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“A Tale as Old as Time” Modern Update Fails to Recapture Disney Magic


“Lumiere and Cogsworth in a scene from the original 1991 “Beauty and the Beast.” The animated classic received a live-action make-over that was released on March 17.” (Photo Courtesy of Walt Disney Motion Pictures)

Disney’s remake of its 1991 animated movie “Beauty and the Beast” in a live-action format was widely considered a success. The film grossed nearly $1 billion globally and was re-released in a sing-along format on April 7.

Disney enjoyed similar success last year with its live-action remake of  “The Jungle Book,” an animated film from 1967, which also grossed close to $1 billion worldwide. Disney hopes to repeat these successes with live-action adaptations planned for “The Lion King,” “Aladdin” and “Mulan.”

Sean Bailey, president of Motion Picture at Walt Disney Studios, said in an interview with Vulture that any animated film released before the year 2000 is open to being remade. Bailey’s remark left moviegoers with a question: Why? What purpose is there to taking animated films and making them live-action?

A benefit to these film remakes is the ability to create a different take on established stories or characters. For example, Disney’s “Maleficent,” released in 2014, tells the tale of the animated 1959 film “Sleeping Beauty” from the villain’s perspective.

With a similar film planned based on the character Cruella de Vil from the 1961 “101 Dalmatians” set to release in 2018, this seems to be a solution in not making these adaptations feel like rehashes. Having them focus on other aspects of the stories builds on existing source material.

Unfortunately, with this year’s “Beauty and the Beast,” Disney opted to tell audiences the same exact story they’ve seen before. Any changes to the narrative being superficial,  leaving “Beauty and the Beast” audiences to wonder why Disney bothered with these alterations.

Another issue, and probably the most glaring, is that some elements aren’t meant to be live-action.  The charm of the original “Beauty and the Beast” characters comes from the 2-D animation. It allows characters to have exaggerated features and be more expressive, and in turn allows the audience to relate to them more.

In the remake not only does the use of computer generated image characters make them feel more artificial but in making them look “more realistic,” it caused them to look off-putting. This is most apparent when it comes to the Beast’s servants, Lumiere and Cogsworth, who lose their human-like characteristics in the remake in favor of a more sterile and cold look.

While 2-D animation will always have a timeless quality to it, technology and CGI will continue to advance. Soon the special effects of today will look dated. While Disney continues to churn out these remakes, only time will tell if they’ll be remembered as fondly as the animated classics they try to imitate.

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