August 22, 2019 | 89° F

Live-action reboots are new norm, add depth to original films

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When the teaser trailer for the live-action adaption of "The Lion King" dropped two weeks ago on Thanksgiving, fans of the original animated film certainly felt grateful for Disney and could hardly hold back their excitement for 2019. Many were moved when they heard the voice of James Earl Jones — the actor who voiced Mufasa in Disney's 1994 film — echo over the surreal visuals of wildlife in African grasslands and Pride Rock: “Everything the light touches is our kingdom.” This particular dialogue is not only touching and nostalgic, but also subtly parallels Disney’s monopoly over the entertainment industry today as it continues to explore the world of animation and live-action movies. 

"The Lion King" is certainly next year’s most anticipated release due to an outstanding cast that includes talents like Donald Glover as Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, John Oliver as Zazu and Seth Rogen as Pumbaa. From its Shakespearean origins to its stellar soundtrack, the story is powerful, and audiences will flock to cinemas with high expectations set by the original animated film as well as the Broadway play. 

The film’s director is Jon Favreau, the creative mind behind films like "Iron Man" and 2016’s "The Jungle Book." From just a glimpse of "The Lion King," audiences are riding the hype. The teaser is now the most watched trailer of 2018, and the second-most watched trailer of all time after Marvel’s "Avengers: Infinity War."

With revolutionary developments taking shape in the field of computer-generated imagery (CGI) in film, production houses like Disney are cleverly capitalizing on opportunities to create stylish live-action remakes of films from our childhood that we still love and cherish today. Live-action films give audiences a chance to relive the magic of classic animated films and see their favorite actors portray beloved characters. 

Movies that involve animals and fantasy elements have poignant stories and celebrity names attached to the voices of its characters. Emma Watson as Belle in "Beauty and the Beast" and Angelina Jolie as Maleficent in "Maleficent" are some examples of iconic actors taking on iconic roles in live-action remakes. Next year’s "Aladdin" includes Will Smith, who will revive Robin Williams’ hilarious character, Genie, from the 1992 animated Disney film. 

Rudyard Kipling’s novel "The Jungle Book" inspired two live-action remakes: Disney’s "The Jungle Book" (2016) and Warner Bros.' darker adaptation, "Mowgli" (2018). Both films have amazing casts, particularly in the role of Bagheera, voiced by Ben Kingsley and Christian Bale, and Shere Khan, voiced by Idris Elba and Benedict Cumberbatch, respectively. 

While these tellings of Kipling’s classic are compelling, its intended audience extends beyond children. The jungles of colonial India are portrayed as frightening rather than friendly and fun, as in Disney's 1967 animated adaptation. The realistic CGI and mature undertones of these films establish an ominous tone for the story. This, interestingly, may be more authentic to Kipling’s telling, which was not explicitly meant for a younger readership when it was published in 1894. 

The dark qualities of "The Jungle Book" remakes give us insight into how evocative next year’s "The Lion King" and "Dumbo" may be. The tendency of live-action remakes to be more raw, emotional and pessimistic sparks mixed reviews among idealistic audiences, whose viewing is biased based on the standards set by their childhood memories of the animated films. 

“It’s weird seeing movies from my childhood being so different than I remember. I can’t imagine kids growing up thinking of live-action films when remembering 'Beauty and the Beast' or 'Aladdin,'” said Daniel Boehm, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year.

Live-action remakes add a new layer of dimensionality to already brilliant, well-loved stories. They adapt these same stories to our current cinematic experiences and contemporary methods of storytelling. These modern narratives are made possible with evolved technology and broaden the audience of classic films to today’s younger generations.

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