Issues with Disney movie live-action remakes

photo courtesy of Disney

photo courtesy of Disney

“Dishonor on you, dishonor on your cow, dishonor on your whole family!” This lovable token quote from the animated “Mulan” is widely adored by its audience, and viewers were despondent upon not finding it in the live-action remake. Live-action remakes often falter when it comes to capturing the essence of the animated originals, ranging from singular quotes to much, much more. Over the past couple of years, many animated films such as “Mulan” have been remade into live-action movies, attempting new takes on household favorites. These remakes, however — whether it be for their sub-par plot execution or removing beloved characters — are far less popular than the originals.

In animated movies, animators are only restricted by the boundaries of their own imagination, while producers of live-action remakes have many more limitations with their cast and scenery. Animation offers flexibility, allowing animators to pay careful attention to detail and craft to their heart’s content. Sometimes, over-exaggerated features in animation are more favorable — and entertaining. For instance, actors are not able to pop their eyes out of their head when surprised or shocked, or have stars appear over their heads when dizzy. The animation piece of a film helps bring these comical characters to life through vivid expression in a way live-action cannot. As a result, these movies are not as engaging for the audience.

Take the live-action remake of “Mulan,” which was widely anticipated due to the success of the animated version. While the live-action remake may have better reflected the poem both productions are based on, it was vastly different than the 1998 animated original. Although both movies narrate the story of a girl impersonating a man to join the Chinese Imperial Army, they take very different approaches. The 1998 animated version was a comedy filled with jokes and songs, whereas the 2020 remake treats the story as more of a war film, with action-packed scenes and breathtaking combat sequences. The latter lacks all aspects of the original movie that made it such a joy to watch, under the pretense of making the original story more historically accurate. Furthermore, the live-action remake does not accurately depict Mulan actively shaping her own destiny the way the original did. As a result, she becomes a rather one-dimensional character. Rather than her discovering herself and gradually becoming a fighter, in the live-action remake Mulan already has exceptional combat skills from the beginning of the movie, which only reduces her character arc. Additionally, many of the characters are either completely taken out or not emphasized enough. The first example that comes to mind is the fan-favorite and much entertaining Mushu, Mulan’s loyal albeit hilarious dragon companion. Fans were absolutely outraged at his removal. Mushu is responsible for helping Mulan regain morale multiple times and generally providing comic relief throughout — the movie is just not the same without him. Ultimately, the animated Mulan, with a stronger and more relatable protagonist and well-developed story arcs for all characters, along with show-stopping soundtracks, is a better movie.

“The Lion King’’ (1994), an animated classic, is arguably the best film Disney has made. Everything from its breathtaking scenery and award-winning music to its storyline makes viewers reflect on what they have just experienced. Viewers of the animated film love the relationship between Simba and Mufasa, as well as Simba’s absolutely adorable sidekicks Timon and Pumbaa, who humorously rescue Simba from his sorrows. “The Lion King’’ (2019), which was predestined to be successful due to its predecessor, fails to live up to the expectations of lovers of the original film.  While this film is not exactly a live-action remake, it is often considered one because CGI is used to create realistic-looking characters. One of the main reasons why this is the case is the remake is unable to portray the expressions of its characters. Critics even compare the film’s realistic and boring nature to a nature documentary. Additionally, the remake’s soundtracks simply miss the mark, unable to have viewers transcend into a different world like the original did. Overall, “The Lion King” (2019), in an attempt on a new take, spoils too many elements of the original, falling flat and leaving viewers disappointed.

Despite the negative reviews from critics and viewers, Disney keeps coming out with live-action remakes. These new movies are sure-fire money makers; however, much to the audience’s dismay – many of these films lack the nostalgia and magic of their counterparts. Sometimes, animated films are best left alone. Do better, Disney.