By now you’ve probably heard that people still really, really like The Lion King, particularly in the third dimension. Through three weeks, Disney’s re-release has pulled in an extra $86.8 million (as of 10/10, c/o Box Office Mojo) to add to its all-time $415 million. As expected, the speculation has commenced as to why it’s making money. Amusingly enough, not one of the many postulations has actually looked at the simple fact that The Lion King is still just a really good movie. After all, who doesn’t love anthropomorphic creatures re-enacting Shakespeare, with Jeremy Irons playing the most campily seductive male character to completely fly under Disney’s radar?
Since the name of the game for today is pop sociology, though, let’s consider a few angles as to why this is so popular, and what it’s going to cause.
It’s instant nostalgia.
This one, I think, goes without saying to a degree. We’ve become a nation that’s hooked on immediate rememberance. Look at VH1’s ridiculous and ill-fated I Love The ’00s, in which comedians at varied levels of mediocrity bantered about the Transformers movies. So, it’s only fitting that the movies we loved as kids, eight years ago, are now finding a new life using the technology we adore. Of course, that’s discounting all the people who really just miss when a movie was in two dimensions and didn’t cost a fucking dowry, but I digress. The troublesome thing about the success of Lion King is that it sets a precedent even beyond the already problematic trend of constant remakes, because the middle man that at least allows for reinterpretation is being cut out. Now, we’re just watching the same movies we like, because we know we’ll like them.
Nothing good is coming out.
This ties into my last point a little bit, but the misconception every generation has that the pop culture and art of the prior generation was superior is finally reaching its inevitable moment where it starts encroaching on the current one. To even say that Disney movies aren’t as good as they were is untrue; taking the easy Pixar comparison off the table, in the past few years they’ve put out The Princess and the Frog and Tangled, both incredibly entertaining and very much within the tradition of the Mouse House. I’d argue it’s harmful to start pining for the films of yesteryear as the only possible medium, and for companies to start enabling this, because over time (should this extend beyond Disney and become a larger trend) it’s going to teach audiences that they can just latch onto movies they liked at one point and not have to get out and experience other things. It’s also only a temporary salve on the problem of fewer people going to movies, and will always be only temporary no matter what coat of paint you slather on.
It’s only the first.
Because Disney is never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, the Disney Vault (Anyone else find that creepy, by the way? I really feel like that’s where cryo-frozen Walt is kept, next to the VHS copies of The Brave Little Toaster) will open up and let out four more movies to be redistributed in 3D over the next two years. We’ll first see Beauty and the Beast come January 13 of next year, then Finding Nemo on September 14. 2013 will yield Monsters Inc. on January 18, and The Little Mermaid come September 13.
Of those, the Pixar movies are more worthy of getting excited about. The Lion King transfer came out surprisingly well, and who wouldn’t get hyped about, say, the door-hopping sequence in Monsters or pretty much anything in Nemo? On the other hand, there’s something vaguely distateful about traditional hand-drawn Disney animation, the beauty of which has transcended generations, getting the 3D treatment, and coming out looking like a pop-up book. Lion King was at least a hybrid by the mid-’90s, and the same could be said for Beauty, but what of Little Mermaid? Will it be a $20 Golden Book? (That’s allowing that movies, by late 2013, are still merely $20. Or, you know, that we’re not all dead because of the Mayan apocalypse.)