Could Disney and Bob Iger have changed their tune regarding their approach to live-action remakes? We sure hope so!
Yesterday brought some very interesting news related to the upcoming Disney live-action remake Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Originally slated to release in a few months, the highly controversial upcoming project has now been projected to debut in 2025!
The Walt Disney Company leaked the information to audiences and fans yesterday as many have cited a serious need for change regarding Disney’s newest live-action remake. In addition to the news that Rachel Zegler’s feminist take of Snow White would have to wait well over another year to be ripped apart by audiences and critics, they did include a first look at the beloved dwarfs from the original story, which have also been a focal point of contention for Disney fans.
Disney’s History of Live-Action Remakes
In an age where original content not named Star Wars or Marvel hasn’t shown stellar performance for Walt Disney animation, the entertainment company’s strategy has been to recapture the original magic of Disney’s “Golden” and “Renaissance” eras of animated film.
Drawing on emotional nostalgia surrounding childhood heroes and villains, The Walt Disney Company has pushed a series of live-action remakes, including titles such as The Lion King (2019), Beauty and the Beast (2017), The Jungle Book (2016), and The Little Mermaid (2023).
The company experienced early success with its live-action remake strategy, with movies like The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin (2019) performing well. However, despite star power like Will Smith, Johnny Depp, Emma Stone, Angelina Jolie, Emma Watson, and Josh Gad, the experience of seeing our favorite Disney stories retold became stale.
Disney Changes Tactics as the World Continues to Turn
It wasn’t necessarily the idea of taking beloved classic stories and retelling them through live-action filmography that became problematic for Disney and CEO Bob Iger. Instead, as social pressure from external noise regarding hot-button issues pressed hard on the outspoken Walt Disney Company, ultimately, executives caved by using their live-action platforms to push agendas and make boisterous protestors happy.
In doing so, Disney inadvertently, although it’s difficult to understand how they weren’t able to project this, alienated large chunks of their traditional audience. Although social issues are important and representation matters, the idea of Disney rests in telling stories that offer an escape from the stresses and responsibilities of everyday life. In a world where news, social media, and everyone else is pushing, telling audiences what to think, who to love, and who to vote for, Disney lost the sense of escape where many found refuge.
As well, Disney also got away from live-action strategies that worked well in box offices. Instead of taking beloved characters such as Alice, the Mad Hatter, or Maleficent and retelling a brand new story that audiences have never seen, Disney began using acclaimed and precious linear retellings of classics while making tone-deaf changes that audiences eventually stopped caring about.
Leave Walt Disney’s Legacy Alone
Walt Disney is the man behind some of our favorite stories. Through humble beginnings, Walt and fellow animators like Ub Iwerks, spent years building Walt Disney Animation into the leading studio in the world. Not only did Walt and Co. create amazing full-length animated features for the first time, but they also created new technologies that would revolutionize the way the world watched cartoons.
For this reason, many hold Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Disney’s first full-length animated feature film, as the holy grail of animation. Without Snow White and those dwarfs, we’d never have Cinderella, Ariel, Pocahontas, or Elsa and Anna.
Although Disney has done justice with other early Disney classics, such as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2016), many feel that making creative, and sometimes politically driven changes to Disney’s early works in live-action remakes is a slap to the face of his legacy that the entire entertainment world is now built upon.
Recent Disney Live-Action Flops
Before we get to the newest live-action Disney film, let’s dive into a few other attempts at recapitalizing on the original content by Disney. Well before Rachel Zegler loudly told the world that her Snow White would be a feminist version of the classic character, the Disney community prepared itself for an underwater adventure featuring Halle Bailey, an African-American actress, as the lead in The Little Mermaid.
Many Disney fans quickly pointed out the inaccuracies regarding the obvious fact that unlike Jodi Benson’s Ariel from the 1989 animated original, Halle Bailey isn’t white! Surprisingly, this caused a huge disturbance online, with many boycotting the film as “woke.” Assumably, the thought was that Disney, who has toyed around with ideas such as including homosexual characters in their live-action remakes, was attempting to make a loud statement by casting a relatively unknown black actress as the lead in such an anticipated movie.
Other issues of note among some with recent live-action remakes are the exclusion of popular characters like Mushu in Mulan (2020). The 2020 film was beautiful to look at, but lacked the essence of story-telling as Disney strayed too far from the original content that made the animated version a classic. This seems to be a trend with Disney’s live-action strategy; instead of telling a new story, they stick loosely to the original content while taking creative liberties in films such as Dumbo (2019), Pinocchio (2022), Peter Pan & Wendy (2023), and Christopher Robin (2018).
Controversy over Rachel Zegler and Her Dwarfs
On the announcement of casting Rachel Zegler as the lead for Disney’s upcoming live-action take on Disney’s original princess, deja vu set in for fans as many made quick work of the obvious difference between the 1937 version of Snow White and the upcoming version. Zegler, who’s mother is of Colombian descent, lacks “snow white” skin. Fans were quick to condemn her portrayal.
Rachel Zegler didn’t do herself any favors in the eyes of the Disney community by quickly noting that her take on Snow White would be more independent and feminine compared to Walt Disney’s version. Zegler, a woman’s rights activist, is viewed as extreme by many, and as Snow White, like many original princesses, relies on her prince to save the day, Zegler wasn’t having any of it. It appeared that Disney would cave to her creative demands, further distancing the company from its audience.
As well, rumors began to swirl regarding images captured on set featuring the infamous seven dwarfs. The photos in question didn’t depict anything close to what fans were expecting, leading some to believe that Disney was actually doing away with the traditional characters from the original story, instead incorporating a diverse group of humans. This caused an uproar on social media, with many who were hanging on by a thread finally cutting themselves off from Disney altogether.
The final nail in the coffin for those who still held out hope that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would redeem Disney’s latest live-action strategy were immature comments made by Rachel Zelger comparing her time in a dress on the set of the film to the hardships faced by less-wealthy actors as the SAG-AFTRA strikes carry on.
Disney May Have Removed the Wax From Their Ears
Despite constant pleading from fans of classic Disney films, it felt like Bob Iger and Bob Chapek (Disney’s former CEO) remained defiant of how they were perceived by their own audience. As third-quarter earnings showed a dip in both domestic Disney Parks and theatre attendance, Disney was continuing on with their agenda-based programming, according to many.
Despite calls to cancel Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney plowed ahead with the new film, despite a general distaste for Rachel Zegler and the animator’s caution regarding the importance of the original work. However, there may be light at the end of the proverbial tunnel as Disney released a still image yesterday showing CGI dwarfs, as we’d expect to see alongside Zegler’s Snow White character.
As well, some feel that Disney’s pushback on the premiere of their latest live-action remake could mean that they are addressing serious issues within the film that are most likely going to alienate their audience further. As Disney has extensive plans for future projects like Robin Hood, Lilo & Stitch, Moana, and The Sword in the Stone, it’s imperative that they strategically ensure Snow White is a total success in its delivery and acceptance by audiences.
So, what do you think? Could Disney’s delay of Snow White mean they are finally changing aspects of the film that have kept audiences at home?
The views in this article are purely speculative and in now way inform the actual attitudes and beliefs of the Walt Disney Company.