The Curse of Disney Sequelitis

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Peyton Ludwig

Disney has released many live-action remakes in the last couple of years, including Aladdin, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King (Photo courtesy of Peyton Ludwig).

With Disney sequels and remakes, you’re on one of two sides: you either love them or hate them and I, for one, hate them. 

I’ll clarify this by saying that I love Disney to death. I was obsessed with all the Disney princesses as a little kid, saw every Disney movie that came out, and continue to see every Marvel and Star Wars movie to this day. However, something in these last couple of years has been lacking, to say the least.

After watching Toy Story 4 with my family, there was only one persistent thought in my mind: that was cute, but it definitely didn’t need to exist. I was obsessed with Toy Story as a kid. I loved the story and characters so much, and I’d pretend I’d have the same toys as Andy all the time. I really grew up with the movies. Toy Story 3 was the emotional send-off that was a perfect end to the series. At the end of Toy Story 4, I was dissatisfied. It wasn’t nearly as poignant or handled with the same sort of care. I came to my conclusion: it was a sequel just to be a sequel.

This is the feeling that accompanies a majority of Disney movies today. These are movies not for quality, heart, and storytelling, but for money.

From 2015 to 2020, there have been 55 Disney movies. Out of these, only 19 are original films. The rest all comprise of remakes or sequels. This means that a measly 36% of the last five years of Disney have been original movies. Compare this to the previous five years, from 2009 to 2014: out of 90 Disney movies, only 15 are sequels or remakes, making that period 83% original movies.

What happened?

There are a few explanations. First and foremost is the one everyone assumes: money. You can only imagine the cash rolling in with the sequels of huge hits like Frozen or remakes of classics like Beauty and the Beast. Not only that, but they’re also safe investments. Venturing off with original content could be seen as a risk so they choose to stay well within the content that is guaranteed success.

A common argument for the remakes was the rumor of a contract by Walt Disney himself that requires Disney movies to be remade every 10 years for the new generations, but that was proven to be fake. The rumor first sprouted from a misinformed Tweet, where Twitter user @Samanthapaigeu stated: “…I found out that Walt Disney put in his will that all Disney classics are to be remade every 10 years, so each generation gets to enjoy them”. There was no such statement found in his will. It also doesn’t correspond with movies like Dumbo, released in 1941 and not getting a remake until 2019, and Pinocchio, released in 1940 and never getting a Disney remake. The Twitter user was most likely confused with a Disney marketing strategy of re-releasing movies every seven years for the new generations.

Not only this, but Walt Disney wanted the exact opposite: quoting the article, writer Dan Evon states, “such a demand would have been highly atypical of Walt Disney, who greatly favored continual innovation over retreading the same entertainment ground. After Disney’s 1933 Three Little Pigs animated short grossed over ten times its production costs during its initial release, Walt reportedly rebuffed requests for more of the same by retorting, ‘You can’t top pigs with pigs.’”

My distaste for the current Disney trend of sequels and remakes is greatly influenced by my love of the originals. The awkward rehashing of beloved Disney franchises is something I’m disappointed by because of the sheer quality of the original storytelling and animation. Really, my one wish for the company is to return to the values of good storytelling instead of the sole focus of how much money they possibly gain. Only time will tell if this ever changes or not.