How Remakes Will Kill Show Business

The era of spinoffs, remakes and sequels is actually hurting the industry


Elaine Thimyan

Do you still feel the same magic in the live actions? The technical aspects can restrict your experience.

We have entered the era of modern remakes and it is killing original storytelling. Everywhere you look you see Disney doing remakes, “Beauty and The Beast,” “Dumbo,” “Pinocchio.” They’ve also made spin offs based on old concepts i.e “Cruella,” “Maleficent,” “Mary Poppins Returns,” and the list unfortunately goes on. Other movie companies have  taken media and made it modern such as video game movies. Broadway has also adopted this era of storytelling. “Legally Blonde The Musical,” “Mean Girls The Musical,” “Beetlejuice The Musical,” “Elf The Musical,” the list goes on, and on, and on and on. While a lot of the Broadway shows listed above are steller shows, and the Disney remakes didn’t start out bad – “Cinderella” (2015) is a great rendition of their classic movie – but it’s quickly gotten stale to audiences and the remakes have even become memes. So what happened to original storytelling? Why is there a shortage of original stories coming out of the woodworks?

A quick history lesson

Taking a step back, you might start to think about the state of the world. Since the world is going deeper into the climate crisis, an ever growing political divide in the US, and the Ukraine-Russia war that still rages, it’s easy to see why comfort movies of our childhoods would resurface to give us all solace in the trying times we’re facing. Turns out, this has been studied before. In the 1970s a man named Fred Davis did a study investigating the “nostalgia wave” and traced its origins back to the cultural shifts of the 1960s. The 1960s was a notorious time for change in the US. The United States went to the moon, desegregation, the first presidential debates were filmed, even the Arch was completed in 1965. Davis concluded that nostalgia was a way of coping with the hard identity crisis that was sweeping the nation. Despite the criticism of his work and the loopholes that linger, he is the first to connect that nostalgia is used as an “avoidance” coping mechanism.

Mr. Barker is the psychology teacher at Liberty and when asked about what makes people seek out comfort he said, “We’re creatures of habit… take it to the little guys, you can read them the same book every night because they don’t want to read something new, they know what happens, they know if you miss a word.” The same can be said for the media.

So what? 

So a few big corporations are wanting to get some people in seats for cheaper? How does this actually hurt the business?

Simba and Nala in “The Lion King” (1994) right before “Can You Feel The Love Tonight.” (Metro UK)

With lack of original storytelling comes lack of representation. Yes, remakes can be more inclusive, but they will always be compared to the original. Representation doesn’t mean being an afterthought. There are millions of stories, true and fantasy, that deserve to be told. It starts to bring the expectation of storytelling to remakes. Future writers, directors and actors alike will be coming into an industry that created an environment that is, almost, inherently lazy. It’s not the only problem, though. When a remake is made, most notoriously the Disney remakes, you start to lose the energy that made it magical in the first place.

The same scene in “The Lion King” 2019 remake. Compare the difference in emotions from the first image. (DeviantArt)

Let’s take “The Lion King” (2019) as an example. Disney rebooted the 1994 animated original and made it a live action remake, since most of their classics are all animated.

Take a look at the pictures below, or watch this 1994 scene alongside the 2019 version and tell me the difference.

These are two totally different emotions. The problem with live action remakes is that because you are looking at something so realistic, you can’t suspend your disbelief; you can have fifty types of animals climbing on each other singing about a king because part of you remembers that it’s not real, but plaster it onto a live

Belle reveals her dress in the 2017 remake. (Daily Mail)

action and you’re taken out of the story and its visual context. It’s the same idea with “Beauty and The Beast,” “Aladdin,” and “Maleficent.” It’s easier to get away with people because CGI animals’ faces are hard to exaggerate while still maintaining the realism. However, these pictures are completely different:

Sure, the argument stands that at this point, in human history, there is no such thing as original thoughts, no original story.

“I don’t know how much original storytelling there is left to tell, that Hollywood wants to sell,” said film as literature teacher Matthew Eversole.

How much can you get away with? Well, back to our Lion King example. “The Lion King” is basically Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” just with cool funky lions.

“That’s the first thing they teach you in film school,” said Coach

“Beauty and The Beast” (1991) when Belle reveals her dress. (Insider)

Beau Hill.

“’Star Wars’ is the basic ‘Hero’s Journey’ but you added in all the cool space gadgets and things with it,” Barker said. “When Johnny Cash sang ‘Hurt’ originally done by Nine Inch Nails, everyone loved it. Because suddenly you had an old man singing about the hurt he’s experienced over decades rather than a younger guy singing about his hurt from today,” exclaimed Barker.

Finally, with the recent closing of “Phantom of the Opera,” “Beetlejuice The Musical,” “Come From Away,” and “Dear Evan Hansen” coming off Broadway, theater teacher Melissa Gehrke explained she hopes that there will be an influx of new shows on Broadway.

Is there anything you can do about it?

Well, yes. The answer is to explore and write, to find new stories, to experience life in a way you’ve never imagined. Eversole explained, “A lot of the unique stories that are left to tell are from groups that have been shutout in entertainment.”

Our generations have become so consumed with being able to randomly generate an idea off of any website that there isn’t any true inspiration behind. Don’t be afraid of drawing inspiration from your own life, your own imagination. Only you can tell the story as well as you can tell it.