Disney: Why it Can Never Fail
In case you somehow haven't noticed, Disney is set to release three live action films this year. We have the great flying pachyderm Dumbo, the wish-granting fable Aladdin, and the jungle hierarchy, Shakespearean political thriller The Lion King. There are also going to be animated Disney works, with Pixar's Toy Story 4 due this summer (please do not stain a wonderful trilogy). Oh yeah, there’s also that sequel to Frozen that will guarantee we have a mental soundtrack for the next five years. All in all, a Disney fanatic has got it pretty good right now. What does that mean for the rest of us?
Before I go down this road, let me preface this piece by stating that I do love Disney. I have been to Disney World countless times, and have my set selection of favourites like everyone else does (The Lion King, Bambi, Fantasia and more). I own many films and memorabilia. I am an actual Disney fan. There are no biases here. However, there are no biases here, and that very point is also as much of a con as it is a pro.
I can acknowledge that Disney, the great and almighty studio, is also a corporation. They are at a position that they are able to succeed off of giving fans what they want. This is not relative to quality, because a film's worth is subjective. This is about planning. With the rights to Marvel, Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox, any film under those umbrellas that you wanted to exist will exist. This includes one-too-many Star Wars, a super hero film for all of the seasons, and anything your heart desires.
This also includes a live action film of every Disney cartoon that once existed. "But Andreas," you may say, "I never asked for a live action remake of Aladdin!". Au contraire. If you didn't, someone else did. If you don't now, you may have when you were younger. Once the Disney dream starts, it never ends. It lingers in us or in those near us. Think about it. These films always do well. Tell me none of you are surprised when Beauty and the Beast is a box office Goliath.
Any Star Wars film will succeed, because fans feel the need to see all of them. Disney knows this. Marvel completionist need to make sure they know every detail before End Game. Disney knows this too. Then, there are the straight up Disney films, where nostalgia fiends need to relive their childhood memories even in a new light. These films do well every single time. Again, did you expect they wouldn't? Many people are confused by Aladdin to the point of either mocking the film, or expressing their worries. It will still dominate the box office that month. Maybe it will take over the box office for the year.
There are kids who want to see magic. There are adults wanting to relive it. Disney caters to its audiences so greatly, you forget that they are a corporation when you watch these films. Part of this is a trust Disney has, where they try their best to deliver quality. Say what you want about the actual stories, but the animation or CGI effects in these films are usually of top notch capacity. You will be pressed to find many films that are displayed in a better way within mainstream cinema each year. Look at last year's Academy Awards for visual effects nominees: Solo, Infinity War, and Christopher Robin are three Disney releases
Sure, the stories don't always hold up, but the worlds most audience members wish to enter once again are to die for. The best thing about the live action Alice in Wonderland was the Wonderland (and not the whole "Alice being in it" part). Beauty and the Beast was rocky, but its production and costumes were exquisite. Disney creates worlds, because they know people want to visit them.
Look at the one time any of these live action remakes have been good. That's with Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book, which was riveting from second one (outside of that insanely awkward Christopher Walken musical number, of course). That's when the story works out. The effects that make the animals talk? The music? That's all secondary. That's enough to win the world over, though.
At the end of the day, Disney puts effort into everything they do, even if it is for rights control and box office reaping. Nothing has ever felt cheap by them. Everything feels at least like a passable attempt. So a bunch of live action films are going to be released this year. Disney will reactivate their control over stories they created (and stories they didn't). Theatres will sell out. Soundtracks will be made. Production related awards will be sent out. Then all of the purchased franchises will kick ass. You ask why Disney does this. It's because they have nothing to lose. They might be the most endearing force of power out there. They mean the magic they deliver, but they delivered it for profit. Going to go see these films, or refusing to, will have absolutely no effect on the company at this point.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.