This Mouse is out of Cheese

My name is Daniel Miles

I am a film critic

And Disney is out of ideas.

Let me recap, at its shareholder meeting in San Francisco last week, Disney announced plans for a sequel to the mega hit Frozen as well as a Star Wars spin off Rogue One and (most blasphemously of all) a Tim Burton directed remake of Dumbo. This follows on from remakes of Cinderella and The Jungle Book.

However, they failed to announce a single new idea.

On the back of the announcement, stocks in Disney rose by 4%, all of these film are practically a licence to print money. So why am I uneasy?

After all, Disney is literally built on retelling stories in a new way. Most of its most famous films, including Snow White, Cinderella, Aladdin and Mulan are classic stories that were retold by Disney. Hell, even The Lion King is basicallyHamlet with lions. And I am aware that there are allegedly only 7 stories no matter how hard we try to invent new ones. But until recently, there were at least a smattering of new films released every year.

This issue isn’t just confined to Disney either; every studio is trying to create Franchises that can churn out film after film. Now why is this? Why are studios treating us like fussy children unwilling to try anything new on our plates?

Part of the reason is cost. When The Phantom Menace came out it cost 100 million dollars and sparked a huge discussion over whether it was too expensive but now nobody bats an eyelash. Focus, a perfectly forgettable Will Smith Vehicle cost 70 million, the new Divergent film cost 110. This also explains why most big films these days look like toy commercials, after a film is made it still has to be marketed so double all those figures up there.

With all this money at stake, who can blame studios for trying to play it safe? Why try and create a new golden goose when you have an old one that’s still going strong?

This logic also works in reverse. When Pixar released the Up its stock actually went down. People were seeing the movie sure, but where were the toys going to come from? The video game? Duvets?

Films get bigger and bigger because we want them to have more explosions and fight scenes, what wowed audiences back in the day is now a cliché, we keep expecting things to grow, CGI has removed any restrictions from what a film can look like, what a director can make real. And all of this wonder comes at the cost of anything new, any unexpected stories, films that somehow find their way into our hearts.  I’m not saying that there are no new films being released, but look at all the blockbusters coming out this year, what’s planned to come out, it’s all sequels and remakes.

At the end of the day though, studios aren’t to blame. We are. Films are a business, and if we stop going to see mega-blockbusters, then studios will stop making them. And until that day, Disney will keep being rewarded for remaking the same meals over and over again.


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