feel as if they were alive, but ironically felt more soulless than the obviously fake animated ones. In the 1994 version of “The Lion King” the animals’ expressions were expertly dramatized, enticing the viewers with intense emotions felt through the characters. In the newer 2019 version, all of this emotion has been lost. Simba, the main character throughout the film, keeps the same stoic face the entire movie, his reactions remain the same whether he’s playing around with the animals of the kingdom or witnessing the death of his father. There is no way to form a connection with the characters in the movie as the characters were only able to express any sort of feelings through their voices and not at all with their facial expressions. 

Another movie that had been completely ruined with a live action remake was “Mulan”. The original animated 1998 movie easily became one of my favorite Disney princess movies. With its gorgeous story-telling, funny comedy and beautiful visuals, it seemed impossible to ruin, but nothing is ever impossible to Disney. With the company’s  live action remake, the movie completely changed. With this remake, the artists removed one of its most beloved characters to add in a half-baked character with little to no story; it was destined for disaster. Mushu, a dragon character used to guide Mulan throughout her story, had been the main source of comic relief in the original. With his funny jokes and interesting way of handling problems, he had been a breath of fresh air in a movie with such serious moments. The remake removed his character entirely, hoping to add a more serious feel to the movie, but instead the movie is left lifeless with no one to revive any tension movie makers attempted to create. In Mushu’s place a new character of Xianniang, a witch who can shape-shift into a falcon, was introduced.  This new antagonist is supposed to add more layers to the film, but instead led to a predictable ending of her sacrificing herself for Mulan, leaving the audience wondering why this character was added at all. To add onto the horrific mess that this movie had been made into, every single musical number from the first film was removed and replaced with instrumentals. The absolute iconic, “I’ll Make a Man out of You” never makes an appearance; it is slashed along with every other beloved song such as “Honor to Us All”, “Mulan” and the beloved “Reflection,” an important song to Mulan story where she expresses difficulty finding herself and trying to balance being the person everyone wanted her to be and the person she believes she is inside. Removing these songs leaves the movie feeling empty and lacking the meaning the original movie tried to convey. 

The other animated movies that sadly have been transformed into live action tend to gain lots of criticism due to the lack of passion in the movies themselves. When watching animated movies such as “Pinnochio” or “Cinderella”, the viewer can feel how important these stories felt. The passion from the original creator retains itself throughout the movie and it’s obvious in the way it’s made. Each character felt brand new and the story complex. Now with the remakes, the stories feel somewhat hollow. There is no creative spin on the stories and if there is any spin, it completely changes the meaning of the movie for the worse. The only movie able to balance between the old and new was the new “Aladdin” with a new take on the popular genie character and the addition of a new solo song for princess Jasmine, but even then most other sections felt boring to watch. 

As a kid, these stories were different in ways you couldn’t imagine yet now the remakes make them feel more bland than anything. From the characters seeming dull to the draining of color on the screen in an effort to make things look more ‘realistic’, the movies come across as boring and only something to watch when you want to pass the time.

Disney built its brand on its animation. It enticed children with all it could do with the medium, yet now seems to turn its back on this beloved art form.  Despite producing successful animation films, the multi-million dollar company’s attention has been shifted to solely live action content. Instead of introducing us to new princesses or allowing us to learn new lessons through the expressive medium, the company wanted to remake its old movies and turn the story completely on its head, changing up what had made audiences love it in the first place. Instead of going out to watch the new Disney remake, I suggest you stay in bed and rewatch the old, animated movies, on VHS tapes no less, and appreciate them more than Disney ever will.