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Why Is Disney Trying So Hard to Dilute Its Brand?

Why Is Disney Trying So Hard to Dilute Its Brand The Atlantic


So why the live-action remake binge? It's not that Disney has given up on animation, although it's refocused its attention from hand-drawn work to computer-animated hits like Frozen and Big Hero 6—a reflection of industry trends more than anything else. Rather, the move is a focused expansion into territory Disney has cautiously explored for years. In 2010, the studio releasedThe Sorcerer's Apprentice, a big-budget fantasy-adventure film vaguely inspired by Fantasia's famous sequence. It bombed, partly because it was hard to tell if it was being pitched at kids or teenagers, and partly because its source material was barely identifiable beyond the film's title.

Disney has made similar mistakes in the past, mistakes that usually fall along the same lines: abandoning what works. After dominating the animated film sphere in the '90s with its renaissance of sorts, the studio started producing more niche non-musicals like Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet, both of which which tanked, and doomed the tradition of hand-drawn animation. Now Disney has bounced back with the old is new again approach: The Rapunzel retelling Tangled and the Hans Christian Andersen-inspiredFrozen both took the classic formula of an established tale, an exotic locale, and some songs, and turned them into smash hits.

The live-action remakes offer a safe road, too, and the Tim Burton remake ofAlice in Wonderland and last year's Maleficent had much in common. Neither was well-reviewed, but both earned staggering grosses worldwide by leaning in to the recognizable: big stars (Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie), the imagery of beloved Disney classics, and, of course, a juicy CGI budget. Both films had enough action to expand beyond the constricting label of children's entertainment without entirely leaving that territory behind (both were rated PG, an increasing rarity among big-ticket blockbusters).

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Perhaps Disney feels like this is not diluting its brand but rather extending its brand.

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