Animation Vs. Live Action!
An Article Series
Disney & the Live-Action Remake Formula
by Tristen Merchant
For decades now Disney has been responsible for making children’s dreams come true as they continuously produce magical and iconic movies that so strongly resonate with their target audience – children and their families. With children often expressly wanting to see the newest Disney craze that has just been released, the parents many times bring their children to see these films because they both want to bond with their child and – more likely than not – because they admittedly want to see it also. Since Disney has been putting together dominant children’s films for almost a century, Disney saw an opportunity begin to reveal itself. With the majority of children – and their families – having seen at least one of these films that have I have named above – if not all – there is a certain sense of nostalgia that is associated with these films by families everywhere. In order to pander to the extremely strong connection to these mystical Disney movies that these children – who are now growing up and raising children of their own – have to these movies, Disney has made an extremely strategic business move to produce live-action remakes of these iconic films.
One of the first movies that Disney decided to begin this journey of live-action remakes with was Alice in Wonderland. When this movie was first released in 1951, the box office numbers were $5.2 million. While this multimillion dollar sum is largely underwhelming in comparison to some of the more household name productions that Disney is famous for, Disney saw potential in this movie as the film had largely gained traction after being released on VHS and DVD. Following this lead which they had somehow developed that Alice in Wonderland was going to be their next big thing, Disney began developing a live-action remake of the film. When this live-action remake starring Johnny Depp finally hit theaters in 2010 – nearly half a century after the release date of its animated counterpart – the box office numbers hit a staggering $1.025 billion. As this live-action remake of Alice in Wonderland definitely pulled in some eye-opening numbers in theaters everywhere, Disney knew they had discovered a real money making formula.
Now that their new strategy of live-action remakes was tried and tested, Disney entered the prepping stages for transforming Sleeping Beauty into Maleficent. Given that Alice in Wonderland’s live-action remake crushed the box office debut despite the original being fairly lackluster at release, Disney decided to redo 1951’s Sleeping Beauty – a movie that had done somewhat better in the box office at $51.6 million domestically – with the main protagonist being Maleficent – the villain of the classic fairytale. Because Robert Stromberg had done so well directing the live-action remake of Alice in Wonderland, Disney elected to have Stromberg direct this remake as well. After locking in a deal with Angelina Jolie to take the leading role as Maleficent and releasing the film in May of 2014, Maleficent proved to be a successful use of the mold that Alice in Wonderland had laid out for it as it raked in box office sales upwards of $758.5 million. At this point, live-action remakes of Disney classics seemed like the obvious move as they were two for two on producing films where the remakes outperformed the films which proceeded them.
Going for the hat-trick, Disney decided that Cinderella was next in line to undergo this live-action recreation. In 1951, Cinderella made $85 million in the box office. While this may seem like a lot in comparison to the other animated prequels of the 1900s that I have already mentioned, this box office revenue more than sextupled when Disney dropped the 2015 live-action remake. Starring Lily James as Cinderalla and directed by Kenneth Branagh, the magically revamped version of Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo claimed another $543.5 million from the box office in the name of Disney proving that this live-action remake formula is in fact still worth the company’s time.
Working with this momentum that Disney has been non-stop building, Mowgli and Baloo came out swinging in the 2016 release of The Jungle Book. With the 1967 version of The Jungle Book pulling in $205.8 million worldwide in box office sales and the sequels/remastering of this movie that Disney had done in the past having such a following, The Jungle book franchise fit the bill to receive the live-action makeover that had worked so well for them so many times. Because of this strong fan-base – and the fact that Bill Murray played Baloo – the 2016 remake of The Jungle Book earned Disney another $966.6 million from around the globe. Falling just short of that prestigious $1 billion, Disney was already in the works of releasing yet another live-action remake that they hope would surpass the earnings of this film.
Beauty and the Beast is the latest installation of Disney’s live-action remakes. In 1991, Disney debuted Beauty and the Beast. This song-filled, animated love story with a keen focus on bringing inanimate objects to life made Disney $426 million in box office commission alone. Cast Emma Watson as the lead in the live-action remake, let her sing a handful of times and profit. That’s what Disney did and – although this film is still in theaters all over the world – they have already scrapped in $733.4 Million since the rerelease of this film. It is clear to see that Disney is not going to slow down with these amazing live-action remakes anytime soon.
As a matter of fact, Disney has already announced many live-action remakes that are either currently in the works. Over the course of the next ten years Disney is set to release a hefty number of live-action remakes including titles such as Dumbo, Tinkerbell, Peter Pan, Aladdin, 101 Dalmatians, The Lion King, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Little Mermaid, and – their next installment which will be released in 2018 – Mulan. While some of these movies are set to follow the storyline which has been laid out in their prequels, others will focus on characters that have appeared in their movies in a similar fashion to that of Maleficent which – as I mentioned before – focuses primarily on the villain of the story to give it a fresh feel while also provoking a strong sense of nostalgia from many. This formula for reproducing classics has proven to be extremely profitable and – more likely than not – will continue to generate billions as Disney capitalizes on the endless live-action remaking opportunities that accompany their recent releases like Moana and Frozen.
