Walt Disney built his animation empire on innovative storytelling, pioneering new techniques while bringing to life famed children’s stories like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Despite a resurgence in the golden era of animation that took place over 30 years ago, the studio is currently under fire from fans who are fed up with the rehashing of Walt’s original works through each live-action remake.
The sheer disrespect for what many claim is the “holy grail” of animation by current Walt Disney Company bigwigs has left an everlasting bitterness in the mouths of traditional Disney fans, one that even shoddy attempts at original content won’t wash away. Although fans often exclaim it when Disney makes any uncomfortable change, for once, they may be right; Walt Disney may be rolling over in his grave.
‘Snow White’ Was the Catalyst for the Golden Era of Disney Animation
In 1937, a struggling Walt Disney Company released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The award-winning film would unknowingly become the foundational backbone of Disney animation, which would enjoy massive success based on the innovative story for years to come.
The film’s relevance can still be felt today, as many who work within the field of animation deem Snow White the perfect representation of what animation should be. Ultimately, through the development of the first multiplane camera by Ub Iwerks, Snow White would set the standard for what animation should be and where it could go.
Further impacts of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would be felt for decades, well outside the confines of Walt Disney animation. The implications of Disney’s first full-length feature marked a significant turning point in the development and distribution of animated works, setting the stage for what animated films would become. Simply put, the Golden Era of Disney animation would give the world plenty of classic movies, but it would also be the direct result of Disney’s massive empire and global reach.
Even today, animators will refer to 1937’s Snow White as the crowned jewel of Disney animation. Those same animators often share dreams of working as a Disney animator for the same reason. They want to work with and for the best. However, as Disney’s shift away from animation is sighted in on revamping classics as live-action remakes, many declare the dominance of Disney’s animation, starting with Snow White, to be over.
Walt Disney Was a Creative Mind, With Unique Ideas
A company started by one of the most imaginative men ever to live would have to uphold that value to survive, correct? Not so fast! Despite Walt and Roy Disney’s ability to find new mediums to express their creativity, giving the world new experiences to behold, the Walt Disney Company today is sadly a shell of that once pioneering and hopeful spirit.
Instead of working on new ideas, projects, and characters, Disney and its frontman CEO, Bob Iger, are perfectly happy with treading water at the box offices with busted live-action remakes like The Little Mermaid (2023) and the upcoming Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The time of rejuvenated ideas and fresh, innovative techniques seems to be over at Disney. Instead of continuing the legacy of Walt Disney’s creative mind, Disney’s creative strategy has shifted to rehashing what once made the company great.
The uniqueness and childlike spirit of wonder are gone at Disney. Instead, much like Walt’s brother Roy, there is only one concern within the media giant, and it isn’t telling robust, unique stories. Instead, the desire for positive cash flow has stippled any creative outlet that needs to bring Disney’s golden era animation to live-action. If that sounds emotional, it’s because it is. I’d also challenge you to ask yourself, “Could today’s Walt Disney Company ever create something as significant as Mickey Mouse?”
The writing has been on the wall for some time. Outside of Frozen and Moana, most of Disney’s success has come on the backs of other creative greats similar to Walter Elias Disney. Stan Lee’s Marvel, George Lucas’s Star Wars, and Jim Henson’s Muppets have all been acquired and repurposed by Disney, milking the proverbial cow. All three of those men share the same innovative sense of excitement and creation as Walt; instead, Disney simply bought them and flooded markets with their content.
Disney Live-action Remakes are Stale
Disney’s inability to be creative has caused the company to spin its wheels. Although fans long for the days of the 90s in which Disney was at their peak with projects like The Lion King (1993), Hercules (1997), Beauty and the Beast (1991), and Aladdin (1992), they must settle for stale live-action remakes in which new Disney leaders take unwarranted creative liberties.
Sequels to films like Mary Poppins and live-action adaptations like Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and Peter Pan have been the final nail in a long-awaited coffin for Disney animation. The spirit of originality and creative thinking is gone. Instead, fans are fed remake after remake of stories they already know and love, complete with sides of controversial, politically driven ideologies and ridiculously priced movie tickets to wash it all down.
Despite cries to stop, Disney’s immovable stance to rehash upcoming projects like Lilo & Stitch and Tangled into live-action remakes is not only stubborn but also beyond baffling. However, Iger is sticking to his proverbial guns, maybe in defiance, or could it be pride? Either way, the disconnect between Walt Disney Studios and its fanbase widens.
Disney is Furthering Their Disconnect with Their Fans
Although Disney can still boast plenty of successes, most of them come from projects they obtained, not created. Star Wars, which is experiencing a fabulous resurgence on Disney+, is a great example. Despite Disney’s faulty approach to the latest Star Wars trilogy, their Filoni-led projects on Disney+ have been fantastic. Simply put, Disney can’t do anything original; it must be already built. That’s a sad notion, sad but true.
