BY Alison Lam

As cheesy as it is, even with the occasional controversy, I still can’t give up Disney.

And I doubt that I’m alone—box office statistics prove that Disney films - crappy live remake or not - still retain a massive following. Yes, the Disney Corporation has acquired so many notable companies it practically dominates the film industry, but ultimately, public reception of their films determine the longevity of a franchise.

So how does Disney do it?

THEORY 1: Childhood Reminiscence

The majority of us have watched Disney animated films and shows as kids and have fond memories of them. I’m talking about the classics. Pinocchio, the Disney Princesses, Aladdin. Considering all the live-action remakes and sequels Disney has been pumping out in recent years, we should probably have an inkling that Disney is appealing hard to our childhood nostalgia. Yet what about these OG films draw us under their spell? There are several possibilities.

Think of Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio, or Genie from Aladdin. These are characters that have their own personable quirks and catchphrases that are deeply ingrained in our minds. As children, we loved them because these characters were downright hilarious, and were in the thick of all the action. Seeing them on the big screen again (or whatever device you’re using to watch the film) is kind of like seeing an old friend.

Disney and Pixar animations are another key aspect in drawing adults back. Flash back to the good ol’ days when you saw the classic white Disney castle to show up on screen along with its iconic theme and blue background. That’s the Disney that many of us grew up with. While its shape has somewhat evolved over the years, the Disney (and Pixar) logos still magnanimously fill up the screen and reminds us of all the times we watched Disney as a child. We’ve kind of been Pavlov’d in a way, since we’ve come to expect modern Disney movies to have the same captivating standard we saw as kids.

Last but certainly not the least, the songs! Before ‘Let it Go’ (thank goodness people let this song go), there was ‘Under the Sea’. Disney practically specialises in songs. From its animated franchise to the TV shows to High School Musical, this media corporation has produced a massive repertoire of emotionally powerful songs with catchy tunes that one simply cannot resist singing along. Let’s not forget about their soundtracks either, for they are equally as enchanting as the sing-a-long songs themselves. The music makes up for at least half the experience of watching a Disney flick, and dare I say it, is the main reason why audiences remain so entranced with Disney.

THEORY 2: Adult Humour Within The Films

We’ve all been there before: you’re just chilling re-watching the animated classics when you feel like a blindfold is being taken off your eyes. Dumbo was drunk?! Cars had a strip club reference?! Who knew that these supposedly ‘kids’ films had so many sexual innuendos? Granted, Disney was probably looking to also entertain the parents accompanying their children at the movies, but the amount of adult references skilfully embedded within the films and got away with is practically pure genius. Watching past Disney animations is undoubtedly an eye-opening experience and will surely elicit a chuckle from the adult you—and also leave you pondering as to what other messages Disney may have left behind. Cue next Disney marathon.

THEORY 3: Timeless Tales

Though a large portion of the Disney films are adaptations of well-known stories like from Grimms' Fairy Tales, the animated classics from the Disney vault will never get old. Ranging from spine-tingling adventures to romance to familial anecdotes, Disney films have typical but ageless themes in their storytelling that still appeal to audiences of all ages. Clichéd as it may be, Disney’s creative staff work to bring forth the magic in simplicity. Despite working in similar genres, each movie has its own individual charms that differentiate it from the rest, which is why viewers continue to be kept at the edge of their seats—no matter how many times they are retold. Notable films include Brother Bear and The Fox and the Hound, where both tales explore the notion of family versus friendship, but with very different outcomes. Well, except for the part where audiences are left bawling at the ending…or maybe that’s just me. 

So there you have it. Complain about the remakes all you want, but you cannot deny that we are still caught under Disney’s spell—for better or worse.

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