The world of animation is constantly changing and evolving. This is particularly apparent thanks to Disney’s constant stream of live action animated remakes that are taking the box office by storm. These remakes show just how much the animated world has changed in the last 20 years; the technology and the software has evolved so much that Disney are now able to create much more realistic animated films. This is particularly evident with the new lion king remake which looks so realistic that it has been branded a ‘live action remake’ despite being made using CGI and VR technology. But why is Disney so focused on live-action remakes?
In recent years Disney’s original content has suffered at the box office in comparison to any live-action remakes. One of the first examples of this is the 1996 version of 101 Dalmatians. The film broke box office records and was the top grossing film of the year. The success of remakes has not diminished since then: the live-action Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Beauty and the Beast (2017) brought in over $1 billion each at the box office, while The Jungle Book (2016) brought in $966 million. In comparison, the 2018 Disney original A Wrinkle in Time, only made $132 million at the box office and received a disappointing 42% on Rotten Tomatoes and an even lower viewer rating. Similarly, Disney original Tomorrowland (2015) only made $209 million at the box office.
The lack of success of Disney’s original films could link back to its classic strategy of using nostalgia to sell films. By remaking films that the audience is familiar with you can easily create a larger potential audience than just kids. Disney seems to have been using this technique from the word go: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Disney’s first animated feature film was based on The Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales. Following this, Pinocchio (1940), Cinderella (1950), Peter Pan (1953), and Sleeping Beauty (1959) were all based on children’s stories before they were made into films.
The use of familiar stories to sell films seems to be a technique used by numerous other production companies. Out of last years 10 highest grossing films 6 were sequels, 3 were based on already established characters and 1 was about one of the most well-known rock bands ever: Bohemian Rhapsody. This shows that audiences clearly crave the exploration of familiarity and nostalgia.
Having said all of this, can we really call the new Lion King film a live-action remake? or is it just a modern animated remake?
Cambridge English dictionary describes live-action as ‘[Involving] real people or animals, not models or images that are drawn, or produced by a computer.’
Despite the film containing no real animals or actors and being entirely CGI, Disney’s CEO Bob Iger refers to the film as live action. The film is also being produced by Walt Disney Pictures, as opposed to Walt Disney Animation Studios. It has also been reported that the film is not being entered into the Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards and will instead be entered into the Best Visual Effects categories.
Here at Giggle we find it hard to accept the new film as live action: it is merely just a hugely improved and modernised animated remake of the original film. Sean Bailey, president of Walt Disney Motion Pictures, describes it best in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter where he calls the film a new form of filmmaking, that should be considered a hybrid of live action and animation.
To find out more about the way in which Disney filmed the Lion King that made it look so realistic, click here. (It’s worth having a read, even if its just to see more photos of all the crew in VR headsets!)
No matter what you think of it all, buckle up because there are a lot of remakes still to come! In the next 3 years, Disney is scheduled to release 9 more live action films, with a following 3 more without release dates yet. This includes a new version of The Little Mermaid, Lady and the Tramp and Pinocchio, to list just three.