For over 20 years, Disney has been campaigning to progressively transform the animated classics that shaped the childhoods of many fans into more modern live-action blockbusters. While this project has produced a few good films and has undoubtedly been profitable, most of the outings have met with massive opposition from fans and audiences alike.
Currently, the two upcoming Disney live-action remakes that have captured the public consciousness are Robert Zemeckis’ version Pinocchio and Dean Fleischer Camps Lilo & Stitch. Neither of these films are out yet, the latter doesn’t even have an announced release date, but the topic has become commonplace. With dozens of these customizations behind the company, there have been many learning opportunities.
The first example of this phenomenon is the completely forgotten recording from 1994 The jungle Book. However, during this era, these live-action Disney films were few and far between. The studio released two live-action recordings 101 Dalmatians, then put the gimmick back for a decade. The real kickstart for this technique was Tim Burton’s 2010 adaptation Alice in Wonderland. This film, despite its mediocre reviews, took home over a billion dollars and set the stage for the rest of the franchise. Not every live-action Disney film has been a financial success, but the ones that have exploded have ended up with comical piles of money. Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King were hits, despite widely differing critical responses, mainly in relation to name recognition. While Jon Favreau records it The Lion King is undoubtedly not a live-action film but a remake, and it is the seventh highest-grossing film ever made. So the technique works often enough that it gets nowhere, but perhaps choosing better source material could help the films.
After several other projects with the mouse, creative duo John Musker and Ron Clements were finally able to put their dream project together; a high-concept sci-fi version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel treasure island. It took three pitches before then-Disney boss Jeffery Katzenberg got the green light for the project. The film is one of the most visually grandiose projects ever conceived by Disney, a true creative masterpiece that took an unimaginable amount of work and talent to pull together. Unfortunately, it then became one of the most expensive flops in film history, leading to a decades-long reorientation of the company and a gradual move away from 2D animation.
The failure of Treasure Planet is the kind of Greek tragedy that makes it hard to be a fan of the film in general. It’s fair to say that the modern film landscape would be fundamentally different if this film had been anything but a disaster. It’s also fair to say that the visual artistry and fast-paced kinetic action would not have been possible with 2002’s live-action VFX. However, modern effects and film techniques could create something brilliant from this starting point. Treasure Planet deserves another chance, and cinema audiences deserve to see it with the effects only possible today.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Just released a year ago Treasure PlanetGary Trousdale and Kirk Wise Atlantis: The Lost Empire wasn’t quite the disaster of its colleague, but it wasn’t a success either. It is Disney’s first animated sci-fi film and a milestone in the genre. It tells the story of a young academic who stumbles upon a book that he believes will lead a group of hired gunslingers to the lost civilization beneath the sea. The film used more CG than Disney’s previous efforts, but still took a beating Shrek. But again, this is a visual masterclass with one of the best shots in an animated film. The argument is the same, modern VFX could turn the fantastic source material into a brilliant work of art. Both films were critically acclaimed, and the modern fan base would certainly propel both works into the realm of success.
Meet the Robinsons
This 2007 CG animation film is another clever sci-fi film that takes a simple idea and executes it with near-perfect creativity. And once again, despite good critical reception and cult-classic status, it wasn’t rewarded with success at the box office. Meet the Robinsons tells the story of a brilliant boy who meets a time traveler who is trying to protect him. Most of the film is spent exploring the clever retro-future aesthetic of the film world. Rather than blow your mind with VFX wizardry, a live-action adaptation of this cult classic would be a chance to pack tons of visual gags and clever design aesthetics.
The elements that would make a good Disney live-action remake are a cult-classic status, a lack of appreciation for its time, and a visually arresting art style. With tech going nowhere, hopefully the company will make better decisions.
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