Disney Stands Critic Proof

Disney’s latest live action remake is met with mixed reviews but the box office says differently


Disney's The Lion King press release image

Simba, voiced by Donald Glover in the live-action The Lion King film

Joshua Letona, Contributing Writer

“The Lion King” is the third Disney classic to live-action film this year to be received with a mixed reaction from critics.

With a $191 million domestic opening weekend, “The Lion King” has a new record for the largest opening for a film in July while currently holding a 52% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film also sports the highest grossing weekend for any of Disney’s live-action remakes, surpassing 2017’s “Beauty and the Beast” $174 million domestic opening weekend.

Disney’s latest trend began with 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland” and since then 10 more films have been released. Currently, these remakes have only had five films with positive reviews above 60% while the remaining six have “rotten” scores.

This makes for a tough year for Disney as their strategy to adapt their stories has been zero for three just this year critically. “Dumbo” stands at 46% and “Aladdin” at 56% on Rotten Tomatoes respectively, with “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” still set to release in the fall. 

Despite the critic scores, these films have mostly proven financially successful. As mentioned, “The Lion King” just had a huge opening weekend, easily making it on track to join the billion-dollar club especially due to the lack of competition for family films in the upcoming weeks.

“Aladdin” has also quietly made $989 million worldwide since its Memorial Day weekend release, potentially making it the next film to cross the billion dollar threshold. The only other Disney remakes to reach a billion were “Alice in Wonderland” and “Beauty and the Beast.” 

“The Jungle Book”, which was the first to show off the new CGI technology that made “The Lion King” possible, went on to make $966 million worldwide. 

Even moderate successes have some weight like the 2015 “Cinderella” with a $543 million worldwide haul and an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes. “Maleficent” carries a 54% on Rotten Tomatoes but still went on to make $758 million. 

Some of the failures Disney has ran into however come with Dumbo and the sequel “Alice Through the Looking Glass”, which both failed to cross $400 million. After production costs and marketing, both films are lucky to have even turned some profit.

According to Cinemascore, a movie appeal measuring site, despite critic scores, audiences have rated all these films with A- or higher proving general audiences are walking out satisfied.

The trend begins to show that these films are almost critic proof as only two of their films underperformed. Audiences also seem to have larger turnout for properties that were in their lifetime, in particular the 90s Disney classics. 

“The Lion King,” “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast” remakes are all the highest grossing and their original films were released in the 90s. 

This may point to very large success for Disney’s upcoming “Mulan” and “The Little Mermaid” which aim to make departures from its original films.

Both films may carry the nostalgia, but “Mulan” has set itself up to be a war film, losing its musical elements and bringing the action. “The Little Mermaid” will bring together a reported star studded cast with Halle Bailey as Ariel, Melissa McCarthy as Ursula and Awkwafina as Scuttle.

Disney has no reason to stop, as audiences line up to see their childhoods reimagined. The only advice Disney may consider is picking their projects more wisely as “Dumbo” proves not all these films are bankable just by name. 

Whether these remakes are needed or not, Disney is clearly here to stay and dominate the film industry.