Fans of Disney love original storytelling. They love heroes, underdogs, and creative villains. They love to see those stories come to life in front of their faces at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. However, Disney’s walled-up approach to its fans has left many dissatisfied, alienated, and concerned about where the company is headed.
To further the matter, Disney fans have further distanced themselves from Disney due to ongoing political affiliations and agenda pushing by the company, not simply in the news but also within their media, like movies. Despite uproar over the removal of Splash Mountain at Disney World and Disneyland, many have held onto hopes that Disney will end its propaganda-fueled progressive ideology, which many feel is being weaponized against the traditional beliefs in which the company was founded.
On the other hand, some feel that the changes being made by Disney are accurate to the company’s image around the world. Citing past episodes of cultural appropriation by Disney, changes are welcome among some. At the same time, it seems the majority feels as if Disney is only further alienating itself from its primary market. Taking their politically correct liberties on live-action remakes of classic Walt Disney films held in the highest regard has rubbed many the wrong way.
An Upragmatic Approach to New Films
The constant onslaught of live-action remakes is proof enough of Disney’s lack of creative thinking, the very thing that made Walt Disney such a prominent fixture in America in the first place. It seems that Disney’s language and perception of what the world is and wants no longer match reality. Their approach, simply stated, needs to be more pragmatic.
As film directors and writers take the liberty to change essential aspects of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for its live-action adaption, the language surrounding what Walt Disney created initially has become babble. Combined with the controversial casting of Rachel Zegler, whose included disconnect with real-life Americans has further damaged the film’s reputation before its release, it’s widely expected that their latest live-action take on an original Disney princess film will flop hard.
Rachel Zelger, whose mother is of Columbian descent, was initially criticized as the lead based on her skin color. Snow White, all the way back to her Grimm days, is described as having “skin as white as snow.” Many feel as if the casting is a clear miss by Disney, and an attempt to push race-baited agendas on people who just want to be entertained. To further the matter, Rachel Zegler was also loud about her take on the cherished character, citing the need to bring Snow White into the latest century of feminism. The cherry on top came as Rachel Zegler also insisted on comparing her time on the set of Disney’s live-action remake to the hardships faced by those impacted by the SAG-AFTRA strikes. In other words, she’s clueless.
Although many found the casting of Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid to be upsetting, the issue of skin color holds more weight in the case of Zegler and Snow White, as her skin tone dictates classic depictions of the princess. Her name is even a reference to her snow-white skin. Disney isn’t realistic in their understanding of what being progressive means. Although they are supportive of most modern movements seen in popular culture, those same movements don’t deeply reflect the bulk of their audience; again, their language is confused.
Disney’s constant push to bring representation into film, even bringing human sexuality to the forefront of children’s programming on Disney+ and Pixar, has many boycotting them. For a company whose sole purpose when Walt Disney started it was to bring vivid stories to life via animation, their entrance into the socio-political ring has prompted many to walk away and not look back. Using their platform and live-action remakes to preach their own gospel to millions has forced many families to give up something nostalgic and meaningful that they grew up with.
Walt Disney’s Legacy Tarnished
Do you hear that sound? Yes, that is Walt Disney rolling over in his grave. For once, the Disney traditionalists are right. Not only has the very soul of the company died, they’ve sold the remains for the ownership of other visionary creators in exchange for an attitude and power in which they feel like they can use their products to afford change, even when change isn’t needed. Iger’s Disney is no longer about creating happy places where all are welcome; instead, it’s about telling you and me how to live our lives, how to feel, and where to spend our money.
The saddest part is that out of blind loyalty to Disney and Walt Disney’s original ideas, some will defend the laziness and banal approach Disney has taken toward entertainment. While Disney storytellers continue to drain the already bleeding teat that is Star Wars and Marvel for profit, they’re now turning to Walt Disney’s legacy, milking it for all it’s worth, and eventually, there will be nothing left.
One day, Mickey Mouse won’t have the same allure, Disney World won’t be the “Most Magical Place on Earth,” and no one will be impressed by the hitchhiking ghosts of the Haunted Mansion or the prevalence of pirates. Someone, somewhere, will take advantage of the unmistakable creative gap that Disney once filled, and they’ll fill our evenings with new, beautiful stories, the likes of ones Walt Disney once told. It all starts with live-action remakes that reinforce Disney’s incapability in producing original content and their disconnect from the fan base. Enjoy Disney’s 100th celebration; it’s likely we will never see 200. It isn’t just about Snow White, it’s about Walt Disney dying all over again.