Recycled Magic: Has Disney Run Out of Ideas?
It was recently announced that Disney Studios will make a new Mary Poppins film musical, one that tells the further adventures of the Banks family with the titular nanny, some twenty-years after the original stories. Hairspray and Bombshell composing team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman are on board to provide music and Rob Marshall, director of Disney’s film adaptation of Into the Woods is set to direct. In recent years it has been de riguer for the House of Mouse to make live action versions or adaptations of films they have already made: Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, and Maleficent come to mind, as do the forthcoming Beauty and the Beast and The Jungle Book. This is not to say that I am opposed to “new” Mary Poppins film musical, but isn’t it starting to feel that a lack on ingenuity and creativity is resulting in audience being served up a lot of reheated properties?
Money is money, and of course Disney has seen great success with these live-action versions of their beloved animated classics, so why am I feeling a little cheated? For one thing, Disney has always been at the forefront of creative and imaginative ideas. It was always exciting to see how the studio would animate a favorite children’s story like Snow White, The Little Mermaid or Peter Pan, or bring to life an exciting adventure tale like The Swiss Family Robinson, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or Treasure Island. We’ve all come to expect great things from Disney, and now it seems as though our investment and trust are taken for granted. They assume we will show up to relive these experiences in a new form, instead of doing what they truly do best: inventing NEW magic.
I am not saying that I believe a Mary Poppins sequel will be bad. It might be quite good. There is already great talent on board. My question is: why do it? With all of the resources and creative talent owned by Disney, why not expand their cinematic world with inspired, new storytelling instead of banking on recycled magic of projects past? In a blog post a few weeks ago, I discussed all of the possible projects Disney should consider. That list made ten suggestions, whittled down from myriad possibilities that had crossed my mind (and certainly others must think about the fairy tale they are still waiting to see).
This trend in Disney filmmaking will hopefully end soon when the powers that be stop counting the money in the till and instead remember why the studio was started in the first place. Yes, old Walt Disney was a practical businessman, but he was also a dreamer with the wherewithal to know that his audiences would continue to want something new and fresh. I am apprehensive to believe that he would have green lit Toy Story 4 when he would have known that there are so many other stories to be told.
A new Mary Poppins will be lovely; I have no doubt about it. I, however, would be more excited to see them get out of this swamp of baiting audiences with lukewarm nostalgia and take some risks on something new. This would extend to their producing of Broadway musicals, where they have become similarly mired. I say all of this because I have a great deal of respect and love for Disney and I know that they are simply capable of more. Astound us with the type of surprising magic that has ignited our love or you in the first place. Faith, trust and pixie dust: it’s always been your best recipe.