My Issue With Disney Live-Action Remakes (and Some Suggestions)

After going off about the soon-to-be-released Mulan live-action adaptation, (and seeing that they are remaking the animated Robin Hood,) I do need to give credit where it’s due on that film because it does not have the issue that I most take with Disney’s live-action remake:

The live-action movies should be human stories. Any non-human characters are unsettling and live in the Uncanny Valley.

The example I get most heated about is the 2017 Beauty and the Beast remake. (I’ll talk about 2019’s Lion King in a minute.) When the movie was first announced, I’ll admit even I was excited, even about the casting of Emma Watson! (Who among us did not fall for that Tumblr rumor that she was cast years and years ago with Guillermo Del Toro to direct?) But then I saw the trailer… with the creepy live-action Mrs. Potts and Lumiere and Cogsworth…

NO THANKS

I can never unsee them. I actually stopped wanting to see the movie and only watched it on a streaming service much later because my husband is a big Emma Watson fan. (I can’t get into the music in this post…) It is just really unnerving to have so much time spent on non-human characters.One of the advantages of animation is that you are able to suspend disbelief much more with characters that are talking furniture or animals. In The Lion King, Simba and Timon and Rafiki are so expressive, but in the “live action” (this was all CGI but okay…) remake, it’s animals which, as we may recall, are not able to roll their eyes and do hammy smiles.

The Live-Action 'Lion King': Disney's Uncanny Remake - The Atlantic
Can you feel any love in this photo? (Also why did “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” take place during daylight hours… never mind, I can’t get into that…)

Disney’s insistence on doing live-action stories featuring non-human characters really perplexes me, because there are plenty of human stories that I think are great for live action! For example, even though it didn’t do super well by their metrics, I thought Aladdin was a GREAT choice for a live-action adaptation, and seeing some of these set pieces in live-action was really magical for me in a different way from watching the original animated film. That’s what I want to happen when I watch these live-action remakes: I want to feel a different kind of magic that live-action achieves that animation cannot, and I don’t want attempts at trying to recreate animation magic that live-action is not meant to try to pull off.

This is my biggest issue. The non-human characters are really difficult to connect with in live-action films, because live-action films are not FOR non-human characters. Animation shines in this department but I mean, I don’t want to see a live-action Brave Little Toaster ever because that would be terrifying and those movies already scared me enough as a kid okay. Live-action remakes should be focusing on the HUMANS, on live actors bringing even more emotion and nuance to a character in a way that animation is limited. The things that a person can do with their eyes and small facial gestures are astounding and animated can’t replicate it, so it doesn’t try. It does other things that are impossible for actors to do, like cartoonishly exaggerated gestures instead, which is perfect for the medium.

So at least this wasn’t a gripe I had when they announced they were remaking Mulan. But when they announced a live-action Lady and the Tramp for the launch of Disney+? Well. I wasn’t very excited at all.

Disney's New 'Lady And The Tramp' Is Better Than The Original - Zimbio
Sigh…

All that being said, here are some Disney films I think would be good candidates for live-action that have not been announced yet:

  • Brave – This one is Pixar but imagine the wisps, the suitors, of course the bear would have to be CGI-ed a bit but it shouldn’t veer too uncanny at all.
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire – Okay so this is one of my favorite Disney films and I think it’s sorely underrated but can you imagine how cool a live-action remake of this would be? The motley crew of characters, the deep sea adventure, the discovery of the lost empire of Atlantis! (Spoiler: In case you haven’t seen the movie… they do find Atlantis.)

Okay honestly, I thought my list would be longer but I’ve been thinking about a live-action Brave for a while and Atlantis seemed like a very cool concept, but when I looked at the list of animated features all of the other ones didn’t seem like good candidates. Unless they change the story enough to exclude non-human characters (like they are doing in Mulan), I’m not sure. There’s a reason that a story becomes an animated feature and not a live-action one, because it’s certainly isn’t necessarily cheaper to do it that way. And a lot of remakes are already in the works and I don’t agree with a lot of them but oh well!

Will I see them? Probably at some point. What’s funny is that I really love Disney’s animated features but my husband didn’t grow up watching them very much. However, he has been the one really pushing for us to watch the live-action remakes! He expressed a lot more interest in Aladdin and even The Lion King last year than I did, and he’s the reason we saw them in theaters.

What do you think of the Disney live-action remakes? Have you been liking them? A lot of people cite Cinderella as a good one but, if you recall, I didn’t love it. It fell a bit flat for me in terms of live-action magic but, in hindsight, I’m grateful for the lack of Uncanny Valley in that one.

What Disney animated feature do you think would be good as live-action? Maybe the list is much longer than mine and I’m overlooking things.

What live-action remakes are you looking forward to? I’m curious about the upcoming Cruella reboot? I loved Glenn Close’s truly iconic Cruella de Vil, but this is a good candidate, as evidenced by the older live-action film. I am also looking forward to seeing Peter Pan and The Little Mermaid, even though I’m pretty nervous about Disney live-action films at this point, haha. Like I love The Sword in the Stone, so how will that one turn out?? We’ll see!

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