This week, Disney released yet another remake of one of its many beloved animated films. A new, live-action retelling of the classic 1991 animated musical, “Beauty and the Beast,” hit cinemas nationwide on March 17.
This Disney trend started in 2010 with Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and continued with “Maleficent” (2014), “Cinderella” (2015) and “The Jungle Book” (2016). “Beauty and the Beast” only further solidifies Disney’s ability to recreate timeless stories. Disney has already announced many upcoming live-action remakes of its animated properties, including “Mulan,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Lion King,” “Aladdin” and “Dumbo.”
Remaking classic films is nothing new to Hollywood. In today’s highly competitive film industry, it’s becoming harder for major movie studios to take risks on completely original but financially unproven properties. As a result, the larger studios often turn to the established, recognizable brands: Marvel, DC, Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc. Disney has been at the forefront of this production strategy, and “Beauty and the Beast” is perhaps its biggest remake to date.
“Beauty and the Beast” is the fourth cinematic retelling of the celebrated tale, which began with Jean Cocteau’s 1946 French classic. Like any good remake, the new “Beauty and the Beast” looks to honor the original while offering something new for modern audiences. One of the biggest updates that director Bill Condon and his team hope to bring to the story is modernizing the characters, namely Belle and LeFou.
Inspired by Emma Watson’s global activism and passion for gender equality, the new Belle will be a “modern princess” with feminist undertones. In a similar desire for onscreen diversity, it was recently announced by the makers of the production that Josh Gad’s character, Lefou, will be gay in the 2017 remake. This determination for more socially progressive and updated reimagining of Disney’s properties opens the door for the company to offer new, transformed spins on its cherished animated classics.
Despite these changes, fans of the 1991 animated musical can expect to see once again the music and characters they loved, the story that hooked them and the iconic ballroom scene. The challenge for Condon will be to find the perfect balance of nostalgia. On one hand, it’s crucial for the director to recapture the audience’s feelings for the original, but relying on that too heavily and even exploiting those same nostalgic memories is what often makes a poor remake.
Judging by the early word of mouth surrounding “Beauty and the Beast,” Disney was able to produce another successful retelling of a beloved animated classic — creating a film that updates the story for today’s social context while capturing the movie magic for which the studio is known. “Beauty and the Beast” opened in theaters across Chicago on March 17.