What is Disney doing wrong with their live-action reboots?

Disney’s shift to live-action reboots of their animated films has been sudden. However, the reviews haven’t been great so how can they change the tides?

As big of a corporation as Disney is, it’s wild to think that almost all of their films released this year have been reboots. Whether it be an updated version of a previous film, a reboot with some improvements or a focus on just one character, Disney has done it all. Starting back with Alice In Wonderland, the film has generally garnered mixed, or sometimes bad, reviews from both critics and audiences.

As much as Disney gets, there have been a lot of duds in their past. This isn’t new, but with them creating as many films as they have, there isn’t really a learning curve. Rather, it’s expected that what they produce is going to be quality.

With their reboots such a mixed bag, it begs the question: What are they doing wrong and what can they do to fix the problem?

First, it’s important to break down which films are included in this “reboot era.” It starts with Alice In Wonderland and goes as follows: Maleficent, Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Beauty and the Beast, Christopher Robin, Dumbo, Aladdin and The Lion King. Looking at the list, it’s hard to believe that the first film was only just released in 2010 as they’ve been churning them out pretty consistently since then.

Of all the films, most of them made back their budgets and even a bit more. The one that almost didn’t make the cut was Alice Through The Looking Glass. Admittedly, it’s a film that I haven’t watched, either. Regardless, they are turning at least a little bit of a profit but why is it that the films are so disappointing then?

The major issue that Disney has is thinking they can capture lightning in a bottle twice. It’s rare to be able to tell a story once and have people enjoy. It’s even rarer to repackage the story and have people enjoy it just as much. Rebuilding on the story is completely different and something that Disney is great at. Reusing the same story isn’t new, but it’s odd to see a company that’s applauded for its originality to do it.

The Lion King, Disney

The Lion King photo via Disney Media File

Another issue that Disney has is relying too much on nostalgia. This isn’t just a problem with Disney, but they’re trying the hardest. In retelling those old stories, they can tap both the market of people who watched the animated films and those who haven’t even heard of the films.

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It’s a genius move but one that Disney hasn’t been able to successfully pull off. Yes, The Lion King grossed millions of dollars but it wasn’t vastly different from the animated film in any sense.

The last issue is that Disney doesn’t know what direction they’re going in. Right now, they’re stuck in this whirlwind of reboots and sequels. They do have a handful of original projects but most of them aren’t getting nearly as much hype. Even though most of the sequels and reboots are good, they’ve never reached the greatness that was the original film.

To fix this problem, Disney has a few avenues they can go down. First, they can put a halt on some of their reboot projects. Most have the potential to be good but they have no reason to reboot their entire backlist right now. Rather, they need to shift the focus back to creating both original and animated features. Most of all, the company has to give something up as they have so many projects going on that it can’t all be entirely organized.

While there’s nothing entirely wrong with Disney’s reboots, it’s clear they aren’t getting the praise that they want. The best way to fix what’s wrong is to just take a step back and reassess the situation. It’s a lot easier said than done, but it could end up working out for Disney in the long run.