Disney's Live-Action Remakes Are Cursed Abominations
They're spoiling the classics for a whole new generation of children.
Mark SerrelsEditorial Director
Mark Serrels is an award-winning Senior Editorial Director focused on all things culture. He covers TV, movies, anime, video games and whatever weird things are happening on the internet. He especially likes to write about the hardships of being a parent in the age of memes, Minecraft and Fortnite. Definitely don't follow him on Twitter.
It was a typical Sunday in the Serrels household. Midmorning, on the couch. Cereal bowl in one hand, spoon in the other. Full-blown pajama mode. The perfect time to watch a movie.
My 9-year-old son grabbed the remote. Fired up the old Disney Plus and started scrolling. He landed on Pinocchio.
Not the Pinocchio released in 1940, oh no.
Not the movie film critic Leonard Maltin called the "apex" of animation. Not the movie that regularly hits the top 10 in "best movies ever made" lists.
No, my son wanted to watch the new Pinocchio. The live-action remake currently front and center on the Disney Plus homepage. The Pinocchio that skipped theaters and went straight to streaming. The Pinocchio currently sitting at a world-beating 22% on Rotten Tomatoes. He wanted the real Pinocchio.
With the energy of an unhinged boomer unleashed, I made a fuss. This was a remake, I explained. A soulless remake at that. He should watch the original, the beautifully hand-animated masterpiece. The timeless, perfectly crafted morality tale.
"No," he replied, with dead, crushed bugs for eyeballs. "I wanna watch the new Pinocchio."
He didn't even pronounce it properly. He kept saying "pee-noach-ee-oh."
Friends, we live in dark times. Disney is working through its back catalog of animated classics, stealing their souls one by one like an AI-driven, content-producing grim reaper. There was The Lion King, a movie so bad I can only assume it was bad on purpose. Then there was Mulan. A film that felt like a two-hour trailer for a movie that was also, somehow, two hours long.
Even the Disney live-action movies that somehow stretch from "god awful" into "barely mediocre" are still pretty damn bad. Beauty and the Beast. OK I guess. Aladdin is arguably the best, but is still absolutely not good. Especially when compared with the source material, every one of them classics in their own right, for unique reasons. Mulan, empowering and charming; Aladdin, boisterous and beguiling; The Lion King; classical and epic.
Every single one of them reduced, essentially, to sludge. Movies that draw from the same palette. Movies that look the same, feel the same and are, at best, conveyor belt products designed to generate revenue in the safest, most effective way possible.
But the process works. That's the problem. It works a little too well. Children, who have tiny caterpillars for brains, are preprogrammed to have terrible taste. Left to their own devices, they will consume sugar, Roblox and endless episodes of Booba until potty-trained to enjoy things that are actually good. Even my own flesh and blood broke my heart, telling me the old Lion King "sucked" and the new one was "much better."
Getting children to watch an older classic when a newer version of that movie exists is near impossible. I couldn't convince my son to watch the original Pinocchio, and I'm guessing that story is playing out in a similar fashion all over the world. Kids don't wanna eat broccoli, they want nuggets. And in that sense the very act of endlessly remaking these movies erases their legacy for an entire new generation of children. Generations of kids have grown to love movies like Pinocchio and Snow White and The Jungle Book. That collective cultural language is under assault by these flat-out bizarre "live action" remakes, and it sucks.
Adults are equally to blame. Driven by curiosity and nostalgia, we just can't help ourselves. I will absolutely watch the new Little Mermaid. Guy Ritchie's directing a Hercules remake. Think I'm not gonna go watch that? Of course I am! I'm an idiot! We all are.
We're like the cars queuing up to see Kevin Costner's baseball field at the end of Field of Dreams. A Pavlovian response no one can quite explain. Free will does not exist.
If Disney builds it, we will come.
We'll come for reasons we can't quite fathom. We'll turn up, not knowing why we're doing it. We'll arrive as innocent as children, longing for the past. We'll pass over the money without even thinking about it. For it is money we have and peace we lack.
And goddammit. I'll be first in line. I just know it.