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What the new 'Snow White' announcement says about Disneys live-action remake strategy
A scene from Disney's 1937 "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." - photo by Jeff Peterson
Another month, another announcement from Disney about a live-action adaptation of one of its animated classics. And this time around, its a biggie. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney has hired The Girl on the Train screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson to pen an update of Walts original princess movie, 1937s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

With a string of recent hits like Kenneth Branaghs Cinderella and Jon Favreaus The Jungle Book, Disney has shown that it has no qualms whatsoever about plundering its back catalogue of beloved animated titles. Thankfully, its track record so far has been pretty stellar, which has kept the fan backlash to a minimum.

But even among other Disney movies, Snow White is special. Not only was it the first in what has proven to be a rich history of fairy tale adaptations at the studio that continues today with movies like Frozen (an adaptation of The Snow Queen) and the upcoming Gigantic (Jack and the Beanstalk), but Snow White is also frequently cited as the first feature-length animated movie ever made using cel-animation.

So even after most people have grown numb to hearing about their favorite childhood memories being revamped, rebooted or remade for modern audiences, this announcement could still draw some strong reactions whether thats unbridled excitement at the chance to see Snow White reimagined in a new, fresh way or outrage that Disney would dare to mess with its foundational animated feature.

But whichever camp youre in, this development is potentially significant for a different reason, as well.

Beginning with Beauty and the Beast next March, there are at least 16 animated-to-live-action adaptations in the works at Disney, from Dumbo to Mulan to The Lion King and those are just the ones that have been made public. With so many projects being actively developed, its beginning to seem like it might just be easier if Disney instead told everyone which movies it wasnt planning to remake. (Ahem, that means you, The Black Cauldron.)

But announcing a live-action Snow White now seems to indicate a strategy on Disneys part when it comes to its live-action remakes meaning, this spate of announcements might not be just a blatant attempt to cash-in on nostalgia by adapting anything and everything as quickly as possible the way some fans have begun to fear.

And the evidence for this is simple: Among the projects that were announced in the last year, one of them already involved the Snow White story namely, a sidequel to the 1937 Disney classic titled Rose Red. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Rose Red would take place after Snow White ate the witchs poisoned apple and would follow Snow Whites heretofore-unknown sister, the titular Rose Red, as she undertakes a dangerous quest with Grumpy and the other dwarves to find a way to break the curse and bring Snow White back to life.

And in terms of development, Rose Red seemed like it was already pretty far along, too. It had a script by Justin Merz, a rewrite on the way from Evan Daugherty (who also wrote Universals Snow White and the Huntsman as well as the sequel) and a handful of producers attached.

Why is this important? Well, it suggests that at least some of the projects announced in the last few years may never see the light of day, and the studio knows it. In the case of Rose Red and the newly announced Snow White adaptation, its extremely unlikely, to say the least, that Disney would opt to compete with itself by releasing two movies based on the same story. Even when two different studios try that, it never ends well. Just look at the all-too-relevant example of Snow White and the Huntsman vs. Mirror, Mirror."

More than anything, the fact that so many live-action remakes are all being simultaneously worked on indicates that Disney is using a shotgun approach to the pre-production process throwing a lot of resources into developing as many adaptations as it can because this kind of adaptation has proven to be a hot commodity right now, just to see what, if anything, comes out of it.

A studio greenlight, after all, doesnt necessarily mean a movie is ever going to get made. It wasnt too long ago now that Disney was still working on another, very different version of Snow White that has since been scrapped a Kung Fu-inflected reimagining titled, at first, Snow and the Seven," and later, "Order of the Seven." Like many of the projects recently announced, this radical retelling of the Snow White story had writers (Michael Chabon, Spider-Man 2, and Michael Anrdt, Toy Story 3) and directors (Yuen Woo-Ping, fight choreographer for the Matrix movies, and effects artist Michael Gracey) attached at various points, and it had even managed to attract big-name talent (Jet Li, Natalie Portman and Saoirse Ronan).

In other words, all of the 16-plus announcements that Disney has made about live-action remakes, including Snow White, should probably be taken with a big grain of salt.

Its worth noting, too, that, after Beauty and the Beast hits theaters this March, only one out of the other 15 remakes has an official release date so far, and thats the live-action Mulan, scheduled for Nov. 2, 2018.
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