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Another Disney live-action remake is headed to theaters with July's The Lion King, and as many are well aware, there are more live-action projects on the way. "Why?" some on the internet may ask. So, why do more remakes of Disney classics keep coming down the pipeline? It seems like a valid question, especially when polarizing castings or various other changes that appear in these remakes tend to stir up all sorts of concerns or even arguing amongst Disney fans.
It's a question that has marked this decade in particular, and has slowly intensified with each passing year following Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland remake in 2010. Believe it or not, though, there's a reason Disney continues to push these live-action remakes through: the movies make money. Until these remakes stop making money, we are going to continue to see live-action remakes of all the animated Disney classics get produced. Let's take a look at what got us here, how much The Lion King could make and what the future of the live-action projects holds.
Just How Much Money Do These Live-Action Remakes Make?
Since 2010, there have actually been nine live-action Disney movies that were remakes or adaptations of animated classics. While critics may have been middling on most of them, they were all solid commercial successes. In fact, two of them (Alice In Wonderland and Beauty And The Beast) have grossed over a billion dollars. Jon Favreau's previous live-action flick The Jungle Book wasn't far off from that, either, bringing in $966.6 million, and Aladdin is doing pretty well at around $960 million at the time of this writing.
Even the lesser performing live-action Disney adaptations have pulled a respectable profit. Christopher Robin was the lowest with $122.7 million difference between projected budget and box office numbers, but it's worth noting its budget was a quarter of most of the other live-action adaptations of this era -- and it wasn't a straight adaptation, either, like some of the more beloved properties. This may be why it didn't measure up numbers-wise to a majority of the cookie-cutter adaptations like Beauty and the Beast.
Put all of the estimated budgets of these nine films (around $1,118,000,000?) up against the box office pull ($6,366,600,461), and Disney has come out way ahead on these sorts of animated-but-realistic projects. Audiences may say they want something original, but time and time again Disney has put these projects out and they've flopped: think John Carter and particularly Tomorrowland. When looking at the numbers, it isn't hard to see why Disney feels no guilt in giving an audience remakes that look pretty but aren't strictly necessary.
What Happens If The Lion King Flops, Will Live-Action End?
First off, let's just be realistic and say there's a very good chance that The Lion King will not flop. The fact that people are wondering if it will still hit a billion dollars with poor reviews should be evidence enough that this one will be a commercial success even if it ends up sticking with a Rotten score.
With all that in mind, let's say there's a hypothetical boycott in which the entire world (because international box office numbers for these films often nearly double the American box office) boycotts The Lion King and it flops. Sure, Disney might be rattled that people of many nations and backgrounds united on this one issue, but it still has many remakes, sequels and adaptations in the pipeline that ensure this trend keeps on rolling.
That's not to say a few flops wouldn't make Disney re-evaluate that strategy, but if we're wondering if The Lion King will hit a billion dollars despite lukewarm reviews, then I think we're all subconsciously admitting the day people stop turning up for these movies is pretty far off, which means there is certainly appetite for them. Still though, if by some miracle this movie flops, Mulan flops, and the next few that follow flop, then maybe, maybe, Disney will stop re-releasing animated classics in live action.
But Disney Will Eventually Run Out Of Animated Movies To Remake, Right?
To date, Disney has made nine live-action remakes of animated classics, and three adaptations based on the animated classics. There are several others of both types in various stages of development, and scores of many other movies in its vault to consider for future live-action adaptations. Sure, not all of them like Fantasia or The Three Caballeros will probably get made, but there are still plenty of options.
Even then, folks need to realize that any of these live-action adaptations could get another live-action adaptation down the road. The Jungle Book already had a live-action adaptation in 1994, and made more money with a version that was actually less live-action (and is getting a sequel) two decades later. Remakes of remakes are on the table, which means Disney could be going to this fountain long after we're all dead and gone. That's not even getting into all the sequel possibilities out there.
Is this really that bad of a thing though? Disney's live-action remakes may cause some controversy, angst, and destroy the childhood of some grown adults, but box office numbers show a lot of people watch them. Are we to believe the masses are going to the theaters just to hate watch a movie they wish was never made to begin with? Of course not, although one may think that looking at the outrage and comments on some of these movies. Just remember, angry people on social media are often just a minor part of a whole.
So, Disney Likely Won't Quit These Live-Action Remakes
Again, there's an unfathomable scenario where multiple Disney live-action remakes and adaptations flop and the company stops, but the numbers indicate those days are far off into the future. Until folks stop turning up for these movies, there's no chance in hell Disney will ever consider shoveling audiences slightly different but more of the same movies they've already made millions off of.
And really, who can blame Disney? Do people get upset at Vanilla Ice when he shows up to a venue and plays "Ice Ice Baby," instead of a deep cut from his album? No, people want the classics and what they know, and the box office has often shown that's largely true with movies as well.
Are there exceptions? Absolutely, but take one glimpse at the box office success of originals IPs vs. sequels and remakes of established franchises, and it's clear which route studios prefer to go almost every time. it's always going to be worth the complaints from the peanut gallery, until enough disgruntled souls finally put their foot down and say "enough is enough."
In particular, there still seems to be enough excitement around these projects that we could be getting more for some time to come, which means the only question left to ask is whether or not the House of Mouse will be able to maintain it's current pace of putting a slew of these out each year. Which means it's up to you to get on board with the new movies, or don't.