By Matthew Wojtechko
What do Pikachu, Aladdin and Dora the Explorer all have in common? They are all cartoon characters, they are all childhood icons and they all star in live-action films this year.
Students, as well as assistant professor of communication David Safin, gave their thoughts on the live-action remake trend.
“We’re always looking to how we [can] recycle those things we liked when we were kids,” Safin said.
He explained that 1977’s Star Wars and 1981’s Indiana Jones were filmmakers George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg’s versions of the Saturday afternoon serials they watched as kids, such as 1936’s Flash Gordon. Walt Disney’s founding cartoons, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, were similarly based off Grimms’ Fairy Tales from the 1800s, according to Safin.
“Rehashing old material is never going away,” he stated.
According to Safin, “rehashing” not only describes the process of rebooting old movies, but the process of creating any art.
“Nobody creates in a vacuum,” he explained. “Whenever someone sits down to do something, they think about what they li
ked, what they heard, and they do their version of that.”
Students said that they typically avoid live-action retellings of old cartoons.
“I'm most likely just going to ignore them in preference for the originals,” said one such student, freshman Zachary Paullet.
Christian Loeffler, junior, explained that he thinks mixed public opinion boosts these films’ popularity through controversy.
“Whether fans agree with the choices being made, almost everyone wants to see the new live-action movies, just to see if expectations are met or just how hilariously dreadful the next iteration is,” he said.
Seniors Jo Cline and Caroline Weka speculated that Disney produces remakes to keep aspects of Disney World relevant. For example, they said, the Dumbo remake released back in March helps keep the Dumbo theme park ride familiar to kids.
“If they don’t know the stuff that’s there, then what’s the appeal?” Cline said.
“They have to keep [Disney World] connecting to the parents and the kids, because otherwise the parents won’t want to go, or the kids won’t want to go,” Weka stated.
Senior Anthony Rosso said live-action remakes add a reality that original cartoons did not have.
“It paints a better picture in your head,” he said.
Safin spoke similarly, comparing Disney’s 1991 cartoon Beauty and the Beast with the live-action remake in 2017.
“We suspend our disbelief when watching a cartoon,” he said. “But when you see Emma Watson as Belle with a beast that she can physically touch, […] it feels more authentic, so you get a more authentic, realistic feel and representation of these characters that you could never, ever get in animation.”
However, Safin also explained that his young daughter prefers the original cartoon to the recent remake, due to this realism.
“It wasn’t as fun – ‘the beast is scary enough as a cartoon, I don’t want to ever imagine that it exists in the real world,’” Safin said.
Loeffler expressed a similar sentiment about the live-action Aladdin remake coming this May.
“Most people enjoyed cartoons as children so that they could escape reality, so why are we trying to merge fantasy and reality?” he said.
Childhood media making the jump from cartoon to live-action can feel cheap and “a little off-putting,” he noted.
“Many film remakes simply try to fit in as many of the memorable moments, quotes, and characters as possible,” Loeffler said.
Paullet said these films do not seem to be well-received.
“Most people that I have talked to about these kinds of movies are against them,” he said.
Saffin said that “reboots,” a modern, negative term for remakes, are a “convenient way to get people mad.”
“I think we take ownership of the things that were […] shown to us in our formative years,” he said.
To illustrate, Saffin used the Ghostbusters film from 1984, which was rebooted in 2016.
“There was this revolt. It’s like, ‘this is going to ruin my childhood’ – no it’s not. Go watch [the original] if you want to go watch it.”
Safin elaborated further by using the Batman reboots.
“In your head, you’re like, ‘to me, Batman is always Michael Keaton and the Joker is always Jack Nichelson, and if you think that it’s somebody else, then it cheapens the way I had it. I want you to have the same experience I had,’” he said.
Safin himself does not have a problem with this, though.
“I’m always in the mind of ‘let’s just all calm down, and enjoy, and stop fighting about it,’” he said.