We Should Redefine How We Think About Adaptations & Remakes


Though we’ve grown accustomed to studios resurrecting old classics for new audiences, we're particularly cynical when Disney do it to their own back catalogue. We’ve entrusted the company for decades with the keys to our childhood memories, preserved forever in (mostly) 2D cartoon cels. That’s why the voracious speed at which the House of Mouse is now regurgitating them in cold, shiny 3D feels like a violation of that trust.

These remakes look rich and take riches to produce. In the way that the studio once dazzled audiences with 1937's groundbreaking Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, these lavish updates are also clearly being sold as upgrades. And, despite our discomfort, we’re buying into this hook. 2017’s Beauty and the Beast made over $1 billion worldwide.

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As much affection as we have for cartoons, at a certain age, we’re supposed to put away childish things. Medium snobbery, distinct from personal medium preference, is something we’re all probably guilty of. While live-action is considered universal in appeal, the mediums of film and television still have to contend with literature: the book was better. You might also be familiar with these preconceived stereotypes about other mediums: cartoons and comics are for kids, video games aren't art, all anime is pornographic and ultra-violent, too much CGI makes something bad.

Adaptations retold across different mediums allow a story to bypass these prejudices and reach new audiences. Someone who doesn’t play video games, for instance, might instead engage with the great stories they have to offer through quality adaptations like Netflix’s Castlevania series. While nostalgia undeniably factors in, if we had less medium snobbery, Disney probably wouldn’t see the financial merit in cannibalizing itself so eagerly.

While preserving classics in their original form is important, adaptations and remakes ensure that stories that shouldn’t be forgotten aren’t, even as our changing tastes and technologies threaten them with irrelevance. In the spirit of that, it bears repeating: “Storytelling is always the art of repeating stories, and this art is lost when the stories are no longer retained.”

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