One of the most anticipated films of 2019 is Disney’s live-action remake of the 1994 classic animated movie The Lion King. Created using advanced computer imaging technology, The Lion King promises to bring to the big screen the beloved story in all its photorealistic glory. Teasers and trailers have been trending on the internet for months now, and audiences—old and young alike—have expressed great anticipation for the film. But given that the original was a classic, it begs the question of why Disney created a new version. The remake, of course, is not really a surprise. The Lion King is just the latest in a long list of remakes that Disney has released in the past few years. There’s Maleficent in 2014 which gave Sleeping Beauty a new twist. Then there’s Beauty and the Beast in 2017. And just over a week ago, Disney released the trailer for the 2020 remake of Mulan. There are some very good reasons why The Lion King deserved a remake, but perhaps the most important of these is the least obvious. It is a simple and powerful thing known as nostalgia.
The Lion King Reimagined
Few Disney movies have been as successful as The Lion King. Apart from being a massive critical and box office success, the film inspired sequels, spin-offs, and a widely-praised Broadway stage adaptation. The movie’s success alone is perhaps enough reason why it deserves to be remade using current technologies. As the level of computer imaging reached new heights, filmmakers and audiences alike have come to wonder how hand-drawn films would look like if reimagined as live-action flicks. And reimagining they certainly do, as remakes of old favorites are released one by one. The Lion King is an obvious choice. After all, if studios get to remake only a handful of movies, shouldn’t this classic be one of them?
The Lion King remake is evidently also Disney’s chance to make films the right way. Racial issues, in particular, are sensitive subjects in Hollywood. Not a small number of filmmakers and studios have found themselves in hot water after being accused of whitewashing non-white characters. Disney has clearly been trying to avoid this. The Lion King appears to be one of their more recent efforts at being inclusive. The film features a mostly black cast, with all the lion and hyena characters played by actors and actresses of African descent. This film comes on the heels of Aladdin, a previous remake which cast actors and actresses of Middle Eastern, North African, or Indian descent, and right before Mulan, an upcoming remake with a mostly East Asian cast.
Capturing a New Generation…and Recapturing the Old
Though there are good reasons why The Lion King was remade, perhaps the most compelling is nostalgia, or more specifically what nostalgia is capable of accomplishing. Nostalgia is difficult to define, but most would agree that it is the feeling of sentimentality or longing for the past. Remember that Disney is still a corporation with typically corporate needs such as consumers and revenues. To sustain its business, Disney must not only win over new audiences but also maintain its current viewers. But in a stroke of pure genius, remakes such as The Lion King accomplishes both challenges.
First, The Lion King is designed to recapture its old audiences. Disney has basically realized that the millions of children who loved The Lion King in 1994 are now all grown up, working, and earning disposable incomes that they would willingly spend to see their beloved movie come alive in the big screen again. A big chunk of those who plan to see The Lion King are young adults who saw the film in their childhood. They are those who grew up remembering its heart-wrenching scenes and singing its songs. Disney is well-aware that The Lion King and other films such as Aladdin and Mulan tug at the heartstrings of these young adults. These films have acquired a brand new look, but they also offer their audiences the comfort of the familiar. Viewing these films is not just about allowing audiences to revisit the sights and sounds of their childhood; it is not just about seeing their films enhanced by new technology; it is also about taking them back to an innocent, happy, and carefree time in their life. The seeds sown by Disney 25 years ago are now mature and ready for the reaping.
But beyond recapturing its old audiences, Disney also relies on nostalgia to build a new generation of devoted fans. The Lion King remake is most probably a beautiful film in its own right. Most kids who haven’t yet seen the 1994 film will likely fall in love with this movie the same way young adults fell in love with the original in 1994. But nostalgia gives young parents extra incentive to take their children to the movies. Young parents who love the original would without a doubt consider viewing the remake with their kids a special moment. It is not just a time to bond; it is also a time for parents to introduce their children to something that made their childhood memorable. A generation from now, these young kids will have their turn initiating their own children.
It’s easy to accuse Disney of being lazy and just cashing in on nostalgia by rehashing classics. But such an assumption is dismissive of the passionate artists behind these movies. It overlooks the fact that a tremendous amount of work goes into remaking a classic film using new technology. A remake is not meant to duplicate an existing classic; it is meant to complement it. If anything, a remake is an homage to the immortality of a classic.
At this point in time, nostalgia is the most potent element of Disney’s films, and Disney’s deep understanding of nostalgia is the secret to the success of its remakes. That much can be admitted. But if Disney has relied so much on nostalgia these past few years, it’s only because it has made such wonderful films in the past—films that are worthy of praise and study. In such matters, CustomEssayMeister can be your partner. With over ten years of experience in assisting clients with their writing needs, CustomEssayMeister can help you accomplish your written projects.