Disney's Weaponized Nostalgia
Due to Disney’s extensive catalogue of films that have spanned the last several decades, millions of people have nostalgia towards films that they enjoyed in their younger years. This extensive history has made them keen to lean on people’s nostalgia in order to make more money. Though their earlier attempts were more discrete, Disney had now become more brazen in their efforts to exploit people’s childhood memories. This has the potential to become worse over time due to Disney’s propensity to acquire large film studios such as Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox.
In recent years, Pixar has been especially guilty of exploiting nostalgia. Throughout its initial years, Pixar had consistently released imaginative, original films with messages that allow them to connect to both children and adults. Of the first 10 movies Pixar created, the only sequel that they made was Toy Story 2 in 1999. The following years didn’t arouse much of Pixar’s creativity as 6 of the next 10 movies were new iterations of their previous films. The success of their earlier films has made Pixar much more risk averse than they were before. Increased pressure from Disney has made it much more difficult for them to make unique and engrossing movies. While Toy Story 3 demonstrates that Pixar can still be creative with their sequels, it is still clear to see that Pixar has been relying too much on its past successes to survive.
Disney’s overuse of nostalgia can also be seen in their handling of the Star Wars franchise. The most prominent example is Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which blatantly retreads many of the key plot threads from Star Wars: A New Hope. The two cinematic side stories, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Solo, focus less on expanding the vast universe of Star Wars and give more focus to already known events that appease fans that have nostalgia for them. The plan to release new Star Wars movies every year is heavily restrictive to the creative potential which subsequently leads to making movies that rely on nostalgia, since they are almost guaranteed to succeed financially, even at the cost of the film’s integrity.
By far, the most obvious culprit of abusing nostalgia is Disney’s cavalcade of live-action remakes. Earlier efforts such as Alice in Wonderland(2010) and Cinderella(2015) could be argued as reintroducing the films to a new audience since the original films had been released more than 60 years prior to being remade. However, films such as the Beauty and the Beast(2017) and the upcoming remakes of Aladdin and The Lion King serve to remake films that are less than 30 years old and have barely been affected by the passage of time. These films also seem to follow a pattern of simply retelling the exact same story, instead of taking the time to add new elements or remove unfavorable ones. The studios will continue making these films because they know that they earn their profits back through name recognition alone.
With massive upcoming films such as Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, Spider Man: Far from Home, Star Wars: Episode IX and Frozen 2 releasing under its name, it doesn’t seem like Disney won’t ever have to make an original movie again. Disney’s immense wealth could easily allow them to allocate resources to more original films but it seems that they will only serve to make decisions that will guarantee them the most money as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they learned early on that nostalgia sells tickets and it will do so until the end of time.