Entering a New Era: How the Downfall of Live-Action Remakes Made Way for the Dawn of Disney Sequels

Toy Story Snow White
Credit: Disney, Canva

On the 100th anniversary of the Walt Disney Company, fans all over the world have taken time to discuss the prolific contributions of this remarkable film studio. Since the humble beginnings of Disney, the studio has always aimed to break boundaries and introduce new stories that ignited magic in the hearts of audiences everywhere.

Take, for example, in 1989 when fans mushed into theatres to catch the first screenings of The Little Mermaid. The songs by Alan Menken and the story resonated with millions of fans and undeniably left a mark on the history of animated film forever. Now, over three decades later, audiences this year also flocked to the theatres to see the same songs and story in the live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid. Regardless of your feelings about this film, it is clear that the live action remake will not leave the same footprint as the original.

It is not just The Little Mermaid that is getting this treatment; in the past decade, over 20 of Disney’s classic animated films have gotten live-action remakes, and several more are coming down the Disney pipeline. It’s undeniable Disney has entered the era of the live-action remake, but for how long will this era last?

Eric and Princess Ariel (Halle Bailey) in new live action 'The Little Mermaid'

Credit: Disney

Why Is Disney Making So Many Live-Action Remakes?

The Walt Disney Company began making live-action remakes of classic Walt Disney Animation films as early as the 1990s, but it was in the 2010s when they truly gained momentum. One of the first notable live-action remakes was 101 Dalmatians in 1996, starring Glenn Close as the iconic villain Cruella de Vil. This film paved the way for future live-action adaptations of classic Disney animated films.

However, it was in 2010, when Disney released Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton, that live-action remakes truly became a force to be reckoned with. This visually stunning film, starring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, grossed over a billion dollars at the box office and set the stage for Disney’s future success in this genre. It proved that audiences were not only nostalgic for these beloved stories but also eager to see them reimagined in a live-action format.

Following the success of Alice in Wonderland, Disney continued to release a string of live-action remakes, captivating audiences and breaking box office records. From the Disney Princess film Cinderella (2015) to Beauty and the Beast (2017) to The Jungle Book (2016), these Walt Disney Pictures’ films not only showcased the advancements in special effects but also introduced a new generation to timeless stories.

For years, the trend of Disney live action remakes showed no signs of slowing down. With the success of recent adaptations like The Lion King (2019) and Aladdin (2019), it became clear that these films had found a special place in the hearts of audiences worldwide. While these films may have lacked significant originality, there was no doubt that they were making the studios money.

Will Smith Aladdin

Credit: Disney

Disney Live-Action Remakes vs. Disney Sequels

While Disney was busy seeing dollar signs, it seems that they overestimated fans’ appetite for these kinds of films. As time went on, fans slowly lost their taste for these remakes, and many of the recent films had been huge flops for the Disney studios. Many fans were left asking, “Why is Disney making so many live-action remakes?”

One reason for Disney’s shift towards live-action remakes is the nostalgia factor. Many of us grew up watching these beloved animated films, and the studio recognizes the emotional connection fans have with these classics. By recreating these movies in live-action, Disney aims to tap into the nostalgia of both older fans who grew up with the originals and younger audiences who may not be as familiar with the animated versions. This nostalgic appeal has proven to be highly successful, as evidenced by the success of the first batch of remakes.

However, after a while, fans quickly began to sour to the idea of remakes replacing what would have been new, original stories. Despite there being several major live-action remakes in the works at Disney, there seems to be little to no positive press surrounding them. In fact, the upcoming live-action remake of Snow White has garnered massive criticism from fans who wish to see the film scrapped entirely. Films like Peter Pan (2023) and The Little Mermaid (2023) have also failed to meet expectations.

With many fans wondering what move Disney will make next, it seems that an answer might have magically appeared.

Yara Shahidi Peter Pan & wendy Disney plus tinker bell blowing pixie dust

Credit: Disney+

Down With the Remakes, up With the Sequels

Earlier this week, Disney released the trailer for Inside Out 2, the upcoming sequel to the iconic film Inside Out (2015.) Instantly, the internet freaked out over the trailer, and it quickly went on to break records as the most-viewed trailer debut of all time. At this moment, it seems that Disney has answered the question as to what their next “era” should be.

The success of the trailer for Inside Out 2 is a testament to the enduring appeal that Disney sequels hold over audiences. As the highly anticipated follow-up to the beloved original film, the trailer generated a wave of excitement and nostalgia among fans of the first installment. With its vibrant animation, heartwarming characters, and catchy soundtrack, Inside Out 2 seems poised to continue the success of its predecessor.

Disney sequels have always been a staple of the entertainment industry, allowing fans to revisit their favorite characters and worlds in new and exciting ways. These films offer a sense of familiarity and comfort while also introducing fresh storylines and adventures. With sequels, Disney is able to bank on the fact that their movie has a pre-determined fan base while also giving these fans new and exciting storylines. When done correctly, it really is a win-win.

While Disney has always made movie sequels, the size and scope of Disney’s upcoming ones cannot be matched. Already in development are Frozen 3, Toy Story 5, and Zootopia 2.

Inside out 2

Credit: Disney

What Does This Mean for Disney’s Future?

There is a strong case to be made for why Disney sequels reign supreme over their live-action counterparts. First and foremost, Disney sequels have the advantage of building upon well-established and cherished storylines while also exploring new ideas. These sequels allow viewers to revisit beloved characters and immerse themselves in the familiar worlds they hold dear with the added bonus of a new plot.

Disney sequels offer a sense of freshness while still remaining faithful to the original films. They manage to strike a delicate balance by introducing new elements and storylines without straying too far from the heart and soul of the original narratives. This allows for an exciting blend of familiarity and novelty, keeping viewers engaged and emotionally invested.

Disney sequels often maintain a sense of continuity and authenticity within the Disney universe. By expanding upon established storylines and incorporating familiar voices, these sequels feel like a natural extension of the original films. This cohesiveness allows for a seamless viewing experience and further solidifies the connection between the viewers and the Disney universe.

It is for these reasons that it seems clear as to why Disney’s next era very well may be the “era of the sequel.” Some fans might hear this and fear that it could mean a pause on new and original stories and characters, but I would advise these folks not to fear. In order to get new and original stories, Disney must first succeed at the box office. And, in a way, sequels are new and original stories that simply extend off of their predecessor.

Frozen: Princess Anna and Queen Elsa reunited, voiced by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel

Credit: Disney

Whether you love Disney sequels, Disney live-action remakes, or hate them both, any Disney fan can agree that Disney needs a big new hit to help them through this turbulent time. Who knows? Perhaps Inside Out 2 might be just what Disney needs.

About Eva Miller

Eva was born and raised in the beautiful state of Oregon but has since relocated and lives in New York City. Since she was young, Eva has loved to perform in musicals, especially Disney ones! Through performing, Disney’s music became the soundtrack of her childhood. Today, Eva loves to write about all the exciting happenings for the Walt Disney Company. In her free time, Eva loves to travel, spend time in nature, and go to Broadway shows. Her favorite Disney movie is 'Lilo and Stitch,' and her favorite Park is Disney's Animal Kingdom.