Disney is cashing in with more real-life remakes of classic cartoons
Disney’s mega-dollar double take: After this summer’s Lion King, the Hollywood giant is cashing in with even more real-life remakes of other classic cartoons… leaving an army of infuriated fans VERY animated
First, think. Second, dream. Third, believe. And finally, dare.’ So said Walt Disney, a man who built his career on innovation and risk-taking. What he would say now of the entertainment colossus his studio has become is anyone’s guess — but he probably wouldn’t call it daring.
The company has long relied heavily on sequels and remakes, particularly live-action versions (featuring real actors) of classic animations that generally aren’t a patch on the original. And now Disney is at it again, with a vengeance.
One of this summer’s hit films was The Lion King, a remake of the original 1994 animation. But it wasn’t the only nice little earner — having spent vast sums buying up other studios including Marvel (owner of an army of superhero characters), LucasFilm (owner of Stars Wars) and 21st Century Fox (owner of The Simpsons and X-Men superheroes), Disney distributed four of the ten most profitable films at the U.S. box office this summer.
Year of the reboot: A remake of the original 1994 animation of The Lion King was one of summer’s hit films and showed the resurgence of Disney classics
It is also taking on Netflix by starting its own online video streaming service, Disney+, which will launch in the U.S. in November and the UK next year.
So what does the world’s largest entertainment company have in store for us now it has its hands on so much of Hollywood?
At a glitzy presentation of its film and TV plans in California a few days ago, Disney bosses unveiled a few new ideas — but these were overshadowed by a vast array of adaptations, rehashes, sequels and prequels. From relatively recent hits such as Frozen and Black Panther to golden oldies such as 101 Dalmatians, Sleeping Beauty and The Lady And The Tramp, take your seats for the Year of the Reboot…
The real question is why it has taken so long to produce a sequel to Frozen, the highest-grossing animated film in history. The original 2013 movie, inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale The Snow Queen, is about fearless young Princess Anna who sets out to find her estranged sister, Elsa. Its infuriatingly catchy highlight was the song Let It Go, which helped earn Disney more than £1 billion from the film.
Actress Kristen Bell, the voice of Princess Anna, explained that the delay was because Frozen’s makers were determined it would have the same impact as the first film: ‘It was about, what are the emotional undercurrents where we can show growth and character development in these people?’
Maybe, but millions of little girls will just be happy to get some new songs to sing ad infinitum.
Stung by accusations that its films are too white, Disney has added a black character. Despite speculation that it was also introducing a lesbian theme in the form of a new female friend, one of the sequel’s songwriters recently revealed that Elsa doesn’t have time for romance in the movie.
Release date: November 2019
You really can’t have too much of a good idea at Disney. Cruella, starring Emma Stone as the villainous, fur-loving fashion designer Cruella de Vil, is the fifth Disney film based on Dodie Smith’s story The Hundred And One Dalmatians (so far there have been two cartoons and three live-action films, including the original 1961 animation and the 1996 reboot starring Glenn Close). This time, a youthful Ms de Vil is a punk fashion designer in the Vivienne Westwood mould and the setting is London in the late 1970s.
Emma Stone plays Cruella del Vil in Disney’s live-action prequel titled Cruella to the 1961 classic – which will be set in 1970s London and tell the story of how the dognapper developed her hatred for the animals
It is based on Dodie Smith’s story The Hundred And One Dalmatians (so far there have been two cartoons and three live-action films)
The prequel — or ‘origin story’, as Hollywood likes to call them — also stars Emma Thompson and explains why Cruella became such a dog-hating monster.
Release date: Jan 2021
Disney has dogs on the brain. A forthcoming live-action remake of Lady And The Tramp, the soppy 1955 animated film about posh spaniel Lady and her downtown stray suitor, a schnauzer called Tramp, features everything from the original, including the smoochy scene in which they share a bowl of spaghetti. Well, almost everything — the dastardly Siamese cats (the best thing in the original) reportedly won’t be portrayed as remotely Asian for fear of upsetting the vital Chinese market.
A posh spaniel Lady and her downtown stray suitor, a schnauzer called Tramp will hit the screens once again in a live-action remake using CGI
Rose and Monte pictured on set during filming for the film that will be released November 12
Producers wanted to recreate the film with a real stray – including the iconic spaghetti sharing moment in the 1955 film
Producers wanted Tramp to be played by a real stray, and at an Arizona ‘kill shelter’ (where dogs are put down if no one adopts them) they found Monte, a schnauzer-airedale cross puppy.
Disney is also working on live-action remakes of its animated films The Little Mermaid (with Halle Bailey as the first black actress to play a Disney princess who was originally white), The Sword In The Stone and Peter Pan.
Release: November on Disney+
Disney beginners may not recall that Maleficent is the evil fairy in the classic 1959 animation Sleeping Beauty, and that Angelina Jolie played her in a 2014 live-action film Maleficent.
Just five years on, Jolie is playing her again in Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil, still wearing kinky black horns, fighting good fairies and sorting out her conflicted maternal feelings towards sweet Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning). This time she has competition from a neighbouring queen (Michelle Pfeiffer).
Angelina Jolie returns as Maleficent for the sequel Mistress Of Evil with her iconic kinky black horns and fights good fairies while sorting out her conflicted maternal feelings towards sweet Princess Aurora
As with Cruella, Disney hired British writer Jez Butterworth to rework the script.
Release date: October 2019
BIG CAT CASH-IN
The first film version of the Marvel Comics story about the super-powered king of a super-powered African country called Wakanda was perhaps the most stunning Hollywood success of last year — Black Panther earned more than £800 million in box office takings in just 26 days.
