2019 is set to be a ‘blockbuster’ year with live action versions of several Disney classics set to hit the big screen. Remakes of The Lion King and Aladdin are set to be released following the success of this year’s non-animated recreations of The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast.
As most will know, these films are all adaptations of stories in other forms, such as plays, books or folktales. With the obvious advantages of better photorealistic animation and virtual cinematography technology aside, the question remains: why do we keep retelling the same stories, most notably folktales and fairy stories, in different mediums?
Perhaps it is due to the appeal of these folk stories to people of all ages. The original Hans Christian Andersen and Grimm brothers’ tales were far darker than the popularised versions we have today. There are over three hundred versions of Snow White, but the most notable recent versions (Maleficent and Snow White and the Huntsman) have taken a ‘grown-up’ tone – one far closer to that of the originals. Martin McDonagh’s new play A Very, Very, Very Dark Matter goes one step further taking a macabre look at the inspiration behind the work of Andersen. The capacity for people to grow and develop alongside ever-changing narrative makes these stories a reassuring crutch throughout life.
Part of the appeal of these stories might be the capacity to add our own stamp to them, as, when brought down to their fundamentals, they depict some of the simplest human emotions and relationships. The original story of Aladdin was still a rags-to-riches love story, but was set in China and showed the advantages that the eponymous hero gains from lying (a topic that Disney decided not to touch upon in their adaptation!) The upcoming film version of the story is also not set in China, but in Agrabah, and the 1940s screenplay placed the story in Baghdad.
English, Classics and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies students might like to further explore the concept of retelling of stories: the changes introduced and the strength of different mediums.