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Why ‘Beauty and the Beast’ represents a troubling trend for Disney

Alison Willmore, writing for Buzzfeed, about Bill Condon’s new Beauty and the Beast:

Beauty and the Beast [1991] was considered more nuanced and more sophisticated in its interpretation, its not-to-type bookish protagonist, and its aesthetics, a landmark for the company — the first animated feature to have ever gotten nominated for Best Picture.

Sad and a bit alarming that 26 years later, this new Beauty and the Beast is so fundamentally stuck in place beneath its few middling gestures toward inclusivity. Being stuck in place is a conscious choice here, nostalgia having become very good business, but there’s something more than cynical to the way the film regurgitates so much from a past classic. The new Beauty and the Beast may be live action, but it feels less alive than the animated feature it follows. It’s not comfort food, it’s Disney saluting how much it’s done right — so much so that it insists, over a quarter century later, that it barely needs to change. It’s a corporation’s ode to itself, and to setting expectations for progress very low.

While the new films are doing gangbusters at the box office, I find Disney’s live action remakes to be artistically bizarre. More often than not, they are shells of their former, animated selves, often taking the same plot, the same characters and even the same look, then gussying them all up using modern day technology and production design. They rarely add anything new or worthwhile to the original story, and thus feel beholden to their predecessors.

Disney is a multinational conglomerate that is producing many different kinds of films. But it’s a bummer that it has chosen this decade to revel in its former glory with these remakes when it could be telling newer, more interesting stories instead.