Rhetoric of It All
by D.S. Hooker
“With "Beauty and the Beast”… Disney has done something no one has done before,” writes Janet Maslin for the New York Times, “[combining] the latest computer animation techniques with the best of Broadway. Here, in the guise of furthering a children's fable, is the brand of witty, soaring musical score that is now virtually extinct on the stage.” What’s interesting about this quote isn’t that it’s from a review of “Beauty and the Beast” but that the review was written in 1991, for Disney original animated adaptation, and not the current live action remake. “There are a few moments… where the digital seams show,” A.O. Scott writes in his New Times Review for the 2017 remake, “and you’re aware of the cold presence of lines of code behind the images.” Here we see Scott hold less reverence than his predecessor, and while he later concedes that the audience will be “happily fooled,” it’s a far cry from Maslin’s resounding applause. It’s no surprise that Disney has been “reinventing the wheel” by taking older stories and revamping them for a modern audience since its golden days. Yet, it’s fascinating to see exactly what Disney decides to revamp in their stories, to see them twist what they’ve already have spun. What’s more, it’s equally fascinating to see critical reaction change in its perception. What might have dazzled in past doesn’t always have them same magic today.
Another interesting aspect of this is how both iterations of “Beauty and the Beast” handle the “dark edge” of its story. As Maslin’s points out, “‘Beauty and the Beast’ is less intent on sweetness than on making its story's central point… It is more darkly forbidding and at times more violent than the average animated children's fable. But it also has more to say.” Such “darkness” Maslin’s points out is in service to that plot and she continues to note that emphasis is placed on Belle’s intelligence as are conveyed equally as well as Beast’s “fatuousness beneath [his] handsome exterior.” However, such edginess appears missing in the revamps as Scott laments, “The new ‘Beauty and the Beast’ …smoothly modernizes — and to some degree sanitizes — a story with a potentially thorny psychosexual subtext, a tale of male animality and female captivity.” Scott mentions how Disney decided to stick more towards a heroism tale without much of a psychoanalytic undertones and states that the film “rigorously places spectacle in the service of plot.” This suggests that, perhaps, these dark undertones still present but are inhibited by the newer animation. More time may have been given to the effects and less to the story thus nullifying the results.
Granted, Scott’s skepticism toward the new “Beauty and the Beast” could be the result of the film being bad. However, the film could also just had its deck stacked up too high. Consider that the modern audience that is over-conditioned and over-exposed to media, it’s difficult to astound like before. Maslin’s enthusiasm is inspiring though. With the advent of Pixar Studios only a year or so after her review, one could argue that the computer animation she’s held so highly was brought further and used more effectively and is still being done so today. If not by Disney, then a studio who’s willing to take chances.
Maslin, Janet. "Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast'." The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Nov. 1991.
Scott, A. O. "Review: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Revels in Joy and Enchantment." The New York Times. The New York Times, 03 Mar. 2017.
Live Action vs Animation: What’s Best for Business?
by Jack Allen
Welcome to the world of advertising. Now before we dive into the contest at hand, let’s take a step back and make sure we understand just what it is we’re addressing. Advertising has two main functions: To tell people about something, like a product or a service, and it to make people want to buy that product or service. Boom, simple.
Got it? Good. Let’s move on.
Now with that in mind, lets say you want to run a video campaign. Great idea. We have now arrived at our destination. Herein lies your dilemma. Do you choose live action or animation? Well, I can’t make that decision for you, but I can certainly help guide you in your decision making process.
First let’s establish what your product is, and which demographic you’re targeting. Whether it’s whiteboard, 2D, 3D, stop motion, or any other method you choose, both kids and adults appreciate imaginative, colorful, and diverse animated videos. This medium is only limited by your own imagination (and probably your budget, but we’ll get to that later). Animation has the unique ability to compress complex concepts into simple, digestible pieces. Which in turn caters to more technical products that aren’t as easy to grasp; or to start-ups that don’t yet have a product that is live or fully-developed.
On the flip side of the coin, live action videos tend to be much more personal, and have the unique ability to showcase something more human and relatable. Real faces and real locations lend real credibility to a product. Not to mention, live action can showcase real, hard, physical goods; so if your product is something you want to show the world rather than explain to the world, then I would recommend live action. This medium can also be effective for political, social, and business issues.
Starting to get an idea of which route to take? Great! But don’t get too far ahead of yourself. Each method is perfectly capable of expressing your message, but neither is perfect. When making a decision, you also need to establish how much time and money you’re willing to spend.
Shooting a live action video grants the producer a bit more flexibility during the production process, considering that anything can be re-worked or shot multiple times. But unfortunately, humans are imperfect beings, and re-casting or re-shooting can be very costly post production. Not to mention that the video can’t be “updated” without initiating the entire process again. Fortunately, the turnaround for a live action video tends to be about 4-6 weeks, and generally less costly than their counterpart.
On the other hand, animation allows you to continue making edits until the very last minute. Changes to an animated video can be made years after the video’s original release, which is ideal for companies that are constantly evolving. But unlike live action, the more changes made post storyboard and script finalization, the more time and money spent on animation. For this reason, animation tends to have s a turnaround of about 5-8 weeks, and in some cases costs significantly more than live action.
No matter which medium you choose, the bottom line is engaging and effective content. Let’s not forget our ultimate goal – tell people about something, like a product or a service, and make people want to buy that product or service. Before making a decision, ask yourself three fundamental questions – What type of video am I making? How much time and resources have I allocated? And who’s going to watch my video? You’ve got the information, now get out there and create some content.
“Animated video vs Live action video: Which one should you choose?” Standard Blog. Moovly.com. Moovly, 27 May 2016. Web. 3 April 2017.
“Live Action vs Animation: What’s Best for Business.” Standard Blog. VEED.ME. The Veed.me Blog, 2016. Web. 3 April 2017.
Takhar, Manroop. “The Pros and Cons of Animated Video Versus Live Action Video.” Standard Blog. Reelmarketer.com. Reel Marketer Video Marketing Magazine, 18 April 2014. Web. 3 April 2017.