Table of contents:
- The first live remakes from Disney
- Launching an endless pipeline of film adaptations
- Story problems of remakes: harder doesn't mean better
- Visual flaws: inexpressive direction and transition from animation to reality
- Why are there so many game remakes of masterpieces of cartoons
2023 Author: Malcolm Clapton | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-07-28 10:38
It's simple: paintings are for sale, even despite the obvious flaws.
For half a century, Walt Disney Pictures has created more than one classic animated film. The painting "Beauty and the Beast" at one time even got a standing ovation at the New York Film Festival and won an Oscar as the best film of the year. Unsurprisingly, the studio decided to return to these time-tested stories and reshoot them in a feature film format.
The first live remakes from Disney
The starting point for Disney's "live" adaptations can be considered the 1994 film "The Jungle Book", directed by "The Mummy" director Stephen Sommers. True, the script was very different from the original full-length cartoon: the animals in this version did not speak, and the main plot was devoted to Mowgli's struggle for his love. The role of the hero's chosen one was played by a very young Lina Headey, who later played Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones.
Walt Disney Pictures returned to promising direction two years later, creating an in-game remake of 101 Dalmatians. This time, the plot was almost not changed, only a little modernized: in the original, the main character Roger was a composer, and here he became a developer of computer games.
The film's success was greatly assisted by a powerful cast. The role of the stylish and insidious Cruella de Ville was played by the famous comic actress Glenn Close. The villainess' henchmen were played at that time by little-known Hugh Laurie and Mark Williams. The first is now familiar to almost everyone on the television series "The Fry and Laurie Show", "Jeeves and Worcester" and "House Doctor". Williams later became famous as the performer of the role of Arthur Weasley in the Potterian.
Cruella de Ville in the original 1961 cartoon
Cruella de Ville in the 1996 game remake
Later, inspired by good luck, the studio decided to release the sequel "102 Dalmatians" as well. True, the latter turned out to be controversial. Even the presence of Gerard Depardieu in the cast did not help. After that, Walt Disney Pictures did not make remakes for 10 years.
Launching an endless pipeline of film adaptations
However, in 2010, the film company decided to experiment and entrusted the game continuation of "Alice in Wonderland" to Tim Burton. The director, working in a whimsical and dark style, turned a surreal chamber tale into a combat fantasy about a warrior maiden. Interestingly, when creating the characters, Burton significantly reworked the existing design based on the classic illustrations by John Tenniel. Alice was played by the then little-known Australian actress Mia Wasikowska, but the rest of the cast gathered the stars of the first magnitude.
Shot from the cartoon "Alice in Wonderland" 1951
A shot from the 2010 sequel "Alice in Wonderland"
Overall, the flawed adaptation has become one of the highest grossing films of all time and won an Oscar for production and visual effects. And six years later, there was also a sequel from another director - "Alice Through the Looking Glass".
Four years after the first "Alice", the picture "Maleficent" appeared on the screens. The game remake of The Sleeping Beauty was conceived as a total rethinking of the classic plot and an attempt to tell the tale from a different point of view. Angelina Jolie looked great in the role of Maleficent, but there were still many flaws in the adaptation. The tape's biggest problem was cited by critics as weak script. Nevertheless, the film collected a large box office: after all, everyone wanted to know how the famous beauty actress played the role that was ideally suited to her.
Shot from the cartoon "Sleeping Beauty" 1958
Shot from the feature film "Maleficent" 2014
From that moment on, the pipeline of film adaptations could be considered launched. The repertoires of cinemas are steadily replenished with verbatim remakes of classic full-length films: Cinderella (2015), The Jungle Book (2016), Pete and His Dragon (2016), Beauty and the Beast (2017), Dumbo (2019), "Aladdin" (2019). The studio also removes game sequels to animated films: "Alice Through the Looking Glass" (2016), "Christopher Robin" (2018).
Walt Disney Pictures even relaunched Mary Poppins, an animated fiction musical: in 2018, viewers saw the sequel to the classic story, Mary Poppins Returns.
Story problems of remakes: harder doesn't mean better
There is nothing wrong with remakes as such. "Scarface", "Ocean's 11", "There are only girls in jazz" - all these are successful examples that were appreciated and loved by the audience.
In a sense, the best Disney cartoons are also adaptations of folk classics. By the way, the original fairy tales were sometimes very cruel. For example, in the Brothers Grimm version, the Cinderella sisters cut off their toes or heel to fit in a shoe. Walt Disney's great merit is that he was able to smooth out these unpleasant moments and adapt old fairy tales in the spirit of his time.
Now the studio is doing the same: after all, modern children are hardly close to stories about addicted princesses, always waiting for salvation. Therefore, in the updated version, Cinderella has become much more active and independent, and Jasmine wants to rule Agraba. Even neutral Belle was added a new inspirational trait - from an ordinary well-read girl, the heroine became an inventor.
Another thing is that all these changes are too superficial to radically change the essence of the work. As a result, the game remake turns into a frame-by-frame cast of the cartoon of the same name and does not actually bring any fresh ideas into it. What's more, the studio bosses can't figure out one simple thing: making a movie harder doesn't mean it gets deeper. Sometimes these changes even make the movie illogical.
