The Problem with Live-Action Disney Remakes – Film Discussion

In years recent years, Disney has noticeably been taking quite an aggressive approach to reimagining many of the company’s classic animated adventures into live-action blockbusters, which I personally feel is having a bad influence on the rest of the film industry in more ways than one.

Despite Disney actually beginning the trend of remaking their classic films all the way back in 2010 with the semi-sequel/remake of: ‘Alice in Wonderland’ directed by Tim Burton. Disney didn’t begin to get truly rampant with its approach until the later successes of: ‘Cinderella’ and ‘The Jungle Book’ in 2015 and 2016 respectively, with ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Dumbo’ and ‘Aladdin’ following not far behind, eventually leading to their most recent releases, that being: ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Lady and the Tramp’. Yet whilst all of these films did receive mostly positive reviews from both critics and audiences upon their initial release, I personally have never understood why. As for me, none of these remakes ever manage to really justify their existence, with each new film simply feeling like nothing more than a product, a money machine disguised as a film created purely for the purpose of rinsing profit out of Disney fans who desire to see their childhood classics recreated in a new light, and by this point, I just find it irritating.

Of course, remaking classic/iconic films is nothing new for the film industry, with dreadful remakes such as: ‘RoboCop’, ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Robin Hood’ all being great examples of how taking a classic film and giving it a sleek modern-aesthetic doesn’t automatically make it superior to the original. However, it’s the way Disney goes about executing their remakes that makes them even more frustrating. As even though most reimaginings may not differ too much of the original story, the majority of Disney remakes feel almost identical to their animated counterparts, featuring nearly all of the same scenes and dialogue, now just dragged-down by much weaker visuals, vocal performances and songs. Which in turn, also allows directors and writers to simply borrow material from previous filmmakers without having to innovate much themselves. Another issue I have with Disney converting their animated classics into live-action is that many of the original stories were always envisioned to be animated as they were being written, meaning when transferred into a different style of filmmaking, they usually are forced to rely on enormous amounts of CGI.

Although most audiences seemingly don’t take issue with Disney’s constant remakes, there are still some Disney fans who have spoken-out about losing interest Disney’s future live-action endeavours. In particular, I personally recall many weren’t looking forward to watching the ‘Aladdin’ remake around the time of its release, which I feel is understandable. As just from its trailer alone, it was clear that not only would the film intensely mirror the original, but it was obvious just from a glance that its visuals were also far, far duller, as the remake was lacking in both colour and style. Focusing more on being semi-realistic rather than fully engaging in its elements of fantasy (which for a narrative revolving around a powerful genie who grants three magical wishes feels like a huge mistake to me). Whilst the original: ‘Aladdin’ may not be the most visually-enthralling of Disney’s catalogue of family flicks, the classic style of 2D hand-drawn animation is still very pleasing to look at even by today’s standards for CG animated films.

It may even surprise some to know that many of these bland remakes were actually directed by talented filmmakers like Jon Favreau and the previously mentioned Tim Burton. Yet with each new film, every-director’s unique style always seems to be stripped-away or completely absent. As not only does each remake barely utilise any creative cinematography or editing, relying nearly entirely on CG effects to impress the audience. But usually inventive directors such as: Guy Richie, who has made phenomenal use of his unique style editing and humour in the past within his films: ‘Snatch’ and ‘The Gentlemen’, suffers as a result of how simply generic and even somewhat boring his reimagining of: ‘Aladdin’ is, and while Disney may not be entirely to blame for this, I do believe the company would prefer to keep each remake fairly easy to digest in order to appeal to a wider-audience.

In addition to both the visuals and directing however, the cast of the original animated flicks were also a huge contributing factor to them becoming as beloved as they now are, with not only actors like Robin Williams as the original: ‘Genie’ of course, but also lesser-known actors such as: Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella as ‘Timon’ and ‘Pumbaa’, to Jodi Benson and Pat Carroll as: ‘Ariel’ and ‘Ursula’. As all these voices not only gave the characters great comedic timing and a distinct tone, but they soon even became an extension of the characters themselves, making them recognisable purely through their voice. Whereas Disney’s newer remakes prefer to just take the much easier approach of simply casting the most relevant actors at the time and throwing them into an iconic role, and whilst actors like Donald Glover and Chiwetel Ejiofor will always be superb at their craft, forcing these performers into roles within ‘The Lion King’ simply due to their popularity will always make their vocal performance feel very out-of-place when in comparison with the original film.

