“I can show you the world~ Shining, shimmering, splendid~ ” Recently, this song from “Aladdin” has been making headlines in Korea again. This is because the live-action remake of the popular animation had attendance exceeding 10 million in Korea, which is astonishing. “The Lion King,” another live-action remake of the popular animation, followed suit to become No. 1 in ticket sales as soon as it opened. This proves there is boom in live-action films taking place in Korea. There have been numerous live-action films before, but not many of them have been as successful as the current live-action films, and not many have received the kind of critical acclaim that the new movies have gotten. So why were live-action films of the past less successful, and what factors have made this new crop so popular and lucrative?
Live-action films based on original animation have become an trend in Korea recently. Following the trend,the movie Aladdin and The Lion King have released in the theater.
/Illustrated by Cho Moon-kyung
What is the live-action film?
Live-action refers to movies, dramas, and television programs that are actually filmed based on the originals of cartoons, animations, and video games. Meaning, a live-action film uses real actors, real sets, and real costumes. In the new “Aladdin”, the actor Will Smith played the role of Genie. In the original animation, the actor Robin Williams voiced the Genie. In the former, the Genie was played by real person. In the latter, the Genie was a cartoon. Modern movies often use animation techniques or special effects using computers in live-action films. Even if animation techniques are used in live-action films, they are generally called “actual live-action films.” The counterpart to a live-action film is “full-length animation,” which is a movie that the entire work is fully animated.
The history of live-action films based on Animation
Live-action films have been steadily released in the Korean film market, but they have not been wildly successful until recently. Many live-action films such as “Alice in Wonderland,” “Christopher Robin,” “Cinderella and The Secret Prince,” “The Jungle Book,” “ILLANG,” and “Dumbo” were released in the past few years, and among these original live-action films, ticket sales were low or so-so: “Christopher Robin” recorded about half a million, “Cinderella and The Secret Prince” 710 thousand and “Dumbo” 350 thousand people. They failed to hit box -office in Korea with somewhat poor performances. “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Jungle Book,” which are said to have been relatively successful, recorded around 2 million viewers.
The numbers show that only two of these are considered box-office hits, and they only had 2 million ticket buyers. But then something interesting happened: the live-action film “Beauty and the Beast,” which opened in 2017, attracted about 5 million viewers, and “Aladdin” garnered more than 10 million viewers in 2019. This shows there is a boom in live-action films lately, especially since “The Lion King,” which was released in July this year, also topped the list of reservations and attracted more than 2.6 million viewers within the first week of its release, proving that live-action films of original animation are successful in Korea.
Jung Jin-ho, the senior of the Major of the Political Science and Diplomacy said, “I think live-action films are very popular in Korea now. He also referred that “There are a lot of cartoons and novels that have impressed us a lot. I think it is great that ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Aladdin’ have been made into movies recently! Actually, people around me really love them.”
The active use of OST that remind original animation in the live-action films
The box-office hit live-action films have strong Original Soundtracks (OST), and we can see there are many musical films among the recent box-office hits. Many live-action films, which are considered box-office hits, have OST as their most saleable feature. The songs of live-action films such as “A Whole New World” in “Aladdin” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” in “The Lion King” became popular again, and “Beauty and the Beast” is now more popular than the musical “Grease.” which had recorded the No.1 cumulative audiences. It is no exaggeration to say that this is the power of OST, as the movies were almost music-oriented. Kim Chai-won, the junior of the Division of English Language & Literature, commented, “I watched many movies because I was curious about how the movie OST came to be reborn with a new feel.” She added, “In fact, the attraction of music in animation is so important that I was able to know that live-action film providers work very hard on music.” Also she emphasized that “So, I think I am watching the movie again because I want to hear it again.”
