I knew it was Disney as a child, but I could never figure out why they spelled it with a “G” on the old VHS tapes. A few years later somebody drew the D over a picture of the logo and it finally clicked. My brother and I certainly saw the logo enough.
My parents got at least 50 tapes. They came in the massive and unnecessary plastic cases covered in pictures and our tv stand was stacked full of them. Pinocchio, 101 Dalmatians, Aladdin, Fantasia and many more. My brother and I watched them over and over, some so much that the tapes were ruined. The classics were great and all, but I really started to enjoy some of the more obscure titles like Rescuers: Down Under and Black Cauldron, but that didn’t stop me from watching Lion King 100 times.
Disney was, and still is, a molding tool for youth around the world. Their movies not only connect us and captivate us, but taught us variations of right and wrong, love, friendship and most importantly how to cope when you lose those things. The art was always something to marvel at, bolstered by charming musical numbers and lots of laughs. We also got to watch them grow with us, as they pushed the limits of the technologies they had, blending in computer generated imagery with their trademark animation. Then there was Pixar. They shook up EVERYTHING! I still remember seeing Toy Story for the first time. The company my father works for was right by a big theater in the area, and the company bought out a couple theaters so employees could see it with their families. Now I see why. I couldn't wrap my head around it at the time, but it was just so revolutionary. It wasn’t just new animation styling, but the storytelling and comedy showed a new maturity in its design. We had no idea back then what kind of amazing stories that Disney and Pixar would tell together. The world famous mouse always found another way to ascend and evolve, bringing with it a roller coaster of emotions.
Lately however, when it comes to evolution, I feel like Disney has their wires crossed. Between their modern classics, Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel Comics and the evolution of their upcoming streaming service, there is almost an oversaturation of material. Their yearly earnings just in movie ticket sales number in the billions, like $7 billion in 2016. Don;t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Bringing Star Wars back from the dead is gift I thought I’d never get and it has been a true privilege to experience it. Don’t even get me started on Marvel. Watching the heroes that inspired me through my entire childhood come to life on the big screen is an indescribable level of bliss. Spider-man’s debut in Civil War had me on the verge of tears as he finally met all of his fellow superheroes. These franchises are not the problem, but they could be part of the reason the problem is there.
The idea of the Disney classic film has fallen to the wayside. Disney Animation Studios has made some solid films including Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6 and Tangled (Frozen is not a classic, it’s just populer...and it’s lame. Fight me.) I don’t see any of them as classic though. They also really haven’t made an animated classic since the Princess and the Frog in 2009. Innovation has instead been replaced by reinvention. Disney is pretty much grabbing their classics out of their vault at random and completely modernizing them. At first we were all about it. Have you seen the new Jungle Book? It is absolutely phenomenal, though I’m biased because I thought the original was kinda weak. Loved the new Beauty and the Beast too, it makes a lot of improvements to the story from the first one. Pete’s Dragon was kinda meh, but then again, so was the original. Haven’t seen Cinderella yet, but I’ve been told that need to, by my brother of all people. The problem is Disney has now gone full-tilt with this concept. Upcoming titles include;
-Mary Poppins Returns
Like Pete’s Dragon, the original was part animation and part live-action. Back then, those movies were groundbreaking. Watching real actors dance and sing alongside animated characters was awesome. This movie will surely be interesting but I can’t see it being dynamic. It’ll be several excellent actors amongst a hodgepodge of CGI and redone songs that will be nowhere near as good as the originals. I’m going to see it, I have to and you do too, because Dick Van Dyke is in it. We owe it to the man to see this moment in his life. He was incredible in the original, and whether I think this should be made or not, he will make it worth our time.
-The Lion King
They are only doing the Lion King because it’s easy and they wanna recreate the success they got with Jungle Book. Don’t get me wrong, the cast is impressive and I wanna see it, but the original is a perfect film. It doesn’t need to be done again. Not only is it a modern film, but it’s hailed by many as their greatest film ever. They even had the audacity to remove Be Prepared from the new version. You know Be Prepared, the greatest Disney song ever, the best villain song at the least. Removed because the man they cast as Scar doesn’t sing. I like the actor they picked for Scar. Chiwetel Ejiofor was awesome in Serenity and Four Brothers, but if he doesn’t sing, you either find a stand in or pick someone else. You don’t cut the best song.
Quite possibly my least favorite Disney movie ever, down there in the bottom of the bucket next to Frozen, so I’m definitely not feeling this one. I can’t make a fair argument here, because of all the bias, so let’s move on.
Nope, no, absolutely freakin not! The moment Robin Williams passed away, this film should’ve been off limits until the end of time itself. Nobody in the world will be able to clear Robin’s Genie from their mind long enough to fully enjoy this film. The replacement isn’t even a bad choice. Will Smith is an electric and sensational actor, but even the limitless talent he brings to everything he does cannot shake the magic and charisma we got from the late Mr. Williams, and that will be a black mark on this film before it even premieres. That, and it also never needed to be made because the original is total perfection.
I’m actually behind this film 100%. Children and adults alike will be able to connect with a timeless character in an all new way. Personally, when I saw the trailer, the moment I heard Pooh speak I began to tear up. One of my earliest recollections in life was watching old Winnie the Pooh cartoons so hearing that voice definitely hit me. I have no doubt we will get to see the whole gang as they interact with a now fully grown Christopher Robin. I don’t even need to know the plot, this film will be good, and carry a lot of emotion with it. Disney is actually perfectly utilizing the remake concept with this film.
-The Sword in the Stone
Another film that a remake couldn’t hurt. I truly love the original, but it is such a broad concept that could be explored in so many different ways with today’s CGI. The final battle alone could be one of the most brilliant spectacles of magic and might that Disney is capable of putting out...if they do it right.
And they say there’s more coming. Seems a little nuts to me. This is just as bad to me as the Pixar sequel problem, which I will save for another blog. I can understand the idea of reinventing a select and very fine amount of their classics, but not all of them. Pick like 5, and only 5. Call it the Legacy Series or something. Now, if remaking them is a method to erase “Song of the South”-esque tropes and ideas from the subject matter, I can totally get behind that, but remaking some of the best movies they have ever made seems like ludacris to me. I also wish they would strive to use traditional animation methods again. I get that times are changing, but I think Disney should use some of the classic methods they’ve streamlined as a way to hold onto the best whilst traveling into the future. Walt Disney was all about imagination and the idea that we could create worlds within worlds with that imagination. Whether you love him or hate him, in some way his work has had some kinda impact in your life and may have been a part of how you became the person you are. However, this new concept is not imganition, its materialism. I get that Disney needs to make money off of their work, but they need to work harder on making something new at the same time.
But what do I know? I’m still mad that Tomorrowland flopped...