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Report: Hundreds of Future Controversial Disney Films Cut by New Leadership

March 3, 20246 Mins Read

It looks like we may be stepping into a new era of entertainment.

Rachel Zegler as Snow White in Disney's live-action version of Snow White
Credit: Disney

At the moment, it has been hard to ignore the state of Disney’s entertainment department. In 2023, we saw multiple box office flops from the company, which also lost its long-standing reign as the overall highest-grossing box office studio to Universal.

“As I’ve looked at our overall output, meaning the studio, it’s clear that the pandemic created a lot of challenges creatively for everybody, including for us,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said during Disney’s earnings conference call. “I’ve always felt that quantity can actually be a negative when it comes to quality, and I think that’s exactly what happened; we lost some focus.” At the time of this statement, Bob Iger believed that Wish would begin a string of success for The Walt Disney Company; however, that film would then also fail at the box office.

In recent years, Disney’s inclination towards producing live-action remakes has solidified into a distinct brand, albeit one met with growing criticism. Among their repertoire of 21 live-action remakes, a staggering 16 have emerged within the past decade, drawing a range of responses from audiences and critics alike. Many have voiced concerns over Disney’s perceived lack of genuine investment and creativity in these endeavors.

The prevailing sentiment of a “lack of soul” in Disney’s live-action remakes has not gone unnoticed by the public. The reception of the three most recent adaptations— The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan & Wendy, and Pinocchio—reflects this sentiment, with ratings of 67 percent, 64 percent, and a mere 28 percent, respectively. Pinocchio faced particularly harsh criticism, with reviews likening its perceived mediocrity and departure from the source material to the wooden core of the titular character. This critique encapsulates the broader perception that Disney’s remakes prioritize financial gain and recognition over the creation of innovative and risk-taking narratives.

Ariel (Halle Bailey) resting on jellyfish and talking to SebastianAriel (Halle Bailey) resting on jellyfish and talking to Sebastian
Credit: Disney

The most recent live-action to stir controversy has been the new Snow White movie starring Rachel Zegler. While the film has yet to debut, it has already been pushed back over a year, and has made copious headlines regarding its departure from the original classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Disney has removed the dwarfs and replaced them with Magic Creatures; there is no longer a prince charming, but a “Jonathan”, and Snow White will show a stronger leadership role in the film, forgoing her caretaker nurturing persona that Walt developed years ago.

With so much failure surrounding the recent live-action films, as well as others, David Greenbaum, the previous head of the Searchlight speciality division and now the new head of Disney’s live-action division, has a new plan.

According to Puck, the new logic behind creating live-actions will now be shifting:

“Greenbaum will now also oversee 20th Century and its leader, Steve Asbell—a much larger purview than Bailey had. In his meetings with Iger and Bergman, I’m told, Greenbaum pitched his philosophy as one question: Does this movie need to exist? Sounds simple, but it’s actually kinda radical for Disney.

Was anyone asking for a second take on a Haunted Mansion movie? No, but it happened last year because everyone knows what the Haunted Mansion is. Does a live-action Moana need to exist when the original came out eight years ago and an animated Moana 2 is also happening? Probably not, but under the old model, that’s a no-brainer. Ditto the live-action Snow White and Lilo and Stitch remakes that are forthcoming.”

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the CaribbeanJohnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
Credit: Disney

If we look at Disney’s most successful live-action franchises, they are original stories that are not based on their animated classics. Pirates of the Caribbean, for example, is a live-action franchise that has generated over $4.5 billion in gross revenue for the company, stomping on any other live-action that has come out based on a previously animated movie.

We can see that the issue is certainly not creating live actions, but creating live action films without originality. When Disney pulls in nostalgic films from the past, not only is it stiffening its storytelling, but if it does make changes, it is altering the movies and tales that its fan base grew up doting on. This new approach will seemingly look more at the story that a film can produce rather than the chatter that comes along with a new live-action princess movie.

In 2024, Disney is set to unveil a trio of highly anticipated films: Marvel’s Deadpool 3, Pixar’s Inside Out 2, and Mufasa: The Lion King, the prequel to the 2019 remake of The Lion King. Each film carries significant blockbuster potential, drawing on the success of their predecessors. Deadpool 2 raked in an impressive $785 million in global box office revenue, while Inside Out surpassed expectations with a total of $859 million. Notably, The Lion King remake soared to extraordinary heights, amassing a staggering $1.6 billion worldwide, surpassing even Disney’s own Frozen to claim the title of highest-grossing animated film ever—contingent on considering the computer-generated animals as animation.

Mufasa and Simba in 'The Lion King' (live action)Mufasa and Simba in 'The Lion King' (live action)
Credit: Disney

Despite these monumental successes, Disney has faced challenges in recent years. With the exception of Avatar: The Way of Water, acquired following Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox for $71 billion, the studio has struggled to produce films that breach the $1 billion mark since the conclusion of the Star Wars saga in 2019. Notably, Spider-Man: No Way Home, a joint effort between Sony and Disney’s Marvel Studios, achieved remarkable success, grossing $1.9 billion worldwide. While Disney played a co-producing role in this endeavor, its standalone cinematic endeavors have encountered difficulties in reaching the billion-dollar milestone.

Knowing this, it seems that Greenbaum’s new approach will be needed now more than ever, and with it, will likely come the end of the live-action remake train that has been ongoing for years. While there are proven successes in the department, the company may find more success by diversifying how it creates its live-action storylines.

Given that Greenbaum is looking to be more intentional with his choices, it seems that what could have been hundreds of controversial live-action remakes will no longer happen.

One Disney fan, Sam Chat, even took to X to state, “Interesting . . . Hope this means a long break from remakes. Not to mention, Little Mermaid didn’t perform as well as Beauty and the Beast or Lion King. Now there will probably come a day where remakes will happen again, but I hope that day is far into the future.”

The next live-action movie that will come out from Disney will be Lilo & Stitch, which will head straight to Disney+ in June.

What do you think of Disney’s recent live-action movies? Do you think that a break is needed? 

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