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It's far from a surprise that the recent Beauty and the Beast remake was a hit, but the size of the hit has been such that we can expect Disney to put all of their numerous live-action remakes into high gear. While I'm not against that idea on spec, the potential is very high that an overzealous company could just put every new script through a Beauty and the Beast copy/paste sequence in order to try and recreate the magic they've caught here.
Turning each successive live-action fairy tale movie into an enormous hit is certainly a possibility, but the best way to do that is not to turn every movie into a carbon copy of their previous endeavor. Seeing a beloved animated film come to life was nice, but everything that was great about Maleficent had to do with the ways that Disney tried to do new and different things. Here are the things that Disney's upcoming remakes need to do to be successful.
For the purposes of this list, we're focusing on movies that we know are currently in active development due to the announcement of a director, a screenwriter, or casting decisions. If we covered them all we'd be here for a week.
Dumbo Has To Focus on the Elephant
All of the recent news surrounding Tim Burton's Dumbo project has been around casting, specifically, around the casting of some pretty big name stars like Tom Hanks and Will Smith (who didn't pan out). If they were being cast to do the voices of animal characters that would be one thing, but as far as we can tell they're being cast to play other humans. Changing the story is fine, most people don't remember the plot of Dumbo anyway, but if you're even talking to major actors, that means you have a major "human" role in this movie and, in the end, this movie can't be about a person, it has to be about Dumbo. We're assuming that Dumbo will be a Jungle Book-esque CGI animal, but that's ok. If you can't make him the lead, you can't make The Lion King work either.
The Lion King Shouldn't Be A Musical
It seems obvious to make The Lion King a full musical in the same way that Beauty and the Beast is. The audience looking to scratch that nostalgia itch is essentially the same one, since the films only came out a few years apart. But Disney needs to be very careful here. The Jungle Book showed (and has the Oscar to prove it) that Disney can make realistic and believable animals with CGI, but in that film, they were all supporting characters, and while they did sing, it wasn't much. One of the bigger criticisms about Beauty and the Beast was that the CGI characters were difficult to relate to, which made the songs fall flat. Making a version of the film that hinges on the songs working means that if they don't... the movie dies. The word that the studio is courting Beyonce would certainly indicate they're looking to go the musical route, but maybe just have her sing a song over the credits?
Make Aladdin A Comedy, But Change The Style
You cannot remake Aladdin without having theaters of people thinking about Robin Williams. In the end, the movie will succeed or fail based on who you cast as the Genie, not Aladdin or Jasmine. On the one hand, people are going to be expecting comedy, but trying to throw countless impressions out won't work because there's simply no way it will be done better. Instead, lighten the tone of the whole movie. Guy Ritchie is a director who can find the slightly offbeat in any material. Make the movie fun, and funny, but with a different style of comedy than Williams brought to the role. Give this one an action-comedy vibe, and it will be type of movie people were expecting without trying to reinvent the wheel.
Make Mulan An Action Movie
There seems to be some question as to whether or not the new Mulan will be a musical. Early reports said no but the most recent word is that that decision has not been made. Let's make it easy: don't bother. There are only a couple of good songs in the film, and you can get those covered by a decent pop artist and played over the credits. Instead, make this the first Disney fairy tale action movie. There's a war going on that we see almost none of in the original version. Play up the battles, choreograph some rock solid fight scenes, and let's see Mulan kick some serious ass. This could be the global crossover hit between China and North America that The Great Wall only dreamed of being.
Make Winnie the Pooh Psychadelic
The basic description of Christopher Robin, as we understand it, will follow the title character as an adult who has left behind the 100-acre wood and built a life as a businessman with a family, when Winnie the Pooh comes back into his life in need of help. That sounds...bizarre. Go with it. Rather than making it a movie about recapturing one's childhood, what if the movie leaves open the question of whether or not Winnie the Pooh is even real? The entire film could be a serious mind trip by a guy who isn't sure whether or not he's going completely bonkers. Even if he is, that doesn't mean there won't be some good Disney lessons he can learn. It would be a fresh and unexpected take on the source material. There's nothing wrong with that.