Disney’s evolution and its effect on beloved stories

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After its recent ascent to online streaming, Disney, or Disney+, has seen a shift in the content it produces. The new live-action “Pinocchio,” which came out Sept. 8 and was given a Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score of only 30%, tops off Disney’s list of live-action remakes as No. 19 in the lineup.

However, Disney’s re-creations are nothing new. The company has always taken original stories and altered them to fit their desired audience. Now, as they reinvent older movies into live-action forms, the question arises: does this simply reintroduce families to beloved tales, or are the remakes a symptom of a dried-up stream of creativity?

Dr. Anthony Nussmeier, associate director of Italian at the University of Dallas, explained specifically about Pinocchio, “The source material that gave us the Disney-fied version in 1940 is a long way away from what we see in the Disney version.”

He went on to describe dark elements that were removed for the sake of child consumption, including two assassins, a young girl’s ghost, and Pinocchio’s temporary death-by-hanging. Disney cleaned many of its tales, whose original beginnings started with sources like the Brothers Grimm, for example.

However, while oftentimes providing new sources of entertainment, shifting the original source material may cause the original depth and meanings to be obscured. “[The Disney version] does completely miss the point about what Pinocchio is, and that is the story of a nation coming into being, and that nation is Italy,” Nussmeier explained.

Fairytale stories have been used to instruct children, warn them about the world, and in Pinocchio’s case, teach them their own language. Now more than ever, as Disney’s focus shifts from telling great stories to monetizing nostalgia, the gap between the source material’s intention and the films formed from their flesh, continues to widen.

In Disney’s current evolution, the medium of its movies has shifted from predominantly 2D animation to 3D, live-action, and CGI. While this stage of development can reinvent older stories for newer audiences, the near total-abandonment of 2D means losing some of the bouncing, childhood charm the original films possessed.

Hannah McAfee, wife to one of UD’s professors and a teacher at the nearby school of Great Hearts, said, “The animation, we’ve lost a lot of it, like, that sort of talent, in the sense that everyone knows how to do 3D instead of 2D.”

The overemphasized movements and purposeful lack of realism that 2D wields combine to create something truly magical and unique to the medium.

McAfee explained, “I don’t think you can get the same effect.”

McAfee also aptly pointed out the general lack of creative ingenuity in film. From endless sequels, stuffed franchises, and continued remakes, Disney and Hollywood at large seem to be running out of their once thriving hive of creative minds.

“People don’t know when to let a good thing go.” McAfee said, “They just want to make money off of stuff.”

With many of these films receiving generally low reviews, it is evident that film viewers expect more from Hollywood than their repeated anthems. However, despite Disney’s recent changes, its movies still provide entertainment for children today.

“Not that Pinocchio in and of itself, the Disney Pinocchio, can’t be a good thing, and can’t be entertaining, because I think it is,” said Nussmeier.

He stated that people still seem to enjoy the new versions, especially with their target audience of children.

McAfee defended the films as well: “I don’t think they’re being disrespectful. I think, for the most part, they honor the essence of the story.”

There is hope. As large film companies like Disney become more formulaic in the short run while retaining semblances of their childhood charm, one might look to smaller producers who arise with fresh ideas and concepts to expand the future imaginations of viewers of all ages.

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