The final area I find Disney remakes to be most lacking is with the tampering of classic Disney songs, as although I’m personally not an enormous fan of musicals within the realm of live-action, I’ve always enjoyed many of the songs in Disney animated classics. As not only do I feel these songs add to the characters and the story of each film immensely, but many classic Disney songs also manage to become iconic amongst themselves, with nearly any fan of animation more than likely knowing all the words to ‘Be Our Guest’, ‘The Circle of Life’ and ‘Under the Sea’ (just to name a few). But when it comes to the remakes, once again, both the original score and songs feel far more dull, even in spite of the legendary Hanz Zimmer returning for: ‘The Lion King’ remake to recreate many of his classic tracks. Still, a few of the reimaginings do at least attempt to throw-in some original songs, which unfortunately end-up being mostly forgotten due to them being overshadowed by the classic songs audiences more familiar with.

In conclusion, it seems the influx of live-action Disney remakes won’t be stopping anytime soon, with ‘The Lion King’ racking-in over £1.298 billion worldwide, Disney will most likely continue this remaking trend until their audience completely loses interest. As reimaginings of: ‘Mulan’, ‘Peter Pan’, ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘Pinocchio’, The Sword in the Stone’ and ‘Lilo and Stitch’ as well as many, many more, are already set for release. Whilst the ‘House of Mouse’ does still have a few original films on the horizon, Disney seems to be heading down a similar path to their paired animation company Pixar, that being one of laziness, relying mostly on their previous stories and franchises for profit rather than creating something new, which in turn is also encouraging other production companies to do the same. So if you share my opinion, perhaps sit-out Disney’s next live-action release, stay at home, and just relive many of the beautifully animated stories from the past, as I honestly believe many of these films are timeless.

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What Happened to Pixar Animation? – Film Discussion

Whatever happened to the beloved animation studio Pixar?

Pixar Animation used to make some phenomenal animated adventures that the entire family could enjoy together. Regardless of their age. Mixing brilliant storytelling with beautiful animation and incredibly memorable characters. Each film never failed to stand-out amongst the rest. Some of the films such as: ‘Monsters, Inc.’ or ‘Wall.E’ for example (my personal favourite Pixar films), really got creative with their own narratives and flushing out their individual worlds. However, in recent years, I’ve noticed a serve downgrade in quality from their films. As it seems ever since the release of ‘Toy Story 3’ back in 2010, Pixar has had a real reliance on sequels, prequels and spin-offs over original films. While still mostly enjoyable, I have noticed the storytelling, character arcs and world-building all seem to be lacking when compared to their earlier films.

In recent years films such as: ‘The Good Dinosaur’, ‘Monsters University’, ‘Brave’, ‘Finding Dory’, ‘Cars’ 2 and 3 and of course the upcoming ‘Toy Story 4’. Have all ranged from sub-par through to simply awful, the ‘Cars’ series of course being the best example of this. As this series has always been Pixar’s black sheep. Never truly having the magic that makes Pixar special, always feeling like more of a cash-grab than anything else. ‘Cars 2’ being the easiest example of this, as this film is Pixar’s only rotten film to date. The ‘Cars’ series has always felt very immature to me, although I didn’t hate the original film, it’s definitely no one’s favourite. In regards to Pixar’s other sequels: ‘Finding Dory’ and ‘Toy Story 4’, ‘Finding Dory’ is nothing more than a reskinned ‘Finding Nemo’, with the exception of a few amusing characters, the film has nothing more really to offer. Despite having fantastic reviews from critics for some reason, the film was never anything other than a massive nostalgia slap for me. As of now ‘Toy Story 4’ hasn’t been released yet, but I feel when it does it’ll be another film with great reviews, but with nothing truly memorable about it. As I personally believe the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy was ended so well, I don’t truly don’t understand why they feel the need to continue that story other than profit.

