In an age of poorly executed sequels and remakes, adaptation is approached with scepticism nowadays, and understandably so. And this reproachful sense of pessimism is particularly prevalent when it comes to Walt Disney Studios, which have gained a notorious reputation for ripping off their own work in recent years. Having said that, though, not every remake they’ve made is completely dier – a small handful of them do feel like they have something of a soul. And so, if you’re not too tired of the concept to give these a go, here are 4 Disney remakes that were actually good(ish).
In many ways, this movie created a monster, as its massive success at the box office and primarily positive reception played a significant role in causing Disney to latch onto the whole remake thing. It also meets with criticism for bringing very little to the table in terms of fresh interpretation. Nevertheless, this remake does delve deeper into backstories and fleshes characters out more than the original, even adding a couple of extra music numbers into the mix. It’s faithful to the original Disney classic with a few added touches. Is it a nostalgia grab? Probably. But it’s fun. It has good music, a great cast and is gorgeous to look at. And given that, at the time, Disney was unsure of how well a remake of such a beloved classic would be received, it meant that they actually had to put some kind of effort into it, which makes this remake feel considerably less soulless than some of the others.
A bit of an unexpected throwback here with Stephen Herek’s 1996 remake of the beloved 1960s classic, 101 Dalmatians. Made long before Disney remakes became an irritating trend, this live-action adaptation is completely cartoony but is entirely unapologetic of the fact. Appearing to be fairly faithful at first, save for a few notable changes, the second half descends into a circus of slapstick madness. With no reservations when it comes to leaning into wackiness, Glenn Close gives an epically unhinged performance as Cruella De Vil, doing justice to one of the chicest and most evil villains in Disney history. Created before the days of Disney’s coasting off nostalgia-based cash grabs, this remake seems a little more sincere in all its wonderful insanity.
Among the first of the modern remakes, the announcement of the live-action Cinderella certainly turned some heads. The movie gets criticism now, with the remake novelty having long since worn off, but Cinderella is actually one the more decent among the new nostalgia-based genre. Again, this being the early days of Disney’s remakes meant that the studio had to actually try if they wanted to get something out of it. A creative demonstration of blending live-action with CG animation, Cinderella does remain somewhat thin on the story front, similar to its 1950s predecessor. Having said that, it does flesh out the characters a great deal more, adding further layers to both Cinderella and her Wicked Stepmother that better justify their actions and gives them more compelling overall character arcs.
Audiences have long since tired of the ancient (and slightly creepy) ‘kiss the girl in her sleep because you think she’s pretty and she’ll fall for you’ thing – especially as, in the original Sleeping Beauty fairytale, this sentiment resulted in something too grim for me to write here. It was fine for its time, but audiences needed something fresh – and that’s exactly what Maleficent gives us! Maleficent was not so much a retelling as it was a reimagining, reminding us of the importance of the phrase ‘there are two sides to every story’. In this version, we meet Maleficent as a young fairy with high spirits and a kind heart. However, when she is used and deceived by the love of her life, Maleficent falls into a grief-stricken rage, cursing his daughter in order to exact revenge. But this has consequences she could never have imagined, leading her into an even deeper and more potent state of grief. Exploring subjects such as injustice, power struggles and the loss of innocence, Maleficent is a genuine example of a remake done right.
Well, that about wraps things up. It’s a quick list, I know. But hey, some good is better than none, right?
Do you agree with the list? Are there any Disney remakes you enjoyed that you’d like to make a case for? Or maybe there’s one on our list that you think should be removed? Feel free to share all your thoughts in the comment section below, or pop a post on the Wild River Comics Discussion Club!