Since the release of The Jungle Book in 2016, there seems to have been non-stop Walt Disney Studios live-action and CGI remakes, whether that’s with minimal-but-present story modernisation like 2017’s Beauty And The Beast or (going back a few years) a complete rethinking with Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland in 2010. This company-wide move has certainly divided opinion among fans and cynics alike.
One the one hand, it’s not hard to see the obvious criticisms. Mostly they boil down to the simplest of ideas: that these films have no real reason to exist. There’s frustration at the apparent laziness and lack of innovative ideas or new stories, in favour of a focus on CGI remakes that are, at least somewhat indisputably, a complete money grab – as studios attempt to bleed their already-successful franchises dry. There’s also the animation purists who shudder at the haunting nature of their beautiful, painstakingly line-drawn childhood favorites turned into these uncanny, almost-but-not-quite tangible beasts of the screen.
“it’s hard to deny just how impressive the use of CGI has become in creating this transitional space between live action and animation”
Maybe all this is true. Yet, every one these films have repeatedly become hit after hit at the box office; surely there must be some good in them? Many cannot help but have the CGI recreations garner that feeling of nostalgic wonder they hadn’t felt for a long time. I, for one, know hearing Pooh’s voice at the end of the first Christopher Robin teaser made me feel something heart-jerking at only two words – even if I wasn’t initially sold on the film itself, and its muted colour palette. And, even if you’re not sold, it’s hard to deny just how impressive the use of CGI has become in creating this transitional space between live action and animation. It becomes a tangible reality that makes it almost impossible to be unable to suspend your disbelief for the duration.
The major criticism, that these films are ruining box office originality in favour of the remake, is easily addressed. At least considering the Walt Disney Company internally, they are not. The company continues to make its (admittedly computer-animated, instead of traditional hand-drawn) animated films like Moana, original live-actions like A Wrinkle In Time and the upcoming Nutcracker, and even sequels like Mary Poppins Returns, at a faster rate than ever before. These remakes are most definitely running alongside original content, not replacing it.
If the CGI remakes ruin the whimsy of the original hand drawings for you, the good news is that your DVD collection is still there on the shelf for you to go back to any time. I get it, though. Do I wish and wish for more original stories? Absolutely. But am I going to march my self into the cinema for Christopher Robin’s opening weekend and in all likelihood cry for two hours straight? Absolutely. Maybe they’re just not for you. That’s okay too, but thousands of kids are accessing your favourite stories in a new way and enjoying it with their family members, creating a common connection of both discovery and nostalgia across generations. Hard to be mad at that one.