The 1974 Mel Brooks film Blazing Saddles is widely considered a comedy classic, satirizing both the Western genre and America’s history of racism. Like all topical comedies, it’s very much a film of its time, and many argue the film either couldn’t be made or would be received as well today given social changes since the 1970s. Since even a straightforward remake for adults would be controversial, it seems odd that there are plans to remake it into a kids’ movie.
First announced in 2014, Blazing Samurai will be a CG-animated film with anthropomorphic animals. Brooks is on-board as an executive producer, but the film has seen a troubled production. Its original animation studio Arc Productions filed for bankruptcy and the project lost some financial backers. It was originally going to be directed by Chris Bailey, who previously worked on The Lion King and the Alvin and the Chipmunks films, but currently has no director officially attached. The film is now at a new studio, Aniventure, and its cast includes Michael Cera and Samuel L. Jackson. With all the struggles the project has seen, it’s strange that so many people are so insistent on trying to make something that sounds like a bad idea.
Reboots and remakes are so popular because they rely on the nostalgia of people who loved the original. For that to work, they need to give that audience the reason they love the classic to start. For example, the trailer for the upcoming Top Gun sequel made sure to show the faces of familiar characters and cool action shots of the planes.
The things people love from Blazing Saddles can’t be replicated in a kids’ movie, though. The film was loaded with edgy jokes about race, sex, and gender — things few parents would pay to show their children. While jokes can be updated for a modern audience, the raunchiness was part of the fun. The film would’ve been an entirely different experience without it.
Additionally, the original satirized Westerns, a genre far less popular today than it was at the time. The modern equivalent would be satirizing superhero films, but this has the cat and dog characters be samurai instead. The closest equivalent for that is the Kung Fu Panda franchise, which had its popularity but didn’t exactly change the film landscape.
Without appealing to fans of the source material, this is just appealing to kids the same way any other animated film would. The thing is many animated films now bring in a sizable crowd of moviegoers in their teens and 20s. With more people growing up around anime and shows like The Simpsons or Family Guy, animation’s starting to be seen as less of a medium just for children. Because Blazing Saddles is considered a classic, many of those same people are familiar with the original because of their parents. They’ll undoubtedly draw comparisons. So why not make it its own property?
A samurai movie about cats and dogs would draw little comparison to an R-rated comedy if they didn’t make the connection themselves. It feels there was little faith in a potential franchise, so the producers figured tying this to a classic film would help promote it and build an audience. Maybe it will, but it could just as easily become victim to franchise fatigue. With studios rebooting and remaking so many properties, people are asking more and more why these remakes exist.
It’s possible this remake could justify its existence in a similar way to the Jump Street films, using a preexisting concept to deliver something entirely new. It’s also possible this could retain some themes of the original; films like Zootopia have shown there are ways to deliver complex topics in a kid-friendly way. Still, even if Blazing Samurai ends up being better than it sounds, it still feels awfully pointless. In the meantime, it’d be nice if we got more original films to get behind.
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Since even a straightforward remake of Blazing Saddles would be controversial, it seems odd that there's plans to remake it into a kids’ movie.