By Megan Bianco
For the last six or so years, Walt Disney Pictures has been revisiting its classic animated films as live-action blockbusters. Some have been successes, like “Alice in Wonderland” (2010), “Cinderella” (2015) and now “The Jungle Book” (2016). Others have been duds, such as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (2010) and “Maleficent” (2014).
What’s most interesting is how often the studio returns to the Rudyard Kipling story of “The Jungle Book.” First it was a hit animated musical in 1967, then the cartoon characters got their own spin off of sorts with the TV show “TaleSpin” from 1990-1991. A live-action, Tarzan-esque action/adventure was produced in 1994 with Jason Scott Lee and Lena Headey, followed by a rather unnecessary and quickly forgotten animated sequel to the 1967 classic. And now there is the Jon Favreau-directed mixture of computer-generated imagery and live-action epicness with a star-studded cast.
Most are praising Favreau’s use of special effects to create an atmosphere for the classic story, and rightfully so. But the real question is are all these updated versions going to be worth it and as remembered in the long run? Of course only time will tell, but what’s more popular currently?
Since 2010, the 1951 “Alice in Wonderland” certainly hasn’t lost any of its following after Tim Burton’s adaptation made over a billion dollars. Kenneth Branagh’s “Cinderella” is becoming just as popular with girls as Walt’s original 1950 princess flick. But the comparisons are still there. Even now with the new Jungle Book’s success, audiences are still comparing and contrasting the animated movie.
And how long can this trend carry on? Soon we may have new versions of “Pinocchio,” “Dumbo,” “Pete’s Dragon,” “Peter Pan,” an “Alice Through the Looking Glass” sequel, and even a sequel to “Mary Poppins.” “Pete’s Dragon” and “Peter Pan” will probably be the ones to flop because the original dragon was never as popular as “Mary Poppins” or “Bedknobs & Broomsticks,” and viewers are generally worn out on Pan movies. Eventually we will get a live-action Jungle Book sequel.
Disney isn’t really hurting for money since it bought Marvel Studios and the rights to the Star Wars franchise (as well as running their theme parks). But when will we see good/successful live-action Disney movies that aren’t a remake or sequel again? There are only so many classics in the Disney catalog to revisit, and soon people will bore of the new interpretations.
Thirteen years ago Disney’s live-action department was revamped with a surprise hit out of “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” And while the franchise lives on to this day, we’ll eventually need new stories to keep the Disney legacy alive.
Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.