(Re)Make Disney Great Again

Photo courtesy of Huff Post


I am typing this article with a laptop covered in cute little Disney stickers. Familiar copyrighted faces are smiling at me on my computer, my watch, my phone, half of my notebooks, all of my favorite socks and comfy pajamas, and most of the titles on my Netflix list. Disney movies, music, TV shows, toys and clothes have been a part of my life since the day I was born. Like many other children, I was swaddled in Winnie the Pooh blankets, learned to read with a shelf full of Disney picture-books and was spoon-fed princess movies ad nauseum. And I loved it.

So, needless to say, the nostalgia factor was very high for me when a new Disney movie trailer popped up in my social media timelines. The thing is though, most of these trailers aren’t exactly new… they’re CGI recreations of the cartoons I first saw years ago and have since memorized.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Hillier

And I have mixed feelings about that.

On the one hand, in cases of movies like the recently remade Cinderella (2015) and Beauty and the Beast (2017), the fairytale inspirations for both were old even when the original 1950 and 1991 animated movies were released. The films I am touting as “original” weren’t really particularly original even when they first hit the silver screen. As Disney reimagines their old heroines, a whole new generation of little girls is given the chance to grow up with my childhood idols—but this time, those girls are getting inspiration from characters with a bit more agency. True, there are still happy endings with Prince Charming, castles and fancy ball gowns. But there are also powerful messages in how these princesses reach the happy ending – through courage, kindness and independent agency.

That’s a strong case for supporting the new remakes.

Then there’s the little nagging part of me that wants to whine, “But why not make those strong characters in truly new movies?” Why is it that we can’t have more films like Moana (2016), where a Disney princess crosses the ocean, battles monsters and saves her people from destruction? Or Frozen (2013), where true love comes from friendship and sisterhood instead of the surprisingly evil (though also very charming) prince from the earlier romantic duet? Brand new, creative stories like that are fueling the imaginations of children (and a few nostalgic college students) across the world. Is CGI Simba going to impart anything more than the cartoon Simba some twenty years ago already did? I’m not sure. He could certainly make some more money for Disney, but I think it’s safe to say that they have enough in the bank as things are. Maybe we could take a break from the remakes (to say nothing of the sequels!) just long enough to let some new characters take the stage with new stories to share.