In recent years, Disney has spent much of its time and resources revisiting animated films and translating them into more realistic and serious live action features. Some of these remakes—such as Maleficent (2014) and Cruella (2021)—have focused on villains from older cartoons while others have made an obvious effort to create shot-for-shot replicas of original movies, often by implementing CGI. Many Disney lovers see these reboots as a way to share older stories with younger generations, while others call these remakes ‘cash cows’. Either way, Disney evidently has no plans to stop releasing these live action films, especially since many are already set for a release date or are in development. But with this in mind, let’s go over a few classics that it seems wouldn’t benefit from this kind of makeover.
1. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
In The Emperor’s New Groove, we follow the story of a self-obsessed emperor named Kuzco; his vengeful ex-advisor, Yzma; Kronk, a simpleminded henchman; and Pacha, a kindly villager. Spitefully transformed into a llama by Yzma and Kronk, Kuzco develops a friendship with Pacha and learns how to think about others before prioritizing his own needs.
Here’s one word as to why this movie shouldn’t receive a reboot: llama. Not only would it be odd to see a human transform into a live-action llama, but what would be the point? A realistic-looking talking llama sounds a bit too much like an oxymoron.
2. Encanto (2021)
Well-known for its hit song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” Encanto is a beautiful story about magic and family that comments on the importance of self-love and the connections we form with other individuals. Throughout the movie, we see many acts of magic ranging from having control over the weather to possessing incredible strength (a skill that comes in handy when lifting and holding multiple donkeys at a time). With all of these magical elements, how would a live action lens affect Encanto?
Admittedly, it would be entertaining to see a real life woman lift a couple of donkeys whether it’s through CGI or not, but ultimately, taking the animated element out of this movie risks harming its mysticality. The central family lives in a magical house called Casa Madrigal, which even earns a place as a quasi-character. It seems unlikely that these components could successfully translate into a live action reboot.
3. Meet the Robinsons (2007)
Perhaps the least well-known movie on this list, Meet the Robinsons, is a heartwarming, funny film about family and belonging. It tells the story of an orphaned boy named Lewis who must travel through time with his friend Wilbur to find out who his biological mother is. The movie is filled with goofy characters including Wilbur’s mother—a composer of a band full of singing frogs; Bowler Hat Guy—a villain who is both obsessed with revenge and a unicorn binder; a bowler hat that travels on mechanical claws, and even a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
It would seem that this story is better to remain as an animated film, largely due to the absurdness laced throughout the plot and the characters. Lewis’s iconic, spiky hair alone would look illogical on a real-life actor. Bowler Hat Guy’s lanky, slap-stick stature wouldn’t play off as comedic, but embarrassing if portrayed through realism. And perhaps most importantly, a self-aware, villainous hat would look silly if seen in a live action setting. Simply put, there are films that would come off as awkward if given a makeover—especially if they are overly comedic—and this is one of them.
4. Frozen (2013)
Out of the four movies listed thus far, it seems that Frozen is the most likely to be adapted into a live action movie. Much of the world fell in love with this story about the royal sisters Elsa and Anna, and eagerly awaited its sequel which was released in 2019. So, what’s the harm in portraying a popular story through a realistic point of view? That is, as realistic as any movie about a queen who can form ice and snow with the wave of a hand.
Back in 2014, the television show Once Upon A Time aired its fourth season with a storyline following the aftermath of Frozen’s plot. Up until that point, OUAT was mostly a live action show about more traditional, familiar fairytale characters. With this precedence, an introduction of the Frozen crew not long after the film came out was a bit surprising. In an article from A.V. Club, a reviewer went so far as to say that the mythology behind Frozen was not enough to create a unique storyline for the show’s fourth season, unlike other fairytale stories such as Alice in Wonderland or Peter Pan. However, Frozen 2 had no problem developing a unique plotline and furthering the lore surrounding the kingdom of Arendelle. Perhaps the issue was taking an animated story and trying to translate it into realism.
In my opinion, a Frozen remake would be too stiff. There is a kind of magic that animation offers to plots, allowing for a more whimsical—and often, more fun—take. If Disney were to reboot Frozen, I can’t imagine a CGI Olaf whirling around singing about summer would encourage the same reaction elicited in the original animated film.
5. Robin Hood (1973)
Inspired by English folk tales and medieval texts, Disney’s Robin Hood depicts the story of an outlaw fox who steals from the aristocracy in order to help his poor community. From Little John to Sir Hiss, each character in the movie is an animal which adds to the film’s fun, nostalgic tone. Most people would assume that a movie about anthropomorphic animals doesn’t need or deserve a live action remake, and yet…
A Robin Hood reboot is set to happen.
There would be no problem with this news if the impending film were to feature actual human characters. After all, there have been countless depictions of the titular hero in live action movies. But according to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney is planning to keep the characters as anthropomorphic animals in the upcoming remake. It’s safe to say I’m confused. Did Disney learn nothing from observing the failure that was Cats (2019)? How is Robin Hood supposed to use a bow if he doesn’t have opposable thumbs?
It’s no wonder that Disney spends so much time rebooting nostalgic films. After all, this tactic introduces classic stories to new audiences and provides income that allows the studio to create more novel, creative movies without financial risk. But in my opinion, not all animated movies have the means to achieve these goals. Animation provides artistic and comedic choices that are not always available in a live action format. To Disney, I say make all of the live action reboots you wish, but choose your material carefully.
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