Ever since Disney’s 2010 live-action/CGI re-do of their 1951 animated version of “Alice in Wonderland,” directed by Tim Burton and with an all-star cast including Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter that cashed in with $1 billion-plus in ticket sales worldwide, the House of Mouse has put into motion a similar array of remakes of their animated classics — 11 so far. The total global box-office bonanza? More than $5 billion.
This year, brings five such live-action ‘ toon updates that get a 21st-century makeover for a new generation. Alas, Burton’s “Dumbo,” based on the 1941 circus tale about a baby elephant who can fly didn’t quite achieve peak take-off at the box office after opening on March 29. Total domestically is $92 million so far for a movie that cost $170 million.
But that is just a blip on this business model, considering what other flashy if familiar family fare is on the horizon: “Aladdin” with Will Smith as the genie (May 24); “The Lion King” (July 19) with the voices of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Beyonce and James Earl Jones returning as Mufasa; the sequel “Malelificent: Mistress of Evil” (October 18) with Angelina Jolie; and “Lady and the Tramp,” which will stream on Disney+ (November 12).
Parents usually appreciate any reason to see a film that their kids will like, too. But how do long-time fans of the Magic Kingdom feel when the animated movies they grew up with are being recycled in such a manner. In our Gold Derby poll, 30% said the live-action updates have been entertaining but they prefer the old-school versions. And 17% were somewhat less enthusiastic, saying that some remakes have been good but others were just pale imitations. Meanwhile, 29% wish the studio would do more original animated stories.
About 2% simply shrugged, saying the remakes are good for kids and you can always show them the originals as well while 8% are just grateful that Disney still provides all-ages entertainment, new or old. Judging by what they plan for 2020, the studio is dedicated to diving into its vault and putting out new versions of such titles as “Mulan” (March 27), “Cruella,” “Pinocchio,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Lilo & Stitch” and “The Little Mermaid.” I, for one, will be curious how they will handle Sebastian the crab.