There’s something wrong with the Disney Vault. In the early 90s, the studio’s legendary safe housed all its classic animated masterpieces to force scarcity on the marketplace. Parents would have to run out to Suncoast Video and pick up a clamshell VHS copy of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs before the doors to the vault slammed shut. Today, with the Disney Vault’s content spilled across Disney+, one would have to take a trip under the sea to avoid coming face-to-face with a Disney princess, with the only things remaining in the vault being Song Of The South, 2022's Willow TV show, and all the titles Disney retired to nab a $1.5 billion tax write down. But what happens when Disney runs out of classics to remake?
With the release of Disney’s latest remake, The Little Mermaid, YouTuber captainmidnight posed that very question in their video “What Happens When Disney Runs Out of Remakes.” The 10-minute video essay ponders why Disney isn’t making sequels off its remakes and what the Mouse House will do when they’ve burned through its stockpile of true-blue masterpieces. The answer, thus far, is Mufasa, a Lion King prequel and the only follow-up officially announced to any of the studio’s recent output.
As the video points out, this is a problem the company has faced before. In the early 90s, when the video rental market was booming, Disney began cheaply and quickly producing direct-to-video sequels to its biggest hit. Titles like The Return To Jafar—which this writer credits as the first time he realized movies could be bad—made bank in the mid-90s as Disneytoon Studios pumped out animated adventures of Aladdin for nearly 90 episodes. Though the studio’s cheaply made double dips generated huge profits, it damaged the integrity and legacy of the original work, which this current string of remakes could do as well.
The whole video is worth your time as it ties together Disney’s content churn, past and present, and what all this could mean for Oscar-winner Barry Jenkins’ upcoming entry into the canon, Mufasa. Most importantly, it gives us a chance to really look at the digital effects in Guy Richie’s 2019 Aladdin in the cold light of day.