Disney Remakes: Love Them or Hate Them

Live-action Disney remakes are some of the most successful yet disliked movies from the past decade. What does this mean for the future of cinema?


Susan Cohen

The animated movie ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was revived as a live-action remake in 2017. With a box office take of over $1.2 billion, the remake became the second highest-grossing live-action musical film of all time, with ‘The Lion King’ (2019) as the first.

After Disney’s successful first attempt at live-action retellings with the Cinderella remake in 2015, they took it as a sign to continue making them. There have been 16 live-action remakes since Cinderella, and with 5 confirmed projects on the way, the remakes are unlikely to stop anytime soon. 

By definition, Disney live-action remakes are movies based on past Disney movies that either have living beings in them or are animated movies taking place in our living world. The Disney remakes perform very well at the box office, with the 2019 remake of The Lion King as the 7th highest-grossing Disney movie of all time. It made over $1.6 billion worldwide, despite a mediocre Rotten Tomatoes score of 52%.

You probably have a strong opinion about live-action Disney remakes, regardless of your stance. The topic has generated polarizing views, with some claiming the remakes are a lazy way for Disney to make money off nostalgia bait and casts with celebrities that may not be good fits for their roles. In contrast, others say the remakes are an excellent way to modernize stories with outdated messages and help a new generation of children experience the classics in a new light. 

Students at Bronx Science are no exception to having a firm stance on the topic. “I think most of the Disney remakes aren’t very well done and degrade the originals. The saying is, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,'” said Cece Beauchamp ’25. Although Disney claims to make “improvements” on specific aspects of the original film, viewers think they aren’t justifiable enough. 

When Disney live-action movies are released clustered together, this may be unappealing to some viewers. For example, the live-action films Dumbo, Aladdin, The Lion King, Maleficent 2: Mistress of Evil, and Lady and the Tramp were all released in 2019. The rapid rate at which the movies are produced makes people question how high-quality they could be. According to them, the remakes seem rushed or half-finished. 

The casting for most Disney remakes may leave much to be desired, as viewers question whether the actors are the best fit for their characters. Some fans were upset after hearing the soundtrack for the remake Beauty and the Beast, as they claimed Emma Watson couldn’t sing. Fans also said the only reason Emma Watson was cast as Belle is that she is famous for her role as Hermoine in the Harry Potter franchise. 

Elise Behunin, a professional voice teacher, writes on her blog, “I’m annoyed that Disney thinks they have to cast someone who is guaranteed to send those money-spending millennials to the movie theater rather than having the confidence to hire someone with less name recognition but more singing experience and stand behind their quality of work.” 

Some Disney fans were also upset to find out that Will Smith would play the Genie in the Aladdin remake. They said no one could replace the legendary Robin Williams, the original actor for the Genie. It didn’t help that the animation look for Will Smith’s Genie wasn’t well-liked by audiences.

Concepts such as blue genies, pumpkin carriages, talking teapots, and magic carpets are easier shown through animation than CGI. After the first teaser for Aladdin (2019) was released, many people quickly said on Twitter that Will Smith’s depiction of the Genie looked uncanny. In a YouTube video posted by the channel Corridor Crew, professional VFX artists explain why the genie in the remake might look off-putting to some viewers.

In the 2019 remake of Aladdin, Will Smith played the Genie and included his signature hip-hop flair, as seen with his added beatboxing in the song ‘Friend Like Me.’ (Susan Cohen)

In the video, VFX artist Wren Weichman explains, “What it comes down to is that it looks unnatural and is triggering a very specific part of our brain that identifies faces and humans. All the checkmarks are listed as that’s obviously not just a person, but Will Smith. And it’s not just the fact that he’s blue. It’s his proportions. His face kinda looks a little too small for that size of a head, his neck looks a little too thick… 100% of his face is CG [computer generated].”

A genie, a non-realistic concept, is prone to look strange in real life. Although the design for Will Smith’s genie was edited after the initial response, some believe that the edit didn’t make a difference. 

Many students say the entire purpose of the movies is to make money without creating original stories. “Disney remakes aren’t good, as they mainly just pander to nostalgia from the film’s original animated glory. The worst Disney remakes are either Mulan or Pinocchio as they miss the original point of their original films, while adding a bunch of unnecessary side characters that aren’t fleshed out in any capacity,” said Alpha Barry ’25. 

A significant reason why one may dislike the Disney remakes is the way Mulan (2020) was filmed. The movie was filmed in Xinjiang province, which contained Muslim Uighur concentration camps. In a Forbes article by Dr. Ewelina U. Ochab, Ochab writes, “The issue was that Mulan was partially filmed in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, in close proximity to detention camps for Uighur Muslims, and Disney gave credit to ‘publicity department of CPC Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomy Region Committee’ among other entities. In recent months Xinjiang has been the focus of intense public scrutiny due to damaging accusations of persecution against the Uighur Muslim population.”

This is not justifiable by any means. As we explore the debate about Disney remakes, keep in mind that this will never be excused. 

