Naked mole rats are ugly. Oh, I know—that’s a certified Hot Take. But they are. Have you ever seen one? They’re hideous. But Rufus, on Kim Possible, was kind of charming. This is generally because he in no way really resembled a real naked mole rat. It was actually kind of a running joke that the only time he did was when they showed him as a baby in flashback and admitted that he was pretty well hideous. So when the live-action version was announced, it immediately became obvious that a major character was going to be a visual problem.
Not that it’s the only problem with Disney’s current drive for live action remakes of their classic films. Frankly, the biggest problem seems to be that they aren’t very good. Disney is not inexperienced with live action, of course; our very first entry in this series was made nearly seventy years ago. However, it kind of feels as though they’ve forgotten all the lessons they’ve learned over that time, both in live action and in animation. It feels like Walt’s original attitude toward originality and a focus on storytelling and character development has gotten lost in the drive for profiting on name value.
I am perfectly aware this attitude to a certain extent makes me seem like an old fogy. In many ways, I am an old fogy. But I would also point out that I do not believe there is never a time and place for a remake. I’ve suggested a few in this very column—a Ben Affleck/Matt Damon Love Bug, for example, and a version of The Black Hole that takes what’s quality from the original and throws the other three-quarters away. There is a time and place for remakes, especially when that remake adds something quality that was missing in the original.
But for one thing, you will note that those two exceptions are both themselves live action. I feel as though one of the problems with the drive to remake is that they’re mostly taking animated properties. And one of the specific problems there is that there’s a reason for animation. The “animation ghetto” is a real concept, and there really is a belief that “animated” means “lesser.” But you can do a lot of things in animation that don’t work in live action, which is of course why these remakes have so much CGI in them. They have to. There’s no other way. Talking animal movies, you know?
Honestly, some of these qualify as being as much animated as Dinosaur, a member of the official animated canon that I keep not bothering with because I’d probably have to watch it again in order to write about it. The Jungle Book had so much CGI in it that it could have qualified as an animated feature for competition, should that have been the studio’s choice. But Disney insists on listing them as live action, because Animation Ghetto.
I wonder, honestly, if all these things would still be released if we just let Disney release their classics into the theatre now and again. And honestly, I’d take my kids to see them. The chance to see Sleeping Beauty on a big screen? Hell, I’d go without them, if I could find a babysitter for it.