So, I watched Beauty & The Beast (2017) last night. Wow. Just SUPER wow, and not for the reasons you might think. It’s a dud. A flop. I hate it. The entire opening musical sequence, so full of life and deeply engaging in the animated feature, is dead, limp, and lifeless. Everything after that is a disjointed, misshapen mutation of the brilliant, reinvigorating, emotional feature-length animated version from 1991.
Disney had a hit in 1977 with The Rescuers, but were having trouble with 1981’s The Fox & The Hound, 1985’s The Black Cauldron, and 1986’s The Great Mouse Detective. They struck gold in 1989 with The Little Mermaid and 1991’s Beauty & The Beast would be the first two steps in a long string of successes (barring 1995’s Pocahontas, but that’s just me). Had they not buggered about with their long history of storytelling, we might not have ended up with a 2017 version.
My recommendation to Disney? Stop it. Do NOT remake one of the most beloved animated films of all time, The Lion King. Stop all plans for other remakes. People don’t want Live Action. They want new stories, not rehashed versions of old stories. If they hadn’t remade Beauty & The Beast, then they wouldn’t have invited discussions of misogyny and rape culture. It would have remained one of Disney’s greatest films. Now it’s just poop.
Hollywood is having a hard time making ends meet, with fewer people going to theaters to see films. It doesn’t help that It costs nearly $50 for a family of four to see one movie and that TV series from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO, and others are far more engaging and far more affordable. It’s also not helpful that most movies that come out of Hollywood these days are designed for the Chinese boxoffice. After all, the money goes where the money is, and America, you just ain’t it anymore.
The bigger problem, aside from the economy and jobs not being where Washington would like us to think it is (sorta non-sequitur and kinda not), that, and I know you’re not expecting this, Pixar ruined everything. In 1995, Pixar dropped a bomb on the animated film industry with Toy Story,and have since made precious few missteps until being acquired by Disney in 2006.
More insidious, however, is that Pixar did for Hollywood what Apple had done for technology, changed the two industries forever. There’s no question that Steve Jobs was an amazing person, and he did usher in a wide range of technological advances via Apple, but the same can’t be said for animation. The sad truth is that Pixar killed traditional, hand-drawn animation as an American art form.
I don’t mean to suggest that 3D animation isn’t a form of art. Indeed, it can be beautiful as Pixar, Blue Sky, Dreamworks, and others have shown, but it is not the evolution of animation. We’ve seen too many times complaints like those about the characters from Frozen looking exactly like the characters from Tangled, probably because they do. Traditional, hand-drawn animation allows for any number of styles.
Mulan features stylized Chinese art forms. Lilo & Stitch featured Chris Sander’s unique character design and beautiful watercolor backgrounds instead of the traditional gouache. The Emperor’s New Groove featured character designs based on South American art styles. Hercules drew from Roman forms of art and architecture for it’s look. It’s hard to say where any 3D animated film draws its inspiration from.
So, that’s pretty much it. America needs to get back to its roots and stop trying to make shortcuts to everything. We need to stop killing art and demonizing the artistic. Disney needs to get back to creating amazing, hand-drawn animation and soon, or it will become the company whose pillars are Marvel and Star Wars and a bunch of old stuff they used to make. What a legacy, Bob. What a legacy.