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Disney's Movie Chief on Managing Expectations for Remakes of Its Animated Classics

Nope. Still a nightmare, no thank you.
Nope. Still a nightmare, no thank you.
Image: Disney

Outside of Hot Jafar, very little of what very little we’ve seen of the live-action Aladdin has not done much to instill confidence in its necessitated existence. But according to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn, if the movie falters, it may be down to media over-exaggeration, and not, say, Will Smith’s Blue Man Group cosplay.


Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter as part of a wide-ranging interview, Horn was asked about Disney’s process of managing expectations in a banner year that is seeing the likes of Star Wars: Episode IX, Frozen 2, Avengers: Endgame, and more finally hit theaters...which somehow led to Horn immediately pivoting to saying expectations of Disney films are heavily skewed by press coverage, both good and bad.

It’s always a challenge because — and I say this with love and respect for media — the thing about these big movies is they get a lot of attention, whether positive or negative. So when they don’t work, like Solo, the media says it’s a failure. I think it was a pretty good movie. It didn’t resonate as much as we’d hoped it would, but the press writes it up in a more negative way than I would.


It was odd enough already, but while discussing the perception of Solo as a failure (which, Horn is right, wasn’t exactly a bomb, it just underperformed), Horn pivoted to expectations of how Aladdin’s potential at the box office is being watched much more closely than other would-be-busts, simply because it’s a Disney film:

These are very high-profile movies. If Aladdin, which I happen to think is a terrific film, doesn’t work somehow, that’s big news and much bigger news than if a movie somewhere else, like The Kid Who Would Be King [at Fox,] doesn’t work.

It’s especially interesting in the wake of the public blowback to the film’s imagining of Will Smith as the Genie, glimpsed for the first time recently. Which is less of any kind of media exaggeration and more of...well, people thinking that what Aladdin has shown off so far isn’t exactly setting the world on fire.

It’s the same for Disney’s other upcoming updated of an animated classic, The Lion King, which dropped a visually stunning first trailer that was critiqued for essentially being a shot-for-shot recreation of the original movie’s iconic opening scene. Horn’s response to that criticism?

Bring a handkerchief. It’s so emotional. But it’s a remake of an animated film, so there must be some percentage of the audience who will say, “Well, I saw the first picture.” All I can say for sure is you cannot tell these animals aren’t real.



But beyond whether or not Horn thinks Aladdin or Lion King or any of the other 50 billion live-action Disney remakes will work out okay, it’s wild that Disney can attempt to pass off media interest in the success—or failure—of its films as the press going after drama for the sake of big news. Disney is literally one of the biggest studios in Hollywood! It’s about to merge with another like some sort of giant, capitalist Voltron! Horn and the rest of Disney can’t get away with pretending they’re like some indie outlet when it comes to either the successes or failures of any of its films.


Whether Aladdin joins the latter remains to be seen, but it’ll be newsworthy, nightmare Blue Will Smith or otherwise.

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James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!

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Howard the Duck

Sooooo....and this is a radical solution, maybe...don’t do remakes of classics if you don’t want to be criticized for not living up to them? Because no matter what, you’re in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.