Technological development has had a great impact on success
Meanwhile, based on the characteristics of the hit movies, they have taken advantage of the development of technology. These films used ‘Digilog’, which is a combination of digital and analogue. Its strategy is to add state-of-the-art technology to sensibility that stimulates memories and nostalgia. Digilog technology began 20 years ago, and has seen great leaps in technological advancement, culminating in the rise of “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” and “The Lion King.” Furthermore, films like “The Lion King” have recently been released by combining VFX and VR technologies, which is virtual reality techniques, with live-action. Visual Effects (VFX) refers to the all kinds of digital techniques that come from Computer Graphics (CG) among the imaging techniques applied to the film and animation industries. “The Lion King,” for example, is making headlines for creating animals in CGs and harmonizing the acting of real actors.
The live-action films that are successful actively utilize IMAX and 4DX technologies. Recently, it has become a trend in Korea to watch live-action films at IMAX and 4DX theaters. “Aladdin” 4DX was almost as popular as its 2D version. This shows that there is a culture of big movies these days. Unlike in the past, film has become more vivid with the development of technology and it has no unique and freer aspects than animation. In addition, the appeal of live-action films has increased since technology can enhance enjoyment with bigger sound, screens and effects. Kim Chai-won said, “Actually, I have a lot of friends around me who watched live-action films in 4DX theater.” She added, “It is because you can watch the movie not only visually, but also by stimulating various senses such as smell and touch, so you can enjoy the movie in various ways.” She also referred that, “Since, the movie remains in memory for a long time if we watch in 4DX theater, I prefer to watch the live-action film with 4DX.”
Jung Jae-hyung, Professor of the Department of film and digital media, commented that “With more portals showing movie content, it has become common to watch content even if it is not a theater. He added that “Therefore, I think the movie theater experience is a new effective strategy to attract audiences, so the people have developed big screen or hands-on technology.”
The successful live-action films stimulate childhood nostalgia
Lastly, these films stimulate childhood nostalgia. “Peter Pan Syndrome” signifies a psychological syndrome that, even as an adult, a person wants to remain a child without in order to escape reality. As such, in the past, adults expressed some negative feelings about yearning for childhood, but as more and more people begin to enjoy childhood nostalgia, the new term “Kidult” has emerged and become mainstream. “Kidult” is a combination of “Kid,” and “Adult,” referring to “an adult with childlike sensibilities and tastes.” “Kidult” refers to those in their 20s and 30s who find nostalgia for their childhood toys, cartoons, snacks, and clothes. Their characteristics are that they seek child-like and humorous ones instead of the serious and heavy ones. Experts say that as modern people’s lives become increasingly desperate, the desire of some adults to return to the time when they were young and seek emotional stability has emerged simultaneously with digital culture.
Hwang Won-joon, the Psychiatrist said, “Regression is one of the mechanisms of mental defense that returns to a more immature stage of mental function.” Also, he added, “Even in healthy people, it is not morbid to be seen in certain situations temporarily.” According to the Psychiatrist Hwang, in today’s stressful society, the phenomenon like Kidult is a healthy act of seeking stress relief and emotional stability through temporary regression. Considering this, regression is common in modern society even when people enjoy a cultural life.
Such a successful live-action film is likely to have inspired nostalgia for childhood cartoons by maintaining the comic elements of the original film, rather than realistic depictions such as “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.” Jung Jin-ho said, “I think it makes me remind of my childhood memory.” He added, “I also liked the live-action films because I remembered my childhood dream of how much I would have liked the movie if it were real.” On the other hand, “Christopher Robin” and “Dumbo” focus on elements that are too realistic and express the color of the video in a realistic way. Therefore, critics insist that those movies were not as successful as movies of nowadays, since there was not enough nostalgia of the earlier childhood cartoons.
According to the Professor Jung, in the past, it was difficult to make animations into reality. Since, animation itself is fantastic, it was hard to express in real life. However, as digital technology is developed, animation contents can be expressed fantastically even though it is introduced in live-action. He also emphasized, “Reintroducing many animation materials in live-action that we have not done before has a fresh appeal to us. That is why Hollywood is making a lot of them nowadays.”
Cho Moon-kyung email@example.com
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