Nostalgic remakes do nothing to improve the original


It seems like every year now, the production of a new reboot, remake, or sequel is announced. Starting with Tim Burton’s 2010 film Alice in Wonderland, film production companies—especially Disney—are making classic films new again.

Disney has remade several classic animated films, and not only rebooted them, but rebooted them in live action. While box office numbers and online audience reviews seem to suggest these reboots are universally loved, the popular consensus is still they were wasteful of resources that could have gone towards new projects.

Look at the 2019 reboot of The Lion King: despite being marketed as “live action,” it was animated entirely using CGI. While the animation itself is impressive—all the animals in the 2019 version look incredibly realistic—the film lacks the vibrancy and expressiveness that made the original film so good.

Disney continued to blunder reboots that followed, such as Aladdin, also released in 2019. Like with The Lion King, the original film is a fantastic classic, though not without its share of issues. It has often been criticized for its orientalism, falling into racist tropes in its depiction of the fictional country of Agrabah. 

The reboot presented the perfect opportunity for Disney to fix these mistakes and provide more respectful representation. Instead, white extras in the film were given darker makeup to blend into larger crowd scenes rather than hiring people of colour. 

Essentially Disney platformed brownface for this ‘respectful’ version of Aladdin. This came on top of the colourist casting of Naomi Scott as Jasmine, as the actress is much lighter than Jasmine was in the original film. 

So, if the The Lion King’s fancy CGI animation doesn’t live up to the original, if Disney’s flimsy attempts to be more culturally respectful fail, then what’s the point of constantly rebooting these classic films? Money, of course.

Reboots are a money-making machine. They’re an easy way to produce a movie without much need for ingenuity, as fans of the original flock to see their favourite films reimagined for the modern era. Nostalgia guarantees these films will be profitable, no matter what. 

The 2019 reboot of The Lion King grossed $191,770,759 over its opening weekend—more than twice what the original 2D animated film brought in. 

However, just because these films made money, doesn’t mean they’re high quality. These Disney reboots are just a few examples that reveal a wider problem in Hollywood, where old properties are resurrected because of the guarantee of profit. 

Often these reboots—or sequels—are unnecessary and disregard what made the original product good in the first place. Production companies cut costs and produce these films at lightning speed, without considering how to create something good. 

As long as audiences keep flocking to the theatre every time a new remake is announced, we’ll never be free of them. 

Clanny is a fourth-year English student and The Journal’s Assistant Lifestyle Editor.

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