‘Monster’s University’ is probably my favourite of Pixar’s recent continuations of their old stories, although I don’t think the film reaches the heights of ‘Monster’s Inc.’ Purley due to less originality and dark themes. I do still think the film is very funny, and it does explore the monster world further. It’s one of the few films I can say where it feels there was true thought put into it, as it doesn’t just lean on the legacy of the previous film. Finally, we come to Pixar’s original films. This being ‘The Good Dinosaur’ and ‘Brave’, now whilst I don’t think these films are awful per-say. They simply just aren’t that memorable. ‘Brave’ having a few funny moments and an interesting setting, but falls more into classic 2D animated story at points. As for ‘The Good Dinosaur’, it’s simply a returning home story, with nothing of note at all other than the nice animation. It seems most people agree with me on this one too, considering its very low box office return.

Now of course, there are some recent exceptions, Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’, ‘Coco’ and last year’s ‘Incredibles 2’ I did enjoy very much. These films proved to me that Pixar still does have some great stories in them, although these films aren’t perfect and I wouldn’t rank them as high as the classic Pixar films personally, they definitely show potential. I would love to see more original animated films like this from Pixar. Considering how much money ‘Coco’ made when it was released, it’s clear they still make money just from the Pixar name alone. So why do they feel the need to rely on sequels? Many people would point to Disney pulling their leg, and although I could believe that. I also think it’s due to Pixar simply becoming uninterested, they now think of themselves as the animation giants the audience believes they are. This means they no longer take risks, and are comfortable simply gaining profit of their previous franchises.

This could also be due to a lack of original ideas of course, Pixar simply feeling more comfortable returning to their previous stories. But considering some of their big competitors such as: DreamWorks Animation, Blue Sky Animation, Warner Bros. Animation and Illumination Animation are all still pumping out original films (granted not all quite to the Pixar standard). Films such as: ‘Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie’, ‘Ferdinand’, ‘The Lego Movie’ and ‘Despicable Me’ are all still a very enjoyable watch. Some of these films even making a pretty big box office return, with the ‘Despicable Me’ spin-off: ‘Minions’ even becoming one of the highest-grossing animated films ever earning over £900 million. Even the company teamed up with them: Disney. Are beating them recently when it comes to original animated flicks, with Disney’s ‘Zootropolis’ being one of my favourite films of 2016 when it was first released.

In conclusion, what happened to Pixar Animation is very clear to me. They simply got lazy, focusing far more on wanting to make a large profit rather than give their audience new exciting stories. The company isn’t completely dead, films like ‘Coco’ and ‘Inside Out’ clearly proving there is still talent there. But with the older writers and creators now backing down from the company with newer faces arising. I’m concerned that Disney and Pixar executives may continue to push for more sequels, prequels and spin-offs with the knowledge that the films will always make money regardless of their quality. This is mostly why I fear for: ‘Toy Story 4’, as even though I really hope the film is great, I currently have a lot of doubts in my mind about it. Pixar however, have also recently brought out a trailer for their next film following on from ‘Toy Story 4’ titled: ‘Onward’, which does appear to be a completely original story focusing on elements of fantasy and adventure, so perhaps not all is lost for the iconic animation company just yet. But only time will tell I suppose.

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What’s Wrong with Modern Horror? – Film Discussion

What’s wrong with the majority of modern horror films?

In my opinion, there are many different issues modern-horrors/thrillers, although there is a few films that manage to avoid these problems. Such as: ‘It Follows’, ‘The Descent’, ‘A Quiet Place’, ‘Don’t Breathe’ and ‘The Void’ to name a few. The majority of modern horrors follow a very similar formula, a group of stereotypical teenagers do something they shouldn’t e.g. find a certain object (Ouija board, cursed book, dead friend/relative’s photo). Or a family moves into a new home only for it to be haunted by ghosts/spirits. These two plotlines are the go-to for most of the new releases nowadays. But they are unbelievably drawn-out by this point.

