A Disney Story: Work Smarter, Not Harder

There’s far too much complaining going on regarding Disney, particularly their recent trend of remaking their classic films into live-action projects. Yes, yes I know, The Lion King and 97% of The Jungle Book aren’t actually live-action, but you have to admit that is some of the most realistic CGI you’ll ever see.

The majority of their live-action remakes have hit or exceeded the mark. Sure, they had a couple that underwhelmed or underperformed at the box office, but you can’t really expect them to bat 1.000 with all the remakes they’re releasing. Not all Disney classics are equal in terms of recognition and popularity.

Dumbo or Christopher Robin were never going to make as much as The Lion King or Aladdin. That’s just a fact. There are certain Disney classics that mean more to some people than others.

Still, overall Disney’s “remakeassance” has been an overwhelming success. This train is rolling and don’t expect it to stop anytime soon. Especially now that two of their remakes, Aladdin and The Lion King, have both grossed more than $1 billion (and counting).

The other thing people need to remember is Disney also owns two of the most successful cinematic brands of all time, as well as other lucrative assets that provide them endless content. Remakes are not all Disney does, but let’s look at the complaint surrounding the remakes first, shall we?

“Remakes are Too Similar to Originals”

Well….yeah.

That’s what a remake is. These aren’t reboots. Disney isn’t trying to give you a new story with the same characters; they’re trying to bring the same story to life with real actors/actresses. Moreover, they are using advanced technology to update these stories for new generations to enjoy for years to come.

While Aladdin added its own unique flair to its remake–courtesy of Guy Ritchie and Will Smith–it still told the same story we loved in the original animated film.

Almost everything from the originals was brought into these remakes to capture the same spirit. You can’t change or omit too much material; otherwise, you risk losing familiarity and nostalgia. It becomes less of a remake and more of re-imagining.

The fact The Lion King is getting so much criticism for being a “shot for shot” remake is mind boggling. It is asinine to hear “fans” saying Disney didn’t take any risks and and lacked originality. If you watch the film, you would see the same beloved story as the original. Besides, the film took tiny artistic liberties to avoid being an exact replica.

It really seems like people don’t understand what a remake is. Did fans want a completely different story? The story is already beloved, so why change anything about it? The originals were perfect–the material, themes, characters, and stories. Disney is is simply taking what already exists and updating it. This is not re-inventing the wheel. 

“Disney Lacks Originality”

The common complaint is Disney “lacks originality” and that they’re “lazy”. Maybe they just have an over-abundance of material at their disposal and don’t really need to worry about crafting original content?

Think about it. Disney owns: Marvel, LucasFilms, Pixar, Disney Animation Studios, and 20th Century Fox. That’s not even including all of their animated classics sitting in their vaults waiting to get their turn on the big screen again (cough, Hercules, cough).

Have you ever heard the phrase “work smarter, not harder”?

With all that content, Disney has guaranteed cash-cows at their finger tips. What company wouldn’t sit back and let those cows make them mountains of money? What’s that? Disney can also save money by not having to outsource or hire a creative team to come up with new ideas?

Alright, you twisted their arm.

Sure, these fans can say, “There are too many sequels, remakes, and prequels. This proves they’re lazy and don’t have any original ideas.” But look at the results: Audiences eat up (mostly) anything that Disney produces.

It’s not like Disney is without their original content, but their recent ventures in that area didn’t fair too well. Remember John Carter and Tomorrowland? Yeah, most don’t. Both flopped hard, critically and financially.

If you’re Disney and you see that your original(ish) content doesn’t perform nearly as well as your sequels and remakes, why would you keep going back to making original content? Sure, it’s admirable, but being admirable doesn’t make you money.

Again, this is a business, and money talks.

Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game

Blaming Disney for capitalizing on their strengths is not only ignorant, it’s petty. Critiquing them for doing what makes them money because they are “sacrificing artistic integrity” or “being lazy” shows a true lack of understanding why they do what they do.

While they are in the business of making movies, they make those movies to make a profit so they can keep making more movies.

I understand the need for original content in the marketplace. Not everything can (or needs to) be a sequel, reboot, or adaptation. If original ideas go extinct or continue becoming more of a rarity, then cinemas and audiences everywhere lose.

The cinematic industry was built on original concepts. That is its foundation. If original ideas die, then creativity dies right along with it.

Having said that, Disney is not the only studio making films.

Instead of constantly berating Disney for their lack of original content, devote your time to supporting the original concept films from the various other studios in the marketplace.

See, here’s the thing though. People want to sit on social media and, excuse my French, bitch about how Disney is ruining film with their lack of originality. Yet, those same people aren’t sprinting to theaters to support little gems like Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart, which only made $23.5 million worldwide.

Nobody is forcing audiences to go see Disney’s remakes. Nobody is forcing audiences to go see Star Wars or MCU films. Nobody is forcing audiences away from the lower budget, original films in theaters.

The audiences are choosing to do (or not do) these things.

If you want indies and lower-budget films to succeed, put your money where your mouth is and support those films with repeat business or encourage others to see it. That would be a refreshing change instead of crying on social media about how Disney succeeds off their “laziness” while original concept films die a gruesome box office death.

Disney Is Just Giving Us What We Want

As things stand, there’s no other way to put this…Disney is giving audiences exactly what they want.

The box office numbers indicate exactly that. There’s no arguing facts: Disney’s live-action remakes alone have made more than $7 billion worldwide since 2010. And don’t even get me started on Star Wars, the MCU, or even Pixar.

Even some of those detractors who claim to hate Disney and their lack of creativity are more than likely supporting a good amount of Disney’s releases.

Disney is making smart business moves to ensure the continued success of their company and all their brands. If that means sacrificing artistic integrity to do it, then so be it. They made brilliant investments and acquisitions in other properties (e.g., Fox, Marvel, LucasFilm) that added endless amounts of content to their libraries.

In summary: Disney is not a company that ever needs to worry about being original. That’s not a bad thing because they will always be a company capable of producing endless amounts of content that appeal to the masses.

As the famous adage from Jerry Maguire says: This ain’t show friends; it’s show business.

2 thoughts on “A Disney Story: Work Smarter, Not Harder

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