live action aladdin

Spider-Man  Into The Spider-Verse was the best movie of 2018 (don’t @ me), and yet it wasn’t nominated, let alone even considered, for Best Picture at the Oscars earlier this year.

This is no parts shocking, of course, because in the 91 years that the Academy has been delegating awards, there have only been three instances where an animated movie was nominated for Best Picture: Beauty and the Beast (1991), Up (2009), and Toy Story 3 (2010).

Let that sink in for a second. Out of the 554 movies nominated for Best Picture over the course of 91 years, a staggering THREE were animated.

Miles Morales Gwen Stacey Peter B Parker
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

You might be thinking to yourself, “that’s why they instituted ‘Best Animated Feature Film,'” and it’s a fair knee-jerk retort, I guess. Well, sure. But explain this: Best Picture isn’t exclusive to live-action films, and yet it almost exclusively consists of live-action films. Why’s that?

Simply put: animated films just aren’t really respected.

As a huge fan and advocate of animation, it’s a sad, but undeniable truth that spans far and wide. Disney’s prioritization of live-action reboots for their animated classics over creating original content is in itself very telling. The company that has built its success off of the backs of beautiful and talented visual artists is no longer pretending that they’re more interested in art than they are in money.

In addition, many Oscar voters have also already ADMITTED to not watching the movies in the animated categories and just voting for what their kid likes or for what’s popular.

Sure, maybe Spider-Verse beating out the obvious choice of Pixar’s The Incredibles 2 for the title of Best Animated Feature might be signalling winds of change; but conversely, as long as animation is “othered” into its own category, any respect shown is still at a distance.

No, cartoons ARE NOT a children’s medium

I’ve been lambasted since middle school for being a vocal fan of cartoons and anime for the simple fact that it wasn’t normative; I liked it, they didn’t, so my hobbies were wrong.

This one summery day in my friend’s backyard always springs back to mind when I comb over people’s nonsense. I was probably 17 or so and in the middle of another spirited rant about what makes Hey Arnold such a great show when my friend interrupted me to say, “why don’t you watch more age-appropriate shows? Like Storage Wars?”

pixars coco
Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

There’s this weird conception that if it’s animated, it’s for children. If it’s rated PG, it’s for children. If it’s suitable for the whole family, that’s really just code that it’s for children. It’s as if two people from different age groups mutually enjoying a piece of media is sacrilegious.

Are children incapable of liking something good? Does every good piece of film have to be an allegorical rabbit hole that only educated folk who studied film and literature could possibly understand?  

Your 4-year-old nephew loving Coco doesn’t make it any less of a great movie. There are so many creative minds that melded to create it, and it should be a testament to its quality that people across multiple age groups found something in it that resonates.  

We don’t need any more live-action adaptations of our favourite childhood movies

If I hear another live-action Disney movie getting green-lit, I swear I’ll scream. Silently. Inside.

Of all the movies that have so far gotten a live-action adaptation, I’ve only watched the Beauty and the Beast one with Emma Watson. While I wouldn’t call it bad and while I could probably have willed myself into getting swept up in the Disney magic, I couldn’t help but ask myself: why does this need to exist?

Because money, that’s why, Karen.

And although I haven’t yet watched them, I’ve kept a thumb on the conversation surrounding the live-action releases of Dumbo, Aladdin, and others. From what I’ve seen, there has been nothing said about them that indites them a “must-watch” for any Disney fan. Just more of the same, but different.

simba lion king
Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

I don’t begrudge those who go spend their hard earned dollars seeing these remakes, but I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t bother me some. I’m sick of studio execs taking these massive opening weekends as an indication as they should remake more and keep putting original content on the backburner.

Hell, right now they’re already working on a live-action Lady and the Tramp, Mulan, Pinocchio, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Lilo & Stich and The Little Mermaid.

When a new Disney live-action movie gets announced, all I hear is: “Hey everyone! Let us profit off of your nostalgia and release the same movie you’ve already seen, but worse!” No one has any egregious complaints about the original, but wouldn’t it be better if this was live-action because money????

Not as many people are willing to die on this hill, and that’s okay. If you would rather re-live a little sliver or your childhood or introduce your kid to a classic in a modern way, you do you. But for me, this is just another example of how people devalue animation. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Animated movies deserve a seat at the big table. Period.

There’s a slew of poorly made animated movies out there. A slew, I say! They’re not immune to questionable attempts that should be buried.

As a result of so many synonymizing animation with children, studios often get it in their mind that they don’t have to work hard to make them. This is why we have things like the Emoji Movie or Angry Birds; movies that literally NOBODY asked for.

All I’m arguing is that GOOD animated films deserve a seat at the table also, and not on some “happy to be invited” BS either. Three out of 554 or 0.005% of consideration is not acceptable, nor indicative of the fantastic strides animators, voice actors, writers, etc. make every year.

I consider myself pretty blown over by people’s artistic aptitude; this spans far outside of just animation and even into avenues of art that I don’t particularly enjoy. All this to say, you don’t have to love it to see its strengths or accomplishments. Animated features are just as capable as live-action ones, and it’s high time we start acting like it.

One thought on “Live-action Disney movies and how we devalue animation”

  1. I prefer animation over live action any day. You cannot replicate something that was hand drawn and taken time from someone to put in emotion. I can’t say I’ve been impressed with any of Disney’s live action adaptation. Dumob, may be the small exception but even they botched it up by not giving Dumbo more screen time as in the animated version.

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