Similar to how nearly every-horror plot of the 1980s involved a group of teenagers visiting a cabin deep in the woods only to get slaughtered one-by-one at the hands of a psychotic serial killer. Sticking to stories that we have become so familiar to means that there is little surprise left for the audience, and the narrative soon becomes very predictable. Another issue with the majority of the stories that are told is the weak characters, nearly every modern horror has such bland characters it’s difficult to get invested in the story at all. Just because these characters may be killed off doesn’t mean you don’t have to write for them, having some likeable or interesting characters actually makes the audience care whether they live or die, therefore increasing the film’s tension. Of course, hiring unknown actors who aren’t the most amazing at their craft also doesn’t help towards this issue.

Another thing that’s always bothered me in regards to the characters in most modern horrors, is the character’s extreme stupidity. The film actually falls less out of reality due to the characters being so unbelievably oblivious to everything around them. It’s understandable the characters would have some doubts the first time one of their friends die. But after two or three, it’s ridiculous the characters still haven’t figured out what the audience has half an hour ago. Even if their curious but not concerned, it’s nothing but frustrating and less-believable. This unbelievability also applies to the attractiveness of the cast, as although I think a film featuring a few attractive cast members is perfectly fine, casting nothing but models takes the audience straight-out of the story. A film particularly guilty of both of these things is the Blumhouse production: ‘Truth or Dare’. As this film is a perfect example of the problems I have with most modern horrors, both in regards to their characters, actors and scripts.

However, it isn’t just the script or actors that’s an issue when it comes to modern horrors, the overall filmmaking of the picture is usually extremely bland. Again, due to the genre, some people may believe the filmmaking isn’t important. This isn’t true. The filmmaking can still be impressive while building tension and fear. ‘It Follows’ is a great example of this, the beautiful lighting, cinematography and original score all give the film style without taking anything away from the eerie atmosphere. Horror soundtracks are a huge issue for me when it comes to most of the films, as it is possible to create a great memorable score without making it just sound eerie e.g. ‘Halloween’ or ‘The Shining’.

Finally, we get to the biggest problem with modern horror, the classic jump-scare. Jump-scares only really came around in the early 2000s, but since then they have completely invaded the film industry. Not only appearing in horror but everything from action to sci-fi to even superhero films, they’ve now become almost a staple of modern filmmaking. I don’t believe they are an entirely awful idea, they can be used correctly every so often to shock the viewer, and give them a quick rush before the next scene. However, most modern horrors now essentially rely on jump-scares (most James Wan films being particularly guilty of this in my opinion), and I believe this is incredibly lazy. Horror should be about creating an eerie atmosphere, having creepy visuals and giving the audience some likeable characters to fear for. Almost placing the audience in that situation themselves, ‘Pyewacket’ from 2016 being a great example of this. Drawing out shots and using dark lighting/shadows and silhouettes etc. can all help build fear in the audience. Rather than just throwing ‘scary’ faces at the screen alongside loud noises to see what sticks.

The main reason all these bad decisions are made when it comes to the horror/thriller genre is mostly due to money, no matter how awful the majority of these horrors are, the reality is that they make money. As these films can be made on a very small budget as they utilize mostly unknown actors and very little CGI or make-up effects, with a target audience consisting of teenagers or horror fanatics who will pay to see the film, no matter how terrible the trailers may look. For example, the first ‘Paranormal Activity’ had a budget of only £11,800 and grossed over £151 million. The film only having an hour and twenty-minute runtime along with very few ‘ghosts’ even being displayed on-screen. ‘The Bye Bye Man’ also being another example. Having a small budget of £6 million with a gross of £21 million. Despite awful reviews from both critics and audiences alike.

In conclusion, modern horror films are suffering due to both a lack of creativity and a heavy focus on profit. I’m of course aware that film is a business, but in my opinion, creativity is the most important aspect, as without creativity film doesn’t exist. Horror is a fantastic genre that isn’t reaching it’s full potential a majority of the time due to production companies/directors not caring. There’s a reason a lot of indie horrors are praised, as they don’t set out to only make money, many of them are extremely creative and make amazing use of their micro-budgets. Although horror also wasn’t perfect in the past, I definitely preferred it. At least back in the 80s/90s we still had some creative concepts, from killer’s invading their victim’s dreams to murderous children’s dolls to even a hand-held documentary on teenagers finding an ancient evil witch in a forest. The possibilities were (and still are) truly endless. Hopefully soon, filmmakers and producers alike will look past the profit and truly see this.