After the Oscar snub of the latest live-action picture from Walt Disney Studios, “Saving Mr. Banks,” I think it is yet another sign that the company should stop making live action pictures. Even with actors like Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson headlining the “based on a true story” adaptation process of “Mary Poppins” (who doesn’t love “Mary Poppins?”), it didn’t get any nods in the major categories of the nominations. Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress all seemed to be missing the delightful presence of this film. It was a charming picture, and told the story of how arduous of a process adapting a book to a movie can be.
However, as wondrous as “Saving Mr. Banks” was, it failed to wow the Academy. Perhaps Disney is better off making animated pictures instead of live-action ones.
After the Disney Renaissance in the 1990’s (films like “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast”), Disney’s animated pictures seemed to go into a lull. As much as we all loved “Lilo and Stitch” and “The Emperor’s New Groove,” they didn’t come close to the quality put into the films ten years prior. (I guess being a 90’s kid really is what it’s cracked up to be). So, Disney then tried its hand at pushing out bigger and better live-action pieces. The bigger-and-better premise for the live-action films allured different audiences (some older, some younger, some more abundant overall) but not all have been as fantastic as some of the most recent animated films have been. Some studios are just better at making certain kinds of film. Unfortunately, Disney keeps making films that have been flopping.
Let’s take a look at Disney’s live-action track record since 2000 or so. There’s “National Treasure” and its sequel. There are very few things more entertaining than Nicholas Cage running through Philadelphia with our nation’s blueprint at hand. The history aspect is good for any geek, and the second one was confusing but still amusing. Disney had hinted at the second film’s conclusion that there was to be a third film to come. I’ve been waiting since 2007 to find out what is on the page of 47 in the president’s secret book. Talk about the ultimate cliff hanger. Smooth, Disney.
However, “Enchanted” was, well, enchanting. Take Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, some great musical numbers, and you have a modern-day princess movie with a twist, all in our backyard of New York City. This was an excellent piece by Disney pictures; I still cry whenever Jon McLaughlin sings “So Close” at the ball. The musical aspect may have led it to its commercial and critical success; nonetheless Disney succeeded here. I’m still waiting on that Broadway adaptation, of course.
“The Lone Ranger” was a flop for Disney. Starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Armie Hammer, the film followed a Native American and a man of justice on their adventures. The previews looked awful, and the film wasn’t much better. It is based on the radio series of the same name, and only rendered a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes. I apologize to the cast for allowing themselves involvement in the film, especially Depp, who has had much better roles in the past.
And then there’s the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise; it was a hit or miss depending on how highly you regard the pirate culture. The films part of it include “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Dead Man’s Chest,” “At World’s End,” and let’s not forget “The Quest for More Money,” I mean…”On Stranger Tides.” The first one was excellent. It had enough closure for it to be a standalone film, but enough room for a sequel to slip in seamlessly. The soundtracks are awesome, and there’s no denying Johnny Depp’s rendition of a pirate is frightfully entertaining. It’s no surprise that Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley opted out for the fourth film. It received a shockingly high 6.7/10 star rating on IMDb, considering so many people (who even went to see it) disliked it.
“The Tooth Fairy” accomplished the impossible: putting Dwayne Johnson, wrestler-turned-actor-into a tutu for two hours. This film was anything but entertaining; it was downright awful. I apologize sincerely to Julie Andrews for signing onto the film to have only 18% on Rotten Tomatoes. Even worse, a sequel was released not long after starring Larry the Cable Guy. Need I say more?
In more recent years from an animation standpoint, Disney has been a powerhouse, putting out hit after hit. In 2010, Disney Studios’ retelling of “Rapunzel,” “Tangled,” was a great hit among many. It had some awesome music, plenty of comic relief and was just a great feel-good film. Its song “I Can See the Light” won a Grammy for Best Song Written for Visual Media, and the film overall received countless nominations.
Most recently, “Frozen” has left more of an impact on audiences everywhere than all the snow in the northeast. There already have been announcements made about it being adapted to Broadway and a sequel in the works. Its soundtrack has made its way to the Billboard’s Top Ten list, and “Let It Go” slips in between all the Beyoncé and Kanye West on Spotify. Best part? “Frozen” offers a great lesson for viewers, and is different than anything Disney released before. I was taken aback when I first saw it, and it’s very difficult to dislike it.
Basically, Disney needs to leave the live-action work to DreamWorks, Warner Brothers, etc. As nice as it is to see them expand their horizons, they ought to stick with animation, as it seems they are doing fantastic in that area.