Why Disney May Be Going Too Far With Movie Remakes

Disney has been relentlessly announcing plans to remake its classic animated properties into live action films with A-list casts over the past several months, as the success of films like last year’s Maleficent caused the studio to realize what a goldmine the idea is. While all signs point to them completely overdoing it with all the live-action remakes, the studio just keeps making big announcements about the animated classics it plans to make into live-action movies. And they’ve gone far beyond just princess fairy tales.

The latest addition to the list is a segment from the 1940 film Fantasia, which is best known for its eight different animated vignettes wordlessly set to well-known pieces of classical music. The movie made the pieces of music it used very famous and is known for being one of the artsier Disney films for its exuberant and psychedelic animation sequences and the prominence of the music.

The part of Fantasia that is being adapted is “Night on Bald Mountain,” The Hollywood Reporter says. That segment of the movie involves a gothic winged creature who can raise spirits from the dead. The spirits have a night of revelry, then fade away when the sun comes up. This is set to the music “Night on Bald Mountain” by the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky, first written in 1867. Because of Fantasia, that piece is now very well-known.

The clip itself (watch above) is thought to be one of Disney’s darker and creepier moments, as skeleton ghosts are seen rising up out of their graves to fly through the night on command of the bat-like ghoul. Dark fantasy has been all the rage lately, so turning to this portion of Fantasia makes sense. Maleficent was a darker revisionist version of Sleeping Beauty and that Angelina Jolie-starring movie grossed $758 million worldwide at the box office last year per Box Office Mojo.

Night on Bald Mountain has the potential to be an interesting project, if it wasn’t in the hands of Disney. While the studio’s live-action remakes of animated classics have done well at the box office, they haven’t been quite as successful among critics. Maleficent got lackluster reviews and the film that kicked it all off, Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland, grossed over $1 billion worldwide but was positively reamed by critics. That movie has just a 51% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with critics saying Burton and Disney lost the heart of the original film and the novel in favor of spectacle. Even this spring’s Cinderella was just sort of a lukewarm endeavor all around. Disney isn’t the place that would allow the kind of creative risks that would let a live-action, full-length version of Night on Bald Mountain to live up to its scary, weird potential.

This isn’t the only animated classic “live-action” remake Disney has coming up without many (or any) human characters. Dumbo and The Jungle Book both have casts made mostly of animals but are both somehow getting the live-action remake treatment as well. Apparently Disney has come up with some way to work around the lack of humans but still call something “live-action.” As we saw with Alice in Wonderland, the use of lots of impressive CGI can’t make up for a movie that’s lacking in story.

The list of other animated classic remakes is long, with Emma Watson-starring Beauty and the Beast, a second Alice in Wonderland film, Mulan, and Reese Witherspoon as the Peter Pan character Tinker Bell all in the works. While the princess ones make a bit more sense to adapt to the live-action format, it’s still worth wondering whether they’re going to be any good after the so-so reviews of Maleficent and Cinderella. But the company seems pretty content to mine every corner of its animated properties for ideas, so we can probably expect seven more Fantasia installments if Night on Bald Mountain proves profitable.

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS

More from Entertainment Cheat Sheet: