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The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The Problem With Modern Disney

Image Courtesy of and
Image Courtesy of and

Disney movies (including Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, etc.) kinda…suck now.

Why is that the case, though? I have fond memories of watching Disney movies such as Wreck-It Ralph, Remember the Titans, and The Emperor’s New Groove. Even Pixar movies like Ratatouille and Monster’s Inc. were some of my favorites. Is it because I’ve grown up? Am I just no longer the target audience for Disney movies?


I went back to these movies recently to see if the child filter had worn off, and I would see these movies for what they really were. I was expecting shameless cash grabs meant for kids, yet that wasn’t at all what I got. Just as I remember, these movies were brilliantly crafted with smooth animation and themes that were executed beautifully. Yet when I take a look at modern Disney and Pixar movies such as Raya and the Last Dragon, The Little Mermaid (live-action), and Lightyear, they feel devoid of life and just plain awful. 

But what sets these movies apart from each other? It’s not nostalgia or budget. These modern movies tend to have budgets in the hundreds of millions, and I personally don’t have much nostalgia for movies, mostly games. So then, what could be the reason? Well, it comes down to writing and presentation.

Modern Disney movies are written horrendously. Gone are the days of deep, emotional messages and themes tucked away inside movies that anyone can find enjoyment in. Now, we’re stuck with films that feel like your basic kid’s movies with no thought or care put into them. Not only that, but the themes that the directors and writers think are powerful are nothing more than multi-million dollar turds. 

Take two Pixar movies for example: Up and Turning Red. In Up, the audience experiences themes of getting old and how refusing to move on causes a dull existence. Turing Red also dabbles with growing up, though it focuses more on finding yourself as a young adult. Regardless, Up works wonderfully, while Turning Red falls short. The reason for this is that the filmmakers of Up took time to flesh out the why. Why is Carl (the main character) the way he is? In one of the most emotional scenes in animated cinema, we meet Carl as a young boy and watch him meet his wife, grow old, and eventually deal with her death, which is something everyone has or will relate to. This sets a basis for the rest of the movie, and it makes his character arc much more enjoyable to watch.

Now take Turning Red. We’re introduced to the main character, Mei, in the opening minutes of the movie. Mei can transform into a giant red panda (the panda represents her will to break free and be independent). Mei’s relationship with her mother is the driving force of the movie. Her mother attempts to repress her panda and have her conform to be the woman she wants her to be. On paper, this sounds like a decent film. However, it is not executed very well.

The major arc in Turning Red is actually from Mei’s mother, who has to learn to let her daughter go and become her own person. Unlike Up though, this arc doesn’t feel very earned. The only people who might relate to these characters are mothers and daughters who have experienced this type of relationship before. To everyone else, it feels like Mei’s mom is the bad guy. The film tries to explain why she is the way she is by giving a brief explanation at the end of the film, but it feels too late and too little at that point. Unlike Up which establishes characters and motivations early for strong arcs, Turning Red tries to complete arcs in a sloppy manner which leads to a messy and bad story/watching experience.

That was just one example. This trend continues for almost all of Disney’s modern films, including Star Wars and Marvel. My belief is that Disney writers are trying for an action first, development later sort of approach. They wait until the rising action and climax to develop their characters, which just doesn’t work the way that they hope.

The other problem stems from presentation. Is it just me, or do Disney films look so much worse than in the past? Let’s look at the Marvel movies for an example. The CGI (computer-generated images used in live-action movies) continues to look worse and worse with each new Marvel project. When something looks significantly worse when technology is supposed to be getting better, it’s pretty annoying.

In a movie like Tangled, the animators took time to animate each strand of Rapunzel’s hair, and that film was all the better for it. In a movie like Raya and the Last Dragon, nothing about the animation feels special and it just looks plain boring (which makes the watching experience boring).

This is probably because Disney is not giving their animators enough time to complete projects these days. They want films done ASAP so they can release them and make a profit. However, their willingness to rush projects before the animators can give proper care just makes the movies bad and risks them flopping.

There are many other problems with Disney. Their new “Disney Genie” app for their amusement parks has not been well received, and they’ve been having a bit of a CEO crisis of late. However, Disney was built on films and animation, and that is why the recent failures of Disney movies are a massive problem. When the thing that built the company is indistinguishable from the bottom of a public porta-potty, it’s time to panic. As long as Disney fails to develop their stories and rushes their animators/VFX artists, it will continue to be a shadow of the company it once was. If they continue down this path, it won’t end happily ever after for them.

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