I’m not sure a Disney movie ever made me cry before this year.
With the exception of Cinderella (2015), which I half-watched at someone’s house without being fully immersed in the experience (I need to watch it again), I have wept during the majority of Disney’s live action remakes thus far. Granted, that’s only two movies at the time I’m writing this — The Jungle Book (2016) and Beauty and the Beast (2017).
But I didn’t expect to have that kind of reaction. I mean, they’re just movies.
Except they’re NOT just a movies. It’s like your favorite book playing out on screen in front of you, but it’s better than the book. It’s everything you’ve hoped for … and a thousand times more.
I can’t say what this experience might be like for someone who didn’t grow up watching Disney movies. Because I’m not one of those people.
Some of us (myself included) grew up watching these cartoons, these kid-friendly, quirky tales, many of which we watched over and over and over again. And they were special. They kept us entertained when we were small. They have given us excuses to sing in the car on the way to work even in our 20s.
But then we’re sitting in these theaters looking forward to watching these movies again as adults and we expect it to be fun and interesting. Instead we’re watching the stories of our childhood come to life before our eyes and it’s not what we expect. Because they’re good and they’re beautiful and it’s nearly impossible to explain how that makes us feel.
During both experiences, I felt like I was literally watching a dream come true. It was so hard for me to believe that something first made decades ago could be revived in a way that made me feel more excited than I have in a very long time.
But I really shouldn’t have been all that surprised. A good story, after all, is also a foundation. There is room to expand, to build upon an original idea (or multiple) to create a completely new experience. There are dozens of books that discuss the fundamentals of storytelling — what makes a story good and how writers have used similar basic frameworks for crafting tales for centuries.
It amazes me that you can walk into a movie theatre — in the case of Beauty and the Beast — knowing the exact outline of a story, knowing where it’s going to start and end and everything that happens in-between — and still leave that theatre two hours later as if having just heard that story for the first time.
I am still skeptical of movie remakes. I think that’s just what we’ve come to expect when it comes to Hollywood. But with each new live action remake, I am more and more amazed at what Disney has managed to do over the past few years.
They know how to expand upon the elements of the original movies that only benefit from expansion. And they know exactly which elements to keep, even the smallest details — the things that capture the hearts of we “Disney kids,” now adults who don’t even know how hungry for nostalgia we actually are until it’s right there in front of us.
These are not new stories. They weren’t new when Disney made them into movies the first time. Yet we still aren’t tired of watching them. And I don’t think we ever will be.
I don’t like comparing myself to other writers. I think it’s a waste of energy, and it doesn’t actually accomplish anything. But I — we — can still aspire to create things that will continue to captivate people for decades. I don’t want to write the best thing: I just want to write something good. Something a reader has an emotional connection to. Something important.
Keep doing what you’re doing, Disney. At least in my opinion, it’s working.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.