Disney live actions – magical or terrible?

Amber Hayden, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Whenever a classic story is set to be remade, there is always some resistance against it. People tend to be hesitant to see these films in theaters because they worry it will be a disgrace to the classic. Luckily, the elements of the movie and their execution can hint if the adaptation is actually worth it or just a money grab.

Many individual factors go into any film’s success, and the most vital aspect by far, whether it is a remake or original, is the acting that brings both the characters and story to life. One such film that excellently demonstrates this is the live-action ‘Beauty and the Beast’ starring Emma Watson. 

Emma was an excellent choice to play Belle, especially in the scenes portraying Belle’s love for books. From her love for her father to the spectacle when the beast presents to her all the books in the castle.

Emma Watson did an excellent job showcasing Belle’s entire range of emotions, from bravely volunteering to take her father’s place, to falling in love with the beast. Just like in the animated version, their relationship slowly builds from her hating him for everything he took from her to slowly starting to see a new side to him. The two are the epitome of the perfect enemies to lovers relationship.

Not only were the actors spectacular, but the special effects also had their moment, specifically in the famous song ‘Be Our Guest. In the animated film, this scene was stunning, but it could have gone very badly in this live-action format, but thankfully Disney did it right.

While some scenes did these special effects adequately, other parts did not do the original the justice it deserved. In the animation the beast was super-expressive, but much to the fans’ disappointment, the live-action beast just did not emote the same way. Thankfully this did not drag down the entire film, but for others like ‘The Lion King’, this was not the case.

Even though this is referred to as a live-action film, it is only produced to appear realistic. The issue surrounding ‘The Lion King’ is all of the characters are animals, most prominently lions, but since this is a live-action and they can not use real lions they had to resort to CGI. 

The lions look just like how real ones would look in the wild, but in this effort to look realistic, which albeit worked, the characters could not emote like they did in the original. This film was terrible on so many levels and was simply a waste of everyone’s time and money. 

Not only was the complete loss of emotion a downer, this film also added nothing new to the plot. Aside from a sparse added line here and there, this live-action was essentially a copied version of the original animated film, down to the smallest detail. They did not even bother to maintain the quality of the well-loved original, leaving everyone asking what the point was.

‘The Lion King’ live action did not have any real reason for existing, but thankfully Disney seems to have learned their lesson since then with ‘Mulan.’ ‘Mulan’ respects the original story while making clever changes that not only work but add to the soul of the film.

Where ‘The Lion King’ failed, ‘Mulan’ rose like a phoenix from the ashes. Animated ‘Mulan’ relied on an animal sidekick named Mushu, who supposedly offered assistance throughout the film, but realistically he just dragged her down. Instead of using CGI to create a dragon, they opted to change it to a phoenix that does not talk but acts as an inspiration to Mulan throughout the movie. In the original, Mulan relied on Mushu and the various other male characters too much, but in the live-action Mulan finally finds her power.

‘Mulan’ strategically changes small moments making her character stronger from the decisions she made, tying the story up better than in the original. In the animated film, the ending did not make sense for Mulan’s character. Still, the live-action stays loyal to both the original movie and what her character would realistically want.

Everything that was changed made sense and never distracted from the original story similar to how it was with ‘Cruella.’ With ‘101 Dalmations’ being released in 1961 it was long overdue for an update and ‘Cruella’ did all that and more.

‘101 Dalmatians’ was boring by today’s standards, and Cruella recognizes the issues with the aforementioned film by giving people everything the original lacked. Cruella gave intriguing characters with various sides to them.

Cruella, in particular, is a stellar main character to follow. She demands attention unlike in the source material. From childhood, Cruella has proved herself to be a motivated individual who knows what she wants and is willing to take risks to make her aspirations happen.

This film provides insight into why Cruella is the way she is and makes her seem like a real person. ‘101 Dalmatians’ painted Cruella as a cookie-cutter villain who is evil without proper reason, but this film shows Cruella’s surprisingly interesting backstory. It adds to the original and pulls her story into the 21st century in a way ‘101 Dalmatians’ was sorely lacking.

As for future live-action remakes, public opinion is leading in favor of them being satisfying films. With ‘The Little Mermaid’ set to come out in theaters in May 2023, fans have their worries, but if Disney has learned anything from their previous mistakes, there is hope this film will be extraordinary.