In the past few years, Disney has spent considerable resources on its live-action remakes of early classics, but many may wonder why exactly Disney is making so many of them. Ever since the early 2010s, Disney has been remaking its old classics in a live-action format, one of the first being Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in 2010. This was then followed by over a dozen other live-action remakes of old classics including The Jungle Book in 2016, Beauty and The Beast in 2017, The Lion King in 2019, Cruella in 2021, and, most recently, Pinocchio in 2022.
Releasing live-action remakes of Disney’s much-beloved stories seems to be a successful strategy or, at least, one that Disney is more than happy to continue investing in, seeing the trend from the previous years. A look into Disney’s upcoming releases does reveal that many more live-action remakes are in the works and will most likely be a prominent part of Disney’s future. Most famously, The Little Mermaid will have its live-action remake in 2023, which is when the Peter Pan live-action reboot, Peter Pan and Wendy is set to release as well.
Why There Are So Many Disney Live-Action Remakes
Ultimately, it all comes down to an economic issue. Remaking stories that are already beloved by the audience is a safe strategy to ensure a financially successful product without having to risk capital into something that may not bring any revenue in. Live-action remakes have become a tried and tested strategy for Disney to bring in a lot of money, given that it is almost certain that audiences will go and watch the live-action remakes of Disney classics they used to love. Not only to be reminded of the animated movies Disney has always been known for, but also to share that with a new generation of children and grandchildren.
Moreover, Disney live-action remakes are not just reliable in terms of money, but they end up saving Disney time and effort in the pre-production process. In fact, the live-action remakes are a clever way to bring in sure money without having to come up with an entirely new product, all while relying on existing IPs that Disney knows work with their audiences. In addition, remaking old classics in live-action form also allows Disney not to pay for new IPs and, therefore, save some money on that side of the budget.
Isn’t Disney’s Live-Action Remake Strategy About Copyright?
A common misconception among Disney viewers may be that the strategy of remaking so many Disney live-action films is ultimately down to protecting their copyright. The Walt Disney Company has been around for almost 100 years now, so it goes without saying that Disney may be encountering some copyright protection concerns at the present time. Given that several of Disney’s earlier classic animated movies are nearing their copyright expiration dates, it seems awfully convenient that this is the time that Disney has chosen to remake its classic films.
However, that is not necessarily a big reason for the remakes. Disney’s strategy around live-action remakes has less to do with extending copyright for some of its most famous works, such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and the upcoming The Little Mermaid remake, and more to do with the reliable product that will come from it. In fact, copyright does not automatically renew by remaking a new product with the same IP. For many of Disney’s IPs, they have been able to extend their copyrights with little difficulty, so releasing new films doesn’t appear to be necessary.
Why Disney’s Live-Action Remakes Might Be Better Than You Think
Disney live-action remakes may be a reliable way to make money, but that does not mean that they are loved by the audience. However, that does not necessarily mean that Disney’s live-action remake strategy is necessarily bad as it does allow Disney to create a reliable investment and revenue in order to sustain new, perhaps more risky, IPs and projects. While it is true that many live-action remakes do not seem to compare with the original classic animated versions, with only one Disney remake scoring a better Rotten Tomatoes score than its original so far, there is still some value to be found in the Disney live-action remakes.
Moreover, Disney’s recent live-action remakes mean introducing new audiences to these stories that are beloved by generations as well as playing on the nostalgia of the Disney classics and the golden era for animation for the portion of the audience that already knows these works. They give the creators a chance to rework such stories in a modern context, allowing them to amend parts of the scripts or songs that are no longer acceptable in today’s day and age, thus adapting the classic Disney animation works to a more modern audience.