Nuggets of Wisdom

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Top 5 Disney Movies That Need Live-Action Remakes

Once upon a time, I rolled my eyes at Disney re-making its classic animated movies as live-action films. At first, these “remakes” appeared to be the same thing as the made-for-DVD sequels: needless cash grabs created for the sole purpose of milking the company’s cash cows for all they were worth.

To be fair, neither Alice in Wonderland nor Maleficent proved me wrong in that aspect. However, since then, the Cinderella and Jungle Book remakes have made me reconsider my initial opinion, as these remakes proved that they had the potential of taking the original material, offering a different and fresh perspective, and even fixing and improving many flaws.

With the recent release of the Beauty and the Beast live-action remake, I’d like to share my top five picks for classic Disney movies that deserve their own live-action remakes:

#5: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

I know, I know! The current movie market is already over-saturated with live-action Snow White movies--some of which were apparently successful enough to warrant sequels! That's why I'm proposing that Disney film a live-action movie, not of the original 1935 animated movie (an adaptation of which has already been announced), but rather an unreleased spin-off.

What do I mean by that? As I mentioned before, back in the 2000s, Disney was obsessed with making direct-to-DVD sequels, prequels, and spin-offs to its original animated movies. One proposed project was for a Snow White spin-off starring the Seven Dwarfs. The movie would have provided a back story to the dwarfs through a fantasy adventure thriller similar to Lord of the Rings. Admittedly, the concept sounds corny yet intriguing enough, which makes it all the more disappointing that the movie was cancelled once John Lasseter placed a moratorium on all direct-to-DVD movies.

While the movie itself was never animated, there's no reason why the concept couldn't be used for a live-action movie. After all, Disney has shown interest in spin-offs to its animated movies. The Tinker Bell movies have proven successful, and Disney is already planning a live-action spin-off to Aladdin starring the Genie, with intentions of making a live-action Aladdin. So why not do something similar to the Seven Dwarfs?

Again, the very concept of giving the dwarfs their own movie in the style of the Lord of the Rings, while corny, sounds intriguing enough not to be at least attempted, and there's not denying that all seven of the dwarfs have enough character and personality to carry an entire movie. If Disney XD can make a semi-popular animated series spin-off, why not make a live-action movie spin-off? If for no other reason, it'll give a reason as to why seven men who have no relation to one another are living in the woods together by themselves. (You know, other than "fairy tale logic"!)

#4: Winnie The Pooh

I'm technically cheating here, since Disney already announced that it's making a live-action Winnie the Pooh movie. Nevertheless, it's fun to speculate about how such a movie would be executed, and a franchise like Winnie the Pooh certainly lends itself to creative execution.

The original 1977 animated movie allows for a much deeper interpretation upon re-watch. From the very first establishing shot, we see that the characters are based off of Christopher Robin's toys, and that the segments within the movie are based off of stories in his storybook. This raises the question about whether or not the events within the Hundred Acre Woods are real or rather the product of Christopher Robin's imagination. As the overall movie hinges on the themes of growing up, it could been interpreted as the internal musings of a child struggling with the reality of growing up while still trying to cling to the most cherished parts of his childhood.

This translates well to the proposed live action movie, the premise of which involves a grown-up Christopher Robin, now married with children and a job, struggling through his current life while reminiscing on his former childhood. Many people have interpreted it as being like Hook, when, at least to me, it seems more akin to Where The Wild Things Are, where the main character goes on a fantastic journey with his childhood imaginary friends while learning something deeper about himself.

A live-action movie certainly lends itself to such a concept. Whereas in an animated movie, everything can be interpreted strictly at face value, live-action would better allow for the lines between fantasy and reality to be more easily blurred, thus adding to the overall speculation about whether or not everything is real or the product of the main character's imagination.

If nothing else, it would be interesting to see how Pooh and the other characters are animated. Will they appearances be more cartoony, or will it be more toy-like? Either way, this movie could be the closest thing that many people come to watching a live-action Calvin and Hobbes movie, especially since one character is a toy tiger!

#3: Hunchback of Notre Dame

1996's Hunchback of Notre Dame is considered one of the best movies within Disney's Animated Renaissance, third only to Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. Despite being based on less than "child friendly" source material, and even despite being criticized for "Disney-fying" said source material, the movie has since been acclaimed for perfectly conveying the book's darker and more serious themes such as religious zealotry and racial discrimination for a general audience without dumbing them down.

