Do live-action film adaptations ever work?

Sophie Hicks and Carl Smith Valdez argue for and against the creation of live-action films

Sophie Hicks
4th November 2019
Image: IMDB

From The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, live action remakes seems to be taking its toll in the Disney realm. This has raised concerns over originality, laziness and lack of creativity. Fear not. Live action adaptations can still work.

Adaptations can provide a visual update to animated texts and make them more accessible to today’s young generation. For instance, The Lion King can be enjoyed by children of today with its realistic CG animals. This undoubtedly will also spark nostalgia amongst older generation. Hence, both audiences are positively enhanced. Lion King had a $1.6billion gross worldwide since its first release. This goes to show how children can enjoy watching it for the first time whilst adults can see the original story re-imagined.

Another successful adaptation can be seen when How The Grinch Stole Christmas! (1996) was adapted in 2000. The Hollywood director, Ron Howard retains the meaning of this classical Dr Seuss story with his remarkable casting. One could not fail to recognise Jim Carrey’s humour and surreal moments which makes the film work. It is his energetic performance that builds more understanding and engagement to the film.

This therefore adds a new aspect into the story by adjusting it into something that is more resonant and relevant to today.

There are moments where this adaptation can be considered straying from the original content. It is the Whos who learn a valuable lesson on consumerism and political corruption. This therefore adds a new aspect into the story by adjusting it into something that is more resonant and relevant to today.

Through the live action adaptation, The Grinch is also humanised. All the overlooked aspects of the original are given light to – the love triangle between Marta May, Mayor Augustus and The Grinch. We can see his inner motives through an emotional backstory to his character. This gives the viewers a chance to empathise with his character and recognise his progression over the course of the story.

Additionally, Howard’s representation of Whoville from costume and set design is truly terrific. Its attention to detail brings depth and authenticity to the animated film.

If these two texts have been able to achieve worldwide successful from adaptations, then surely, we should give the future a chance.

Carl Smith-Valdez


I believe that any sort of adaptation/remake is extremely lazy on behalf of film and TV producers. Especially with the recent trend of Disney live-action remakes, my hate for them has only grown. I used to be excited about what films Disney had on offer every year, and now I just lose hope.

Firstly, the term ‘live-action’ is questionable at best- are CGI lions classed as ‘live-action’? Isn’t that just a different form of animation? When live-action remakes are made, it generally loses the soul of the original TV show/film because they get lost in translation from cartoon to ‘live-action’ and strays so far from the original source, the characters are unrecognisable.

I’m not mad that they choose different designs for characters, I’m mad because the original characters are generally so iconic (otherwise there wouldn’t be a franchise for a remake) that any form of differentiation causes chaos. No matter the remake, no one can be happy with a design, there’s always criticism- the team behind the Sonic the Hedgehog live-action learnt this the hard way.

What made Disney so iconic in the first place is that they made films that no one else dared achieve. I grew up idolising Disney, and now I find them lazy because live-actions are pure cash-cows; they make them because it’s guaranteed as a box office success because they already know audiences enjoy the story. I know they “adapt” the story, it’s just to satisfy the Reddit threads where people share minor critiques that really don’t affect the plot-point in any way, such as “WHERE ARE THE DISNEY PRINCESS MOTHERS?” that Disney now takes upon themselves to create a throwaway backstory for #cough# 2017's Beauty and The Beast. The ‘added-depth' backstories that Disney create are just a way to pad out the films, as a way to market it as a re-invention so people don’t feel like they’re watching the same film (spoilers, you are, and it’s worse.)

Personally, I hate them so much that at this point I refuse to watch them. I don’t want to support them, and I spend the entire time comparing the remake to the original, up to the point where the experience isn’t enjoyable in the slightest.

Sophie Hicks


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AUTHOR: Sophie Hicks
Former TV Sub-Editor for The Courier and BA Media Communication and Cultural Studies graduate

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