Why is Disney Being Cheap with its Original "Aladdin" Writers with its Live-Action Remake?


This past month, Disney unveiled the first teaser trailer for “Aladdin”, its latest remake of their animated classics set to release in Spring 2019. In addition to some glimpses of Iago flying above some epic CGI-generated landscapes, we also got to see a quick look at the Cave of Wonders and hear some pretty familiar dialogue,

“Only one may enter here,” the Cave says. “One whose worth lies far within. A diamond in the rough.”

I’m 100% sure we’re going to hear some of the more iconic lines of the original animated films in this remake. However, apparently Disney is being more than a bit stingy when it comes to paying the original writers of the animated film.

According to tweets by original screenwriter, Terry Rossio, despite the fact that the original writing team(which includes Ron Clements, Ted Elliott and John Musker) is being given credit for the original 1992 screenplay, they will not be given any compensation to the team for their work that may be featured in the film.

According to Rossio, this has been an ongoing issue with Disney and their live-action remakes. Because when these animated films were originally released 20+ years ago, no one was thinking that they would someday be remade as live-action films. So contracts were constructed in a way that the writers would only be paid for the original films. That means any remake, no matter how much dialogue they used from the original animated film, Disney wouldn’t have to pay the writers.

To add insult to injury, rather than payment for his work, Rossio asked Disney for at least a lifetime pass(an apparent accustomed practice) to its parks. His was denied. While you might question if Rossio is worthy of such a possession(which I would use a Genie’s wish for), he’s been responsible for some of the company’s biggest hits over the past two decades. In addition to writing “Aladdin”, Rossio has also written the screenplays for “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”. Then again he did write “The Lone Ranger” which may be the source of Disney’s spite.

Normally, you would think that a slight of compensation to this degree would be cause for the Writers Guild(WGA) to get involved but animated films aren’t covered by the WGA, so the writers are left out to dry. And while Rossio probably isn’t hurting for cash(he also wrote “Shrek”), many others might be. And especially if Disney is remaking animated films from 50 years ago, that means the estates of these writers(i.e. Joe Grant & Dick Huemer for “Dumbo”) are also being cut out from compensation.

To me, given the fact that Disney is the 2nd largest company in the world and that these remakes generally make a ton of money(2017’s “Beauty & the Beast” grossed $1.2 billion worldwide), there seems to be plenty to go around and give something to these writers. At least, a pass to the parks.