A still from Disney’s “The Lion King” featuring Nala (Beyonce Knowles) and Simba (Donald Glover).
While the critic’s consensus of “The Lion King” wasn’t exactly glowing, it’s clear that Disney has managed to find an innovative, and lucrative, way of retelling its 1994 animated classic.
The visually lush film earned $543.6 million in its first 10 days and is expected to pass the $1 billion mark in August. “Aladdin,” which debuted Memorial Day weekend — also to lukewarm reviews — has had staying power this summer. On Friday, the film crossed the $1 billion mark at the global box office.
“The Lion King” and “Aladdin,” like many of Disney’s recent remakes, cater both to fans raised in the ’90s and to younger audiences that may have been unfamiliar with the 2D-animated features.
This string of remakes seems to have started with “Alice in Wonderland” in 2010, although there were two live-action films based on “101 Dalmatians” in 1996 and 2000. Since “Alice,” Disney has a number of other remakes including: “Maleficent,” “Cinderella,” “The Jungle Book,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” and “Dumbo.”
As Disney has adapted these classic animated films into live-action features, it has not been uncommon for them to update the script to reflect modern storytelling and to expand the scope of the world in which the film is set. Not to mention the original “Dumbo” was only 63 minutes long, while the new iteration clocks in at over two hours.
In some cases, Disney has even turned the narrative on its head, as was the case with 2014′s “Maleficent.”
Including the first week of “Lion King’s” box office run, Disney has made more than $7 billion in the last nine years from its reimaginings of its classic tales. Still to come is a sequel to “Maleficent” in October as well as a “Mulan” film in 2020.
These remakes, released in the last decade, have far exceeded the box office success of their predecessors.
For instance, in 1991 “Beauty and the Beast” earned $424.9 million globally. In 2019, the remake earned $1.2 billion.
(Note: Data as of July 22, 2019)
Part of that success is based on the affection that audiences had for the original film. That’s especially true for titles like “Alice in Wonderland,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “Dumbo,” which had very small box office success, but gained popularity over the course of several decades due to at home movie releases.
Another piece is that movies are more widely distributed these days. Countries like China didn’t show a number of the original Disney films when they were first released. And, as these remakes are incorporating more technological innovations — motion capture and realistic animation — foreign markets, like China, are showing up in greater numbers.
IMAX and 3D showings are very popular internationally and come with a much higher ticket price than traditional showings.
So, as these remakes continue to perform exceedingly well at the box office, Disney will continue to produce even more.
The company currently has more than a dozen titles in the works — some sequels, some straight-up remakes and some from the perspective of another character.
- “Hunchback of Notre Dame”
- “James and the Giant Peach”
- “Lady and the Tramp”
- “Lilo and Stitch”
- “Peter Pan”
- “Prince Charming”
- “Rose Red”
- “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”
- “The Jungle Book 2”
- “The Little Mermaid”
- “The Sword in the Stone”