Why is Disney remaking 'Home Alone'?

We break down why the studio has no signs of slowing down its remake production

Disney just can't stop with the remakes. This year alone we've had The Lion King, Dumbo and Aladdin and we've still got what feels like every film in Disney's animated library, including Mulan, Peter Pan and Pinocchio to name but three, to look forward to.

Now Disney has bought Fox, and it looks like it can't wait to get started on remaking its new acquisition's back catalogue, too. Home Alone, Night at the Museum, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and the Steve Martin comedy Cheaper by the Dozen are among the first slate of Fox remakes announced by the House of Mouse, and we have to admit we're not sure why.

At least, we’re not sure why creatively. Commercially it could make sense – they’re successful properties and remaking them saves the effort of coming up with a new idea, and guarantees immediate brand recognition.

Disney also has its new streaming platform, Disney+ due to launch in the US in November, and to compete with established platforms like Netflix and Amazon it's going to need a lot of new content in a hurry, so remakes offer a neat shortcut.

Disney chief Bob Iger seemed to hint that this could be where the latest remakes are heading when he told investors "we're also focused on leveraging Fox's vast library of great titles to further enrich the content mix on our ... platforms".

We've already questioned the need for Disney's irrepressible remakes of its own animated catalogue, but at least these are bringing something new to the table.

Creatively though, the idea seems utterly bankrupt. We've already questioned the need for Disney's irrepressible remakes of its own animated catalogue, but at least these are bringing something new to the table. Dumbo and Aladdin were live action re-imaginings, while The Lion King offered an insight into how much animation technology has advanced since the original.

What could a remake possibly bring to any of these films? 1990's Home Alone in particular was almost entirely reliant on child star Macaulay Culkin's charisma for its success, although Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern's bumbling gangsters, the Wet Bandits, were pretty good sidekicks.

Home Alone was never a film that critics would particularly rate, being a festive, slapstick, kids' film, but they gave it a not disastrous 65 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences, meanwhile, loved it – the movie has an 80 per cent audience rating on RT, and even the inferior, but still Culkin/Pesci/Stern-starring carbon copy sequel managed 61 per cent among audiences.

Fox themselves already tried to remake the movie once, with 1997's Home Alone 3. As we can only assume Disney will, they took the same formula – kid left alone in a big house, baddies appear, booby traps, funny faces, tripping over, etc – and inserted a more youthful cast, with Alex D Linz taking on the Culkin role. Audiences hated it. In fact, they hated it more than the critics, giving it just a 27 per cent rating compared to critics' 30 per cent.

How Disney intends to do better has not been revealed. Iger hasn't revealed anything about cast, writers, directors, or even timing. Home Alone was never a "good" film. It was a film that was in the right place, at the right time, with the right star. It was in every sense "a moment." You can't just make that happen again by copying the formula.

Of course, maybe Disney doesn’t really expect to improve on the original (though in some cases it wouldn't be too hard). The four Fox films announced for remakes so far have a number of things in common: Firstly, they’re all family comedies – a huge draw with maximum pull when it comes to tempting subscribers to a pay-TV service. Secondly, they all outperformed at the box office despite low production budgets, so they won’t cost too much to make and can hopefully attract disproportionately large audiences. Thirdly, with the possible exception of the Martin film, they all represent an established brand that will pique curiosity, just by virtue of the remake existing.

In the world of streaming, more is most definitely more. Of course, you need quality shows and movies too, but quantity is definitely just as much of a concern as quality. Netflix and Amazon are no strangers to filler themselves, and for every Roma there's a six-film-deal with Adam Sandler.

Disney already has around 7,500 episodes of TV shows and 400 movies in its vast library, but it needs new content too - its rivals are churning out new shows and movies at an absurd rate. Netflix, in particular, made almost 1,500 hours of new movies and series in 2018 and is set to increase this year.

When it comes to the big flagpole titles Disney has acquired from Fox – Avatar, Terminator, Deadpool for example – it's safe to assume the studio giant will wrap them in cotton wool and treat them with the love it does its MCU titles.

With some of the less prestigious titles, however, maybe a quick, cheap remake to help populate Disney+ is just a no-brainer.