For example, in 1949 Cinderella, the main character was a meek, kind-hearted recluse. Her naivety and limited ideas about the world around her served as a logical justification for the fact that evil relatives were able to completely suppress her will and take control over the girl.
The new Cinderella, played by Lily James, is educated and well-read. She perfectly understands how everything functions, she even has friends. That's great, but then why can't such a smart and determined girl just leave home where she is mistreated? The script attempts to explain this discrepancy by the heroine's emotional attachment to the place where her parents lived. But in the finale, nostalgia does not prevent Cinderella from leaving the house anyway, only in the status of the prince's bride.
In the new version of "Beauty and the Beast", the characters of the characters were also decided to be rewritten. This is not to say that this went to the picture for the benefit. In the original, the Beast was at times rude, but at the same time it was clear how much remains of a smart, emotional and sensitive person in him. In the remake, the hero appears to be cynical and aggressive, and there is no trace of his vulnerability and sensitivity. It's unclear why viewers should empathize with such a nasty character at all.
Visual flaws: inexpressive direction and transition from animation to reality
Sometimes meaningless changes are made to more than just the script. Even the original design often suffers. For example, in the opening scenes of 1991's Beauty and the Beast, only Belle wears a blue dress. With this, the animators wanted to emphasize how much the heroine differs from the villagers, who are dressed mainly in reds, oranges and greens. The remake, however, missed this detail: thanks to the director's desire to improve what was already good, Belle ceased to stand out and disappeared into the motley crowd.
Belle and the villagers in the 1991 cartoon
Belle and the Villagers in the 2017 game remake
The fact that films lose to the originals is to blame not only for the shortcomings of the scriptwriters, but also for the shortcomings of the direction. This is especially noticeable in the example of re-filmed musical numbers, which have always been an important part of Disney cartoons.
In 1991's Beauty and the Beast, the animated Gaston manages to do a lot of things while Lefou sings a song in his honor: muscle tension, punch his henchman, start a beer fight, and even demonstrate his talent as a juggler. And all this in two and a half minutes.
At the same time, in the remake, Gaston, played by Luke Evans, just sits and sometimes smiles at the guests of the tavern. And the whole scene looks lifeless and not energetic enough.
The point is that, as an artistic medium, animation itself is very expressive. The depiction of movements and emotions in cartoons is very different from real life. And only the most gifted directors can achieve the same expression in feature films.
For example, in "The Greatest Showman" musical numbers catch the viewer's eye precisely because of the talented production: quick frame changes, expressive acting, interesting angles and skillful editing. And this approach is sorely lacking in Disney film adaptations.
In the production of original cartoons, every detail was taken into account. But despite the fact that the remakes also seem to pay attention to details, instead of creative rethinking, every time you get an inexpressive duplicate at the exit.
1991 cartoon monster
Monster from the 2017 feature film
Lumiere and Cogsworth from the original 1991 cartoon
Lumiere and Cogsworth from the 2017 game remake
Mrs Potts in the original 1991 cartoon
Mrs Potts in the 2017 game remake
There is one more important point. When animated characters have to adapt to the physiology of the real world, the result can be unpredictable. For example, they tried to make the classic Beast more realistic - and all its charm disappeared without a trace. Moreover, the situation was only aggravated by the director's decision to abandon makeup and resort to CGI technologies. The realistic Lumière and Cogsworth also lost the lion's share of their charisma, and Mrs. Potts began to look altogether intimidating.
There are more positive examples of this kind. The plush toys that came to life in Christopher Robin weren't quite as cute as they were in the cartoon. On the contrary, they looked dusty, old and battered by life. But given the general melodramatic mood of the picture, such a change in the appearance of the characters is very appropriate.
Original look of Tigers
Tiger in the 2018 sequel
Special mention should be made of situations when actors who do not have special musical talents are forced to re-sing songs from professionals in their field. Suffice it to recall how in the remake of "Beauty and the Beast" Emma Watson herself performed all the vocals. The studio had to process the girl's voice beyond recognition, because he was far from Paige O'Hara.
And even if the new casting decisions turn out to be successful (for example, Will Smith's voice was very suitable for the charming Genie from "Aladdin"), there is still no hint of novelty in this. And songs and musical themes specially written for remakes are often not as successful and memorable as the unique original.
Why are there so many game remakes of masterpieces of cartoons
The company also has objective reasons to turn its classic cartoons into high-budget action films. After all, Walt Disney Pictures did not come up with fairy stories and characters, but only adapted them for screens. Moreover, many of them are not subject to copyright protection. Therefore, anyone can create their own "Little Mermaid" or "The Jungle Book". This is exactly what Warner Bros. recently did, reshooting Rudyard Kipling's story in a darker way.
In recent years, a lot of excellent adaptations of the same "Cinderella" have been released: the series "Once Upon a Time", the films "The Farther Into the Woods …" and "The Story of Eternal Love".
Therefore, the audience has to regularly convince: the best "Cinderella" is made only at the Walt Disney studio.
Modern versions of classic stories are created in part because it is increasingly difficult to surprise the viewer. Today's kids who have just watched Spider-Man: Into the Universes are unlikely to be impressed by the classic animation, even if it is very talented.
Despite this, many are worried about the question: when will the endless stream of remakes dry up? It's very simple: they'll be finished filming when the audience stops walking on them. Only falling fees and serious reputational damage will force the studio to reconsider its policy.
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