A Summer of Nostalgia


Earlier this year, Avengers: Endgame played with the the idea of time travel. Now a few short months later, I feel like we are in a real life time jump, as everything that I loved as a kid came back into the mainstream light.

Over the course of three months, Disney revisited three of their most iconic properties of the 1990s with the releases of Aladdin, Toy Story 4, and The Lion King.

Love it or hate it, Disney will not stop playing off of nostalgia any time soon.

I will be the first to say that I am okay with that! I know that some people aren’t thrilled with the amount of “live-action” remakes that Disney has planned of their classic animated films over the course of the next few years, but I personally think that this is the best time for Disney to capitalize on this fad.

Gage and I talked about this concept a bit on Episode 20 of the show, and I feel like it can't go without saying here as well. The truly unfortunate thing about all of these movies coming out in succession is that the anticipation is somewhat lost and ultimately feels less magical.

In the past, all of these films would have been the blockbuster headliner for the respective year if they were released periodically. Beauty and the Beast had so much buzz and excitement leading up its release in 2017 because it was the movie. It hasn’t felt that way with all of these new movies coming out at once.

Is it over-saturation of the market? Possibly. But until a remake or sequel is released that I truly dislike, I will defend the strategy because as I stated above, it’s great for Disney.

It started with the release of Aladdin in May - not to discredit the release of Dumbo in March, but I don’t know many people who truly consider that to be one of their favorite Disney films ever made. Though, with Aladdin, that is surely not the case as it has become one of the most iconic Disney films ever made.

The social media criticism before the film’s release was outlandish, especially due to the casting of Will Smith as Genie, which has had people eating their words since the film’s release. He was the perfect to choice to build on to the legacy of the iconic character. His performance was brilliantly delightful, especially his spectacular takes on the classic “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” sequences.

Without Will Smith the film would have absolutely flopped in my opinion. He was truly excellent!

Flash forward to the following month with the release of Toy Story 4 and the same thing can be said. I personally felt that Toy Story 3 wrapped up the series perfectly, but in all actuality I was beaming at the thought of seeing some of my favorite characters on the big screen yet again.

The film didn’t seem to have as much heart as the preceding three films in the series, but it was still an enjoyable final chapter (maybe?) of one of the most beloved film franchises of the past 24 years.

The movie was filled with pleasant callbacks to all of the previous films, and acted as a true gold mine for Pixar easter eggs. That in itself could put a smile on the face of anyone that has grown with these films.

Did I mention how much I love Forky? He truly exemplifies how these animators can make you fall in love with any and all of their creations, even it they are literal trash.

Then came the movie that I was most looking forward to the following month: The Lion King.

I’ve stated many, many times on the show that the original 1994 version of The Lion King is my favorite movie of all time. It was my favorite movie as a kid, and that still holds true to this day. Not many movies hold that kind of merit in my eyes.

Looking back on it, I loved the movie so much that for quite a while throughout my childhood I referred to buttered pasta as Simba Noodles because it was “slimy, yet satisfying.” Though the slurping aspect helped as well.

I know a lot of people have complained that the retelling isn’t good due to the lack of emotion from the characters, but I really do believe that people just love to complain when it comes to Disney. This film by no means ruined the original as some have claimed, but is simply a modernized retelling.

Pretty much shot for shot.

The photo realistic animation looked absolutely stunning, and the cast felt nearly perfect in every facet upon every announcement. How could anyone not be excited for a soundtrack that featured the likes of Beyoncé and Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino? Not to mention Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen being the absolute PERFECT choices for modern takes on Timon and Pumbaa, respectively.

I loved the feeling that The Lion King brought to me in theaters, especially because my parents came along. As stated many times previously, the original film was an extremely instrumental part of my childhood, so having that feeling come back just before my 25th birthday was pretty special for me.

All in all, 2019 could easily just be looked at as a giant cash grab for Disney, but then again, that’s okay.

All of these characters and beloved stories coming back to the big screen gives children and adults alike the opportunity to enjoy something together. It allows the stories to live on and make new legacies with new audiences. No other studio can, or has, mastered that level of storytelling the way that Disney has.

As I get older, the more I tend to understand the nostalgia factor. These movies brought so much joy to my childhood, and I can only hope that they do the same for children today and in the future.

It’s essentially a modern day Circle of Life.

Matt MerlinoComment