There has been a trend in Hollywood in the last decade or two. Many “new” shows and movies, instead of being written originally for the screen, are instead adaptations of something else. A book may find its way to the big screen, like The Fault in our Stars or Twilight. Stories and characters from successful video game titles may appear in episodic television shows— such was the fate of The Last of Us and Arcane. An animated movie may be remade in live action— what seems to be the fate of every Disney animated classic. In all of these cases, a piece of text is being translated to a new medium. This is known as remediation.
The medium used in a piece of text is going to determine how a viewer engages with it. A text’s medium will also affect how a creator crafts that text. The clearest example of this is the shift from traditional animation to live action. Because traditional animation consists of drawings, the creator is only limited by their own imagination. The film they create can be as fantastical as they desire. If it can be drawn, it can be animated, so the possibilities are endless.
When taking a film that was originally animated and translating it to live action, there are certain limitations that come with the shift in medium. If a movie is truly and strictly live action, the film crew is limited to what they can produce practically. If they choose to incorporate CGI, then they have a bit more leeway. However, there are still limitations, even with realistic looking CGI. Certain things just don’t translate well.
New Medium, New Problems
Take the newest adaptation of The Lion King. While it was marketed as live action, it was created entirely with 3D animation that was only meant to look realistic. Since the animals in the new movie were meant to look like their real life counterparts, the animation team was limited by the expressions possible on the real animals’ faces. Compare the expressions from the 1994 film to the 2019 version. The 1994 film pushed characters’ expressions to stir emotion in the viewer. When we see Simba’s horrified expression upon seeing the stampede, we feel his fear. The “live action” version doesn’t convey this same emotion. For most of the scene, Simba’s expression hardly changes. Real animals are not as visibly expressive as what can be drawn by an artist’s hand.
Many advancements have been made in 3D animation. As seen in The Lion King, we are now capable of creating beautiful and realistic landscapes and entities in a digital space, something that was not possible even ten years ago. What we see displayed in the 2019 film is an impressive achievement. Despite this, many people feel that the 1994 movie is the better film. Advancement does not always equal improvement. Just because a text is remediated, that does not mean it is made better by the new medium.