Back in 1994, Disney made a life action version of one of their animated films for the first time with Stephen Sommers created “The Jungle Book”. The film had modest success, and there was only one other live action remake in the 1990s when “101 Dalmations” was released with much more fanfare. In 2000, a sequel to the movie was made, but Disney didn’t go the remake route for many years.
In 2010, Disney remade “Alice in Wonderland”, and since 2014 had had many live action releases that were remade from their animated films. This includes another shot at “The Jungle Book” (that was well received), a sequel to “Alice” and films like “Cinderella”, “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin”.
Overall, it’s been a fairly recent trend for Disney who used to only go into the remake well every now and then, but have committed to doing this on a yearly basis. “Dumbo”, “The Lion King” and “Aladdin” alone were all released within just mere months of each other. Coming up, Disney will have live remakes of movies such as “The Little Mermaid”, “Mulan” and many more. This leaves people wondering why they’re so dedicated to their remakes now instead of creating new intellectual properties.
Naturally, money is the biggest reason. All of these animated films hold a dear place in the heart of a lot of people around the world. With the source material already being familiar with a wide audience, a remake is a safe bet at the box office. Those that watched the animated versions when they were children now have children of their own, and family movies almost always do well in theaters since that means more tickets per customer compared to an action film where people might be going by themselves.
Walt Hickey of analytics site FiveThirtyEight added onto the familiarity aspect that people have with these movies. “Recently the industry has seen a solid string of success born out of rebooting or upgrading content from the past,” he said. “This is a risk-averse strategy. You can bank on content where people already have a sense of the characters, they have a sense of what the plot is, what the story is.”
Some argue that this might be a phase that Disney is going through, but they are already shooting films that are supposed to be released several years down the road. They’ve made hundreds of millions from remakes, especially with the likes of “The Lion King”. With the Marvel Cinematic Universe and these remakes all making money, Disney appears to be an unstoppable box office force now.