Since then, the movie has inspired a German live-action musical that has been running in Europe for many years, and rumor have been circulating about a potential Broadway musical adaptation. With such hype from fans and producers alike, the animated movie certainly lends itself for a live-action musical adaptation.

If for no other reason, a live-action Hunchback ought to be created solely for its subject matter. As previously mentioned, the animated movie has been praised for conveying adult subject matter such as race and discrimination for a family-friendly audience, subject matter which remains ever so relevant even 20 years later.

After all, the movie features a zealous authority figure who scapegoats a racial minority for society's ills, demanding that they be driven out at all costs, to the point where armed guards are sent to invade other people's home in search of them. If that doesn't reflect our current reality under the Angry Cheeto and his obsession with the mass deportation of immigrants and refugees, then chances are you probably voted for him.

Obviously, such a live-action adaptation would be created and released long after the God Emperor had either served his first term or was impeached during it. (With the possibility of him also serving a second term!) Nevertheless, wouldn't it be interesting to see Fox News pundits decry such a film as being "anti-Trump propaganda"?

Also, it would be nice to have a movie adaptation that didn't feature those damn singing cartoon gargoyles. (Seriously, Disney, if you insist on keeping them, could you at least tone down their obnoxiousness and keep them as figments of Quasimodo's imagination? Please?!)

#2: Robin Hood

Disney's 1973 Robin Hood may not be an animated classic, but it's proven to be quite the fan-favorite. It certainly was one of my favorite movies growing up, if not influential in helping shape my personal politics. (No taxation without representation, Donald Trump! Er, I mean Prince John, the phony king of 'murica! Er, I mean England!) So clearly Disney could provide much-needed fan service by turning the movie into a live-action remake.

Most other Hollywood studios would be satisfied enough making a live-action Robin Hood with human actors, but Disney ought to stay true to its original animated movie by using anthropomorphic animal characters. The Jungle Book already proved that Disney can make a good movie with mostly CGI-animated animals, and in fact, it's going to create a movie with nothing but CGI animals with its Lion King remake. So why not go one step beyond with a movie starring CGI anthros?

In fact, it's rather curious that a live-action anthro movie hasn't already been made. We've had plenty of animated anthro movies, raging from traditional, CGI, and even stop-motion animation, but nothing live-action. The technology is certainly available. All it would take is combining motion tracking with CGI-animation to turn a live actor into an animated furry character. So do it, Disney!

Aside from creating a groundbreaking movie, Disney could also use this opportunity to fix the flaws from the original, the most glaring of which was its rushed ending. According to special features on the DVD release, the original ending was going to be darker and more thrilling with a wounded Robin Hood being tended to by Maid Marian in Friar Tuck's church where they're nearly attacked by King John before being rescued by King Richard. Why Disney decided to forgo that ending for the trite "is he or isn't he dead?" gotcha ending is beyond me, but a remake would certainly allow for the original, better ending to be used.

If last year proved anything, it's that Disney can make money from animal movies ranging from Zootopia to Jungle Book, so a live-action anthro movie seems like a no-brainer. The original animated Robin Hood was the entry point for many fans within the furry internet community, so the movie has plenty of appeal, as would a live-action remake. If anything, it'll have furries marching to the theaters singing "Oo-de-lally, oo-de-lally, golly, what a day!"

#1: The Black Cauldron

I know what you're thinking: why would Disney bother making a live-action remake of one of their worst animated movies—a movie that did so poorly at the box office that it lost to the Care Bears Movie?! I think the answer is rather obvious: because it gives them a chance to fix something broken.

While The Black Cauldron may be Disney's worst movies, the plot itself isn't half-bad for a fantasy adventure story. After all, the books that the story was based off of, The Chronicles of Prydain, were popular enough for Disney to purchase their movie rights in an effort to turn them into an animated feature. Granted, that effort was a failed one, but all the more reason to at least try again.

One of the advantages that Disney has with their live-action remakes is being able to fix the flaws of the original animated movies, so imagine how they would be able to improve a film that is nothing but flaws. It'd be an easy enough task for them. They already know why the original Black Cauldron failed. All they would have to do is the exact opposite of what that movie did: provide a more coherent narrative, make the characters more relatable and likeable, and better balance out the darker aspects of the story with the lighter ones.

There's no such thing as a bad story, only bad execution. There's no denying that The Black Cauldron failed from bad execution. So perhaps a live-action remake would allow for a second chance to offer a much better one. You only improve by learning from your past mistakes, and the original movie was certainly full of them. So if at first Disney doesn't succeed, they simply need to try again.