Here’s Why Disney Is Remaking So Many of Its Animated Movies
It's a small world after all—and Disney's making it even smaller.
Now that we've got "It's a Small World" in your head (you're welcome), we'd like to draw your attention to the obscene amount of remakes and reboots Disney currently has in the works. Ready for this?
Dumbo, Aladdin, The Lion King, Mulan, Lady and the Tramp, The Sword in the Stone, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and The Little Mermaid. And that list doesn't even include spin-offs like Cruella or Prince Charming, go figure. If you rolled your eyes and are bemoaning the seemingly endless list of Disney remakes in the works (why do we need another Lady and the Tramp?) you've partially got intellectual property to thank.
Intellectual property (IP for short) is any story (in book, script, or other form) that a company has the rights to. When a business like Disney has IPs, it means it owns the stories, and can produce (and reproduce) them at its leisure, while others cannot.
Unsurprisingly, Disney has a lot of IPs. In fact, the company has been racking them up like IPs are going out of style, especially in recent years. Disney may or may not require a full-on IP intervention at this point, since it has invested billions of dollars in acquiring the IP rights to franchises like Marvel and Lucasfilms. The IP buying surge began in 2004, when Disney bought the Muppets. It continued with purchases of Pixar, followed by Marvel, Lucasfilm, and even the Indiana Jones franchise.
"Disney remains intent on discovering, rescuing, and rehabilitating precious pop culture artifacts so they can be found or rediscovered by audiences around the world—a modern-day Indiana Jones, indeed," declared Quartz in 2013.
Alright, so it's clear that they can do this. But why choose to buy up already established franchises while investing in remakes, instead of green lighting other, perhaps more original scripts? It all has to do with the bottom dollar amount.
"Recently the industry has seen a solid string of success born out of rebooting or upgrading content from the past. This is a risk-averse strategy. You bank on content where people already have a sense of the characters, they have a sense of what the plot is, what the story is," FiveThirtyEight pop culture expert Walt Hickey told ABC.
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"You are also asking them for two hours of their life. That ask isn't easy," he said. "They've found that ask is marginally easier when you say, 'Hey, remember that thing you liked? This new project incorporates some elements in that thing you liked.'"
Still, why not get audiences into new characters and plot lines instead? The answer is pretty straightforward, actually: MONEY. Disney is (literally) banking on people already liking the animated films it's remaking. If people already like it, there's a greater chance they will pay money to see it in another form, and they skillfully skip over the step that brand new stories face of drawing in a devoted audience from scratch.
It doesn't help matters either that movie theater ticket prices have skyrocketed. According to Box Office Mojo, which tracks this ticket data, the average 2018 movie ticket is $9.27. A decade ago in 2008, it was $7.18, and a decade before that in 1998, it was a mere $4.69. The prices have increased steadily each year since then with no exceptions, and it's unlikely that will change.
If you're going to ask people to pay to see a movie today, you have a better shot at making money off it if you know there is an audience out there who already likes the franchise The ultimate end result of this? Remakes galore.
And you thought they were just out of ideas.