Many have speculated that Disney’s latest craze of converting popular animated classics into live action adaptations is a thinly veiled cash grab. The main reason for this belief is…it’s basically true. Nonetheless, I am a firm believer in the idea of gleaning writing tips from all manner of genres. Disney’s conversion of a popular animated classic to a live action film offers a bevy of useful writing tactics that one can glean:
Play up the Nostalgia…
If you are revamping an already loved classic like Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, cranking up the nostalgia is key. When marketing this film, Disney went to great lengths to remind viewers of those key points which made them fall in love with the original, most notably the “Be Our Guest” hashtag which followed the trailer, denoting the classic song from the original. By reminding viewers of these key points, the writer’s subtly send the message that this film will be just as memorable as the original.
…But Be Sure to Mix in Something New
When putting together a remake, you can’t be afraid to shake things up with new characters, themes, and plot points. In the live action film, characters like Lefou, Agatha, and Maestro Cadenza were either reimagined or new creations altogether. These additions and revamps add a greater level of depth and complexity to the film which one would expect from a live action adaptation.
One of the main reasons for doing a remake is to add more to the story. Fleshing out backstories is a prime way to achieve this goal. Backstories help provide motivations for characters and explain potentially confusing plot devices. In Beauty and the Beast, Disney delves into Belle’s backstory in Paris to explain her presence in the village and the mystery surrounding her mother’s absence. Backstories answer the question “why” and are a key reason remakes and prequels are crafted.
Fill in the Plot Holes
Similar to fleshing out backstories, remakes are the perfect opportunity to fill in aggravating plot holes from the original. No one is perfect, and in creating complex story lines and character arcs it is very easy to miss tiny errors. Putting together a remake gives writers that all elusive chance to fix lapses in continuity or story logic. In Beauty and the Beast, Disney’s writers skillfully corrected a famous plot hole from the original: since the castle is apparently so close to the village, why does no one know it exists? To remedy this conundrum, the live action remake states that in addition to the prince and castle being placed under a curse, all memory of them was lost on the villages within the kingdom.
Add Your Own Twist
Finally, putting together a remake allows writers a rare gift: putting your own twist on a well-known story. Though something of a tightrope walk, adding your own writing style and flavor to a previously established story is a key part of putting together a remake. No one wants to see a shot for shot reproduction of the original; they want a taste of the old with a splash of the new. For many, changing established story and character elements can seem almost like sacrilege, but without adding “your own signature”, you deny the audience the chance to see a new side of their favorite stories and characters. In the live action Beauty and the Beast, both Belle and the Beast are painted a bit more playfully, engaging in banter and humorous wordplay. This helps add depth to the progression of their relationship and makes future events more believable.
Ultimately, remakes are something of a tricky business. Their existence requires more justification than an original work; you must work harder as a writer to prove the story needs to be told, or in this case, retold. One must also carefully tread the line between a complete duplicate of the original and a revamp so different from the source that it is unrecognizable. Characters and plot points must be respected for what they are: creations belonging to someone else. If written improperly, a remake will come across as a disappointing façade of something that was once well loved. If crafted skillfully however, a remake can enhance and add to the enjoyment of the original work, allowing audiences to fall in love with characters and stories all over again.
Jonathan Vars is a Christian fiction writer from New England, and founder of the writing website voltampsreactive.com. His latest novel “Like Melvin” is currently available on Amazon and Google Books. In addition to writing, Jonathan enjoys running, hiking, and trying not to freeze to death in the winter.