Today, Disney still stands as one the greatest (and definitely one of the richest) movie studios of all time. But when I was re-watching “Newsies” (1992) the other day, I realized something rather big. Though Disney is definitely still leading with their groundbreaking animated films (in collaboration with Pixar most of the time), it seems like their live action motion pictures (not counting Marvel movies) have seemed to decrease in quality from the days when they really started exploding in the cinematic scene. It’s really quite unfortunate because a lot of really iconic flicks and images actually come from the good ole live action Disney movies. In my opinion, Disney needs to fix their live action division and really begin to start investing time, money and quality into their live action films. They have the talent and the money, they just need to start taking risks again. I’m not going to go through the whole history from “Song of the South” (1942), but I want to look at a short time period of the most famous Disney live action movies because they are reason to why the major studio should really, really start making GOOD live actions films once again. So let’s rewind back to 1964 when they made…
Mary Poppins (1964) – One thing that made “Mary Poppins” work for Disney were the charming special effects, the memorable musical score and of course the Oscar winning performance of one Julie Andrews. What Disney needs to do for their films today is to stop conforming to new Hollywood and get back to their roots. Plain and simply, they should do musicals again. They had such a splash with “High School Musical” (2006) that with the right material and the right leading stars, then they might be competing for Oscars (with a live action movie) once again. Hope really isn’t lost yet in this category.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) – was another “Mary Poppins” like film that worked well for the Disney studios. Which just proves my point in why this formula actually works. The special effects of the film won an Oscar for Best Visual effects, which (correct me if I’m wrong) hasn’t been won by a Disney film in a long time. At least not by default. Disney has the money to look visually appealing, instead they’ve been spending their cash on crappy sequels and trash like teeny-booper masturbatory material like “Prom” (2011). Puke.
Honey I Shrunk the Kids (1989) – was a great family movie with a proper storyline that really kept things interesting in children’s cinema. Yet again, Disney proves itself to have innovative special effects and great visual story telling. Getting a comedian like Rick Moranis was another plus point. I think this was the beginning of the era when Disney produced so many quality family movies that were original and fun. Yes, people associated the studio to its long line of famous cartoons, but the cinematic part of the studio was not ignored. It was in full blast.
The Mighty Ducks (1992) – Even when they touched on sports, Disney could get it right. I’m sure a million of you can relate to growing up with this movie in the VCR. It was memorable and was such a cheesy guilty pleasure. This was the more manly side of the Disney movies, the film was able to touch on the masculine world of ice jockey but was able to bring the whole family into it as well. I can’t think of any other sports movie that does that anymore. Maybe “The Blind Side” (2009). But come on, that’s more of a Mother-Son relationship? And it’s not Disney! This was about sports, growing up, teamwork and family.
Newsies (1992) – the sad thing about “Newsies” is that it was too judged when it first came out in 1992. It even got a Razzie nomination for one of its songs. But when you look at “Newsies” today, it’s nothing short of a unforgettable family classic. And it has a great score! This is one thing the Razzies got wrong, because “Newsies” was a pleasure to watch. The young Christian Bale is probably one of the best child actors that Disney ever put in one of their movies. He got the accent of Jack Kelly spot on!
Hocus Pocus (1993) – This I have fond memories of. It was a little bit scary but also really funny in the same time. At this time, Disney was making all the right choices when it came to casting. We had three brilliant comedic actresses as evil witches, headed by the very talented Bette Midler. I’m yet to see another Halloween comedy like this won. It was too dark for kids to watch alone, but it had themes that were truly universal for the entire movie.
Flubber (1997) – I don’t think Disney has the calibre to catch the attention of the acting skills of such a talented man such as Robin Williams anymore (Johnny Depp, who? He can’t compare!). “Flubber” isn’t entirely a spectacular film, but something in it worked. It was good old cheesy fun. And I really don’t judge it. When big movie stars (that aren’t Johnny Depp) begin to take Disney movies by the helm again, then I’ll be impressed. They need to start working on this as soon as possible because Disney usually digs up the best source material. They just need to know the right people to give it too. Eddie Murphy in the later “Haunted Mansion” (2003) gave me nightmares. Don’t get me wrong, the movie wasn’t terrifying. But it was terrifyingly bad.
The Parent Trap (1998) – This one’s actually a personal favourite of mine. If you look at my blog closely, I actually praise the film a lot. I think the whole production value of the entire picture is so good, that it’s lack of awards consideration is beyond me. You know how when you watch a animated Disney movie, you feel all sappy inside? This is what “The Parent Trap” makes you feel. Disney needs to hone the sappiness they put in their animated features and start producing movies that make people “feel” again. Hell, this was even a remake! Look back at your repertoire Disney! You seem to love to resurface material, how about getting the old good ones and making them new good ones?
The Princess Diaries (2001) – When Disney decided to bring Princesses to life, it worked so well, that “The Princess Diaries” instantly became a modern day classic. Today it’s still remembered as probably Anne Hathaway’s most iconic and star-making performance. Disney can boost an actor up so high and they don’t even realize it.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) – I think when the movie came out, a lot of people (including me) was really looking back up to Disney’s quality in terms of live action film. The film won box office and critical acclaim, and garnered an Academy Award nomination for Johnny Depp in his leading role as Jack Sparrow. But of course, it didn’t. The film ended up producing two horrible sequels and a lot of mula in between. Though the money’s good, I urge Disney to use that money and start making good live actions films again. Maybe even use “Pirates” as a model for these films. And I’m not saying put Johnny Depp in another ridiculous costume, because “The Longer Ranger” (2013) isn’t looking too good. I’m saying get a substantial screenwriter, come up with a irresistible story, have high production value and make something for the whole family to see together.
High School Musical (2006) – I’m not going to be a hater, because admittedly I’m not much of a hater for this film. I’m not exactly fond of it, but the truth is “High School Musical” is clearly Disney’s biggest hit in a long time, in terms of live action. The sad thing about the film series is that it’s made for TV. By the time the third one came around for the cinemas, it became nothing but cheap tricks and Zanessa looking all cute together (don’t ask me why I know their “shipped” name). But really, if Disney put themselves out there and released High School Musical in the movies houses, I think it would be an ever bigger money maker then it ever would be for television. Come on…admit it, you know one of the songs!