According to this side of the argument, Disney films have no more originality. Unnecessary movies are being made to make a profit. Critic Alanna Martinez has a very strong take on this subject in the article published in the Observer, “Please, Disney, Don’t Do Any More Live-Action Remakes.”

“The studio allegedly has a whopping 19 remakes inspired by past films in the works — some confirmed, others merely rumored. But no matter how far along they are, I see little to no good coming from any of them. Remakes and reboots are the fire fueling the film industry today,” said Martinez.

Some believe there is no more creativity in the movie industry, and we are prone to watch the same film over and over again. It’s interesting to think about how this argument has been brought up similarly before. Disney remakes are believed to be proof that Hollywood lacks innovation, similar to how sequels were considered to be the same way.

The following excerpt is from “Blockbuster 4: The Same, but Worse” by A.O. Scott, published in The New York Times on June 9th, 2010.

“Just look at the list of recent and coming movies, with all those darn numerals trailing after them: ‘Iron Man 2,’ ‘Shrek 4‘… Have the movie studios completely given up? Is originality extinct? … the steady production of repeatable, renewable movie franchises provides both the clearest evidence of Hollywood’s fundamental cynicism, and also the best excuse to wax cynical about Hollywood,” said Scott.

When many sequels were released in the early 2000s, many people didn’t believe they would do well or catch on. Yet sequels are being released today and are usually the most successful movies of the year. For example, the original Blade Runner (1982) had a box office revenue of about $42 million. The sequel Blade Runner 2049, released in 2017, had a box office revenue of about $259 million. According to a 2022 Rolling Stone article, Blade Runner 2049 is “one of the best reviewed sequels of all time.” So sequels did not lead to the death of cinema, and neither will Disney live-action remakes.

Some Bronx Science students genuinely enjoy the live-action retellings. “I personally like live-action Disney remakes. They do have pros and cons, but they’re suited for all ages. It’s fun to see how they portray the characters, and alter the story’s plot itself,” said Julie Aihara-Weis ’26.

In addition to the fact that everyone can enjoy the movies, other people appreciate the re-designs. “I love the live-action Disney remake movies. In the animated ones, you can see the magic and sparkles are not real. But in the live-action ones, it all looks more realistic and feels like it’s actually happening in real life,” said Chahat Aujla ’25. 

While some people think the whimsicality of the original movies is lost in the modern retellings, many viewers still feel that classic Disney magic. “[Disney remakes] can be enjoyable if produced well (i.e., staying true to the original yet also having its own charm). Cinderella was the best remake because the entire movie felt like it transported you to a new dimension, the set was beautiful, and most importantly, the ballroom scene felt perfectly magical,” said Nabiha Chowdhury ’25.

Many fans appreciate how some remakes offer a new perspective or take on Disney classics. The remakes, Maleficent (2014) and Cruella (2021) are based on Sleeping Beauty (1959) and 101 Dalmations (1961), respectively, and are from the villain’s point of view. This way, the remakes aren’t carbon copies of the original and feel more unique. 

The Disney remakes also allow Disney to address past movies with insensitive material or amplify a message that wasn’t addressed before. For example, in the Aladdin remake, Princess Jasmine sings a solo song that wasn’t in the original version. The song “Speechless” focuses on Jasmine’s struggle to be heard as a woman at that time. Many fans celebrated the song as it inspired young girls to make sure their voices were heard. 

The Little Mermaid remake will be released in May of 2023, and the casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel is giving the much-needed Black representation in Hollywood. A post on Tik Tok by the user @armlina shows a compilation of Black children reacting to the first teaser for The Little Mermaid

“I think that The Little Mermaid remake will do well because it will bring more representation for people of color, and the discussion on it has been so huge that it will definitely draw a big audience,” said Mia Almanzar Melendez ’26.

Representation and diversity in movies are crucial as young children are impressionable by what they see on screen. A lack of representation negatively affects children’s perceptions of themselves. Halle Bailey will let Black children see themselves in a Disney movie, and it is about time.

Whether Disney remakes are worth it or not mirrors the debates before it about the death of cinema. Now and then, people think the movie industry will collapse if anything changes. For example, many people thought the movie industry would suffer as movie theaters shut down during the Coronavirus pandemic. AMC sought to defy those expectations and in 2021, released an ad with Nicole Kidman to promote viewership in physical theaters and a return to normalcy. Although it became an internet meme, it did get people to talk about AMC again.

Disney remakes will continue to be successful at the box office because they are Disney movies. As long as they’re successful, they will continue being made. And as long as they’re being made, people will ask the same questions. Will all movies in the future rehash the same ideas? Is there any more originality in the movie industry? How much longer will movie producers prefer to make huge blockbusters over small independent films? Those questions have been asked for many years, letting you know the answers. It’s a tale as old as time.

“Disney remakes can probably keep going forever, with any popular animated series/movie, because there will always be loyal Disney fans around the world,” said Nabiha Chowdhury ‘25.