Stop. Just stop with the live-action movies (I’m looking at you, Disney). In the first place, you can’t take an animated movie and completely turn it into a live-action. “Live-Action” Beauty and the Beast still had tons of CGI (hello- Dan Stevens face!), and while CGI may not be animation in the purest sense, it certainly isn’t real life. The recent live-action Aladdin did an admirable job updating the animated movie, for example replacing “brush up your Sunday salaam” with the accurate “brush up your Friday salaam” but there’s still animation. Will Smith might be fly, but even he can’t fly.
You may be wondering if live-action movies exist. Never mind the fact that literally, every movie with living people is a live-action movie, there’s also this thing called theater. It combines living people with props and special effects to create the original live-action movie. For their most recent “live-action” movies like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and the upcoming the Lion King, Disney already had them created in the form of their musicals. For significantly less money they could have simply filmed a performance of their Broadway or touring production and released that into theaters. Those performances might be minus the star power of Will Smith or Beyoncé (see below for thoughts on the horrific casting of The Prom adaptation for Netflix), but it more than makes up for it with stunning visuals and incredible songs. Songs that actually make sense and enhance the plot and show.
With the new Aladdin movie, while good, I couldn’t help wonder why “Proud of Your Boy” was omitted. The addition to it in the Broadway production adds depth to the character of Aladdin. No longer is he simply a rakish thief who knows stealing is wrong, but you learn he truly wants to end his thieving ways and is desperate to be more to make his (deceased) mother proud. Instead, we were treated (heavy dose of sarcasm on that word) to Jasmine’s “Speechless,” which is a forced attempt to re-create the magic of Frozen’s, “Let It Go.” What started as a decent attempt to delve into Jasmine’s story and bring out her independent spirit, became whiney when the full song came out later in the movie. Jasmine needs her own moment but take a page from the Broadway production and give it to her in a quietly moving way ala “Proud of Your Boy” vs. trying to recreate what no one knew at the time would be a runaway hit ala “Let It Go.”
Speaking of songs, the same thing happened with Beauty and the Beast. Instead of keeping the Beast’s stunning Act 1 finale number, “If I Can’t Love Her” it was replaced with the lackluster “Evermore” (so lackluster in fact, I had to google the title of the song.) If both songs convey the Beast’s heartache and longing, why try to fix what isn’t broken?
*Almost as soon as I finished this piece, Netflix announced their cast for their adaptation of The Prom musical. Again- why? You didn’t do that with Newsies- Newsies was filmed in LA, released into theaters and was so damn successful it was re-released multiple times and is a popular addition to the Netflix queue. Why this stunt casting for The Prom? The OBC didn’t receive 7 Tony Award nominations for being meh. I know The Prom just announced its closing, but it’s not like the cast stopped being incredible in their roles. Its closing has more to do with money and short-sightedness than lack of talent or a good libretto. So Netflix, how about you focus on releasing Season 3 of The Crown and simply send some cameras over to the Longacre Theatre stat to film the OBC in all their glory and prom finery.
In conclusion, if you’re going to remake your animated movies into “live-action” ones or adapt Broadway musicals (or even plays) here’s my advice. First- stop. Talk to the theatrical division of whatever movie studio or streaming service you work for and see if you already have a performance running that’s filmed or available to film. Then use that. Release that into theaters. All the work has been done. New songs were written, real people performing and clearly, it works; otherwise, you wouldn’t have it available. Stop pandering to those who only see something because of a specific actor/actress. Stop trying to recreate organic moments and let them happen naturally (and I realize filming a live production doesn’t have the same flow as seeing it live, but it’s better than what’s been happening). Give us the songs, the dances, the people who train day in and day out to entertain and let them do what they do best. Just let them do it through a different medium.
Sincerely, audiences everywhere.