Disney, the studio behind “The Jungle Book,” became the Mouse House That Roared again this week with another live-action adaptation of one of its classic animations.
And with cartoon vaults as deep as Ariel’s ocean, Disney may be re-purposing its old films for many decades ahead.
It must be asked: Is this what we really want? Our childhoods reinvented and suffused with shimmery gimmicks? Should cryogenically frozen classics be again reanimated and remade as hot, new sandboxes for all these state-of-the-art pixels (nearly two decades after Disney’s far less high-tech live-action “Jungle Book,” from 1994)?
Well, no matter your answer, it’s too late to stop this ride.
The new live-action-but-mostly-computer-generated “The Jungle Book” opened this weekend — and it is already the seventh biggest film of the year, at $291-million in global gross.
The remake of Disney’s 1967 cartoon (based on the Rudyard Kipling tales) also won the weekend domestically with $103.6-million, according to studio estimates Sunday; final numbers are due Monday afternoon.
That represents the second biggest April debut ever (not adjusted for inflation), runner-up only to last year’s “Furious 7.”
Commercially, the film is hitting on all cylinders, and all demographic quadrants, as it reaches young and old — and draws male and female audiences nearly equally. (And to the kids, there is often little association with the cartoon originals, of course; these new films are the fresh bricks of their childhood under construction.)
The longer trend that matters to the studio, however, is that the domestic debut for Jon Favreau’s “The Jungle Book” trails only 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland” ($116.1-million opening) in Disney’s recent flight-of-fantasy adaptations.
Which means that it fits right in alongside not only Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” (which went on to gross more than $1-billion worldwide), but also “Oz the Great and Powerful” ($79.1-million domestic opening), “Maleficent” ($69.4-million debut) and last year’s “Cinderella” ($67.9-million).
Disney now has many great and powerful themed cinematic universes under its towering tent, of course — including Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar and Disney Animation — but perhaps nothing looms as more of a sure thing than Disney’s own classic cartoon library. Who knows when we might see another Disney remake open big?
What’s that? “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” the sequel to the 2010 hit, opens in just a month?
Well, we did say that it was too late to halt the cartoon-vault raid, and the parade of resulting remakes.
Resistance is futile. We must accept those words of cinematic wisdom from yet another great Disney animation:
It’s the circle. The circle of life.