Naturally, Disney hasn’t wasted time before announcing a sequel. Details are scarce but Black Panther 2 is said to involve an amphibian half-human, half-Atlantean villain called Namor the Sub-Mariner.
Most of the original cast are expected to return, including British actor Martin Freeman as CIA agent Everett Ross and Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther.
Superhero film producers tend to keep making them as long as fans will watch them, and Black Panther producer Nate Moore has talked of ‘many sequels’.
Release date: May 2022
Disney has bad news for those who think the cinema is clogged with ludicrous superhero films. They usually do very well at the box office and, along with every other studio, Disney-owned Marvel is churning them out as fast as it can think of them.
It’s great news for British actors. Star of BBC TV’s Bodyguard Richard Madden and his Game Of Thrones co-star Kit Harington join Angelina Jolie in The Eternals, about an immortal alien race protecting Earth (out in late 2020). Fellow Game Of Thrones star Maisie Williams plays a Scottish mutant ‘struggling to reconcile her religious beliefs with her power to turn into a wolf’ in The New Mutants (out in April 2020).
Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Dr Strange in the sequel Doctor Strange in the Multiverse Of Madness (out in May 2021). Rachel Weisz and Florence Pugh share the bill with Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow (out in May 2020). There are also new Spiderman, Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy films coming.
Disney’s new internet streaming service will be full of superheroes, including Tom Hiddleston returning as Norse god Loki in a six-part series, Ms Marvel — the first superpowered Asian — and Moon Knight, the first superhero with a mental health condition.
Making films that appeal to audiences in China is increasingly crucial to Hollywood. Mulan will be the live-action version of Disney’s 1998 animated film of the same name.
Based on an ancient Chinese legend, it tells the stirring story of a teenage girl who pretends to be a man so she can take her ailing father’s place in the army and defend China from invaders.
The sets are so lavish that Disney is said to have set aside a budget of at least £227million.
Crystal Liu Yifei plays Mulan the live-action version of Disney’s 1998 animated film of the same name
irector Niki Caro of ‘Mulan’ and President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production Sean Bailey took part today in the Walt Disney Studios presentation at Disneys D23 EXPO 2019 on August 24
But instead of charming the Chinese, the troubled project has been plagued by setbacks.
Disney was initially accused of ‘whitewashing’ — casting white actors in non-white roles — after claims that an early script had a ‘European trader’ as Mulan’s love interest. Then, Crystal Liu Yifei, who plays Mulan, incensed Hong Kong protesters by proclaiming: ‘I support the Hong Kong police. You can all attack me now.’
Disney had hoped the original cartoon version of Mulan 20 years ago would smooth relations with China after the studio incensed the Beijing regime by releasing a 1997 film, Kundun, about the Dalai Lama. Instead, Mulan was a flop in China, where state media said the heroine was ‘foreign-looking’ and the story was too different from the myths.
Release date: March 2020
BACK TO BART
AT LEAST there is no live-action version yet of America’s most dysfunctional family, who haven’t been seen on the big screen for 12 years. But the first Simpsons Movie was a huge success, making £428 million on an estimated budget of £61 million.
Matt Groening, creator of the cartoon series, had been talking about a sequel for years but nothing happened. Now Disney has taken the reins after buying 21st Century Fox this year and Groening recently admitted the new owner ‘wants its money’s worth’. A Simpsons executive producer has confirmed they have already ‘talked about’ a second feature film with Disney.
It remains a moot point whether the famously controlling Disney will tolerate any insubordination from the Simpsons team, who have loved lampooning the company on the show over the years. Their efforts included a Snow White parody in which one of the seven dwarves says: ‘Well at least we don’t work for Disney!’
Last Supper In Pompeii exhibition explores what everyone in Pompeii would have been eating and drinking when the ash cloud began to form, at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford until January 2020
Battersea power station lights up once more with the opening of the all-new Turbine Theatre, under the stewardship of Paul Taylor-Mills. With a glitzy gala tonight, the first show sees Matthew Needham (above) star as a lovelorn drag queen in Seventies Manhattan. It’s a single show distilled from Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy, directed by choreographer Drew McOnie.
Turbine Theatre, London SW11, 020 7851 0300, theturbinetheatre.com.
LAST SUPPER IN POMPEII
This original exhibition explores what everyone in Pompeii would have been eating and drinking when the ash cloud began to form. Some 400 exhibits range from a carbonised loaf of bread to splendid mosaics.
At the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, until January 12, 2020.
Festivities get underway tonight at a series of tented concerts in Gunnersbury Park, London, with Manchester stalwarts Doves supported by Echo & The Bunnymen and Badly Drawn Boy. Tomorrow’s line-up sees Coventry legends The Specials celebrate their 40th anniversary with fellow Midlanders Ocean Colour Scene. Surrey rockers You Me At Six are joined by Jimmy Eat World on Sunday
Doves (pictured) will be supported by Echo & The Bunnymen and Badly Drawn Boy at the Gunnersville festival in Gunnersbury Park tomorrow
See the gunnersville.com website.
STATE OF THE UNION
For those who like TV quick and to the point comes a wryly comic ten-parter of ten-minute episodes, each set before the marriage guidance session of a troubled couple, played by Rosamund Pike and Chris O’Dowd (above). Writer Nick Hornby deftly dissects the couple’s relationship with humour and poignancy.
BBC2, Sunday, 10pm.
Rosamund Pike and Chris O’Dowd play a troubled couple in State of The Union on BBC2 at 10pm on Sunday, in a new series which handles the relationship with humour
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