In the 21st century, screenwriters Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott are mostly known to audiences for writing most of The Pirates of the Caribbean films, but some might remember that they were two of the key writers for the original 1992 animated Aladdin. And while it seems that Rossio and Elliot have had a long and prosperous career through Disney, they aren’t too happy with the studio using much of their original film’s script for the upcoming Guy Ritchie-directed, live-action remake. In fact, in an interview with them, Rossio goes into this, even going as far as to mention how it feels like their work is being used for free to make millions:
So strange that literally the only words spoken in the new Aladdin trailer happens to be a rhyme that my writing partner and I wrote, and Disney offers zero compensation to us (or to any screenwriters on any of these live-action re-makes) not even a t-shirt or a pass to the park.
Now you might wonder, “Why is their no copyright issue here?”. Turns out, there is a Writer’s Guild of America’s rule in place where animated movies aren’t covered by the WGA at all and thus Disney isn’t legally required to pay the original writers anything. This goes for every live-action remake of animated films, not limited to the recent slew that Disney themselves have been doing of animated films from their Disney Renaissance era.
But Rossio isn’t wrong is he? The teaser trailer released a couple days ago (See it here) didn’t depict anything original that would have required the new cast and crew to exert any kind of creative ability. It just photocopied scenes and lines from the original film. It does feel a little insulting to these writers who created what has become an animated classic, that they are not compensated for their creative ingenuity.
Time will tell if this cause a stir but it wouldn’t be the first time someone made some noise about their work or image being used without compensation. I’m of course referring back to the situation that occurred with actor Crispin Glover and Back to the Future Part II. In negotiating to return to the sequel to the popular 1985 film, Glover ultimately decided to pass on returning as the main character’s father George McFly. This prompted a storyline in which George had been shot as the result of Marty McFly’s life being altered by someone messing with the timeline. Glover took issue with the film using his image (Particularly in scenes where Marty intersects with events of the first film) and this ultimately led to a rule being passed where an actor’s image couldn’t used in a film without their permission.
Could something happen here given the sheer number of live-action remakes being done of animated films where much of the cast and crew from the original are still alive? It wouldn’t surprise me given all the shake-ups occurring in the industry recently from the Oscars almost instating a Popular Film category to the attempts of the Academy to give memberships based on diversifying instead of earning it through their work, going as far as them creating a panel of members to handpick them even. Time will tell…but again…it wouldn’t surprise me.
Aladdin stars Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, and Numan Acar. It is set to hit theaters May 24, 2019.