′Dumbo′ is not the end of Disney remakes | Film | DW | 29.03.2019
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Film

'Dumbo' is not the end of Disney remakes

Reviews for Tim Burton's new film are underwhelming, but that doesn't mean Disney will stop revamping its trove of animated classics into live-action films that feature top stars and amazing CGI.

An adorable computer-generated flying elephant, a circus world steampunked by Tim Burton in his signature style, Danny DeVito and Michael Keaton among an all-star cast and a bittersweet score by Danny Elfman: Despite the series of average reviews Dumbo has already collected, Disney's latest offering still promises to draw families.

Based on the negative press for Tim Burton's latest film ahead of the release on Friday, an observer at The Guardian was quick to predict that "Disney's Dumbo flop could threaten its master plan."

That grand plan is not set to be derailed in the immediate future. Disney's systematic recycling of its animated classics might result in a few middling box office results, but the recipe, tested multiple times over the last two decades, has been successful enough for the company to stick to the strategy.

A trend launched in the 1990s

Live-action remakes of the studio's classic animated films were first produced in the 1990s. A remake of The Jungle Book came out in 1994; 101 Dalmatians followed in 1996.

But it took almost 15 years for Disney to realize the full potential of such remakes. That happened thanks to Tim Burton himself: His adaptation of Alice in Wonderland in 2010 cracked the billion-dollar mark in global ticket sales. From then on, Disney started churning out the remakes, investing indecent sums in productions that have also fueled exponential expectations.

The 2017 live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast had an estimated budget of $255 million (€227 million), making it the most expensive musical ever made. It also grossed over $1.25 billion worldwide. The only film more successful that year was Star Wars: The Last Jedi — also Disney's.

Read more: Why it took 54 years for Mary Poppins to return

Film - Dumbo 2019 (picture-alliance/AP Photo)

Dreamland, inspired by Disneyland: Burton's "strangely timed critique alone makes the movie worth watching," writes Vox

Ironically, in Burton's "charming-enough remake," critics also see a "biting Disney critique," as the news site Vox writes. Through the quite explicit allegory he created in Dumbo — the villain in the story is an entertainment mogul and creator an amusement park, with attractions reproducing those found at Disneyland — the Beetlejuice filmmaker admits that his rather passionless recent work is the result of a hollow and greedy corporate entertainment system, or Disney itself.  

Four Disney remakes in 2019

Yet the critique won't change the trend; the mega-studio will continue to bank on such remakes.

This year offers one for each season. Three more modernized versions of Disney classics will follow Dumbo in 2019: Aladdin is to be released in May, the highly-awaited The Lion King is set for July and a sequel to the 2014 Maleficent, based on the animated film Sleeping Beauty from 1959, will hit theaters in October.

And the list of projects goes on forever. Lady and the Tramp and Mulan are already in post-production; Pinocchio, The Little Mermaid and The Hunchback of Notre Dame are just a few more titles currently in development. Disney's remakes obviously won't all earn billions, but they will keep on monopolizing our attention for the upcoming years.

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