I had a bad feeling about this from very early on. The tipping point for me when it came to subscribing to Disney+ was the arrival of Lucasfilms’ “The Mandalorian,” but I was also looking forward to seeing the (sort of) live action version of “Lady and the Tramp.” The latter was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and I spent more than a few hours listening to the Disneyland Long Playing Record at my grandparents’ house, reading along with the book that was part of the record jacket and turning the pages when Tinkerbell rang her little bell.
Unfortunately, there were a couple of major issues with this updated version. First of all, Jim Dear and Darling were cast as a mixed race couple, which I’m sure appealed to woke culture, but posed a real problem for a story set in 1909 Louisiana, a switch from the original setting of rural Missouri. Had the couple actually been of mixed race living in the American South there would have been substantial repercussions, probably including the lynching of Jim Dear and Darling. Add to that the 1950’s New Orleans jazz soundtrack (and the removal of the classic “We Are Siamese”) and what you get is kind of a mess. I managed to make it through one viewing and have since returned to the animated classic to get my Lady fix.
Overall, the Disney remakes are hit or miss. A couple have been quite good, others more of the one-and-done variety. Apparently The Little Mermaid is about to come ashore with a black Ariel, which seems an odd choice for a Scandinavian tale (tail?) but the real trouble didn’t start until Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was announced. Snow White was so named because her skin was “white as snow,” but Disney has reportedly cast Rachel Zegler (who was brilliant as Maria in last year’s West Side Story remake) as Snow White. Zegler, whose mother is Colombian, has a distinctly South American look to her, hence her casting as the Puerto Rican Maria, and therefore doesn’t exactly fit the role of Snow White. On top of that, it turns out that there are dwarves in Snow White, and apparently dwarves have been canceled.
I have zero objection to Disney making a movie about a Latina princess, and casting the beautiful and talented Zegler in that role would be a master stroke. Here’s an idea: make a new movie telling a new story about a new princess. Why do we have to keep recycling? I understand it helps with marketing, but look at what Lin-Manuel Miranda did with Encanto for Disney! They have a box office smash, a huge hit on the radio in “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” and none of the myriad picky little activist groups raised a stink about anything. That’s quite an accomplishment! Why not look into the rich Hispanic culture and find a princess to celebrate with a new movie?
When Disney first announced they were remaking some of their classic animated films it seemed an intriguing idea. Beauty and the Beast was quite good, aided by casting Emma “Hermione Granger” Watson in the lead role, Will Smith pulled off the impossible task of replacing Robin Williams as the Genie in Aladdin, Alice and Wonderland had the incomparable Johnny Depp headlining a great cast, but the aforementioned Lady and the Tramp and Dumbo were B-movie bad, Lion King was completely redundant, Mulan lost Mooshu, inexplicably gained Albus Dumbledore’s phoenix and became a Jedi, and as we move forward we are being subjected to ethnic and gender changes to classic characters….I just keep thinking WHY?!?
Like the rest of Hollywood, Disney seems to have largely run out of ideas, and they are too eager to fall back on the low-hanging fruit of past glories. The problem with that is that those of us who grew up with the classic stories don’t appreciate major structural changes aimed at making them more PC or more in line with what the ridiculous woke folks are willing to tolerate. We, the decades-long Disney fans, would prefer the woke folks just STFU and watch something else instead of robbing us of culturally rich stories about America’s past, even if that past was not what we might wish it had been. There is something to be learned from those stories, nonetheless. They give parents an opportunity to have meaningful conversations about what America was and why we want it to be something else now.
If you’re going to remake a movie, make it true to the original. If you can’t do that, don’t subject us to the stupidity of woke culture’s revisionist history.