Disney

The new movie Queen of Katwe has a familiar theme: It's the real-life story of a girl from the slums who discovers an unlikely talent (chess) and becomes an unlikely champion. But in other ways, the film is revolutionary: It may be the first time a major studio (Disney) has set a movie in Africa with all black actors and no animals.

Back in 1988, Indian-American director Mira Nair burst onto the scene with her debut feature Salaam Bombay!, a ground-level portrait of Bombay street kids that brought the qualities of Italian neorealism — and its key successors, like Satyajit Ray's "Apu Trilogy" — to a nascent American independent scene. With her new film Queen of Katwe, Nair comes full circle, at least in the sense that she's again addressing the perils of extreme poverty and the resilient children who withstand it.

If you've seen Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book or the Toy Story movies, you've seen the work of animator Floyd Norman; for decades, he has helped bring Disney and Pixar classics to life.

Now 81, Norman still works for Disney, where he has plied his trade, on and off, since he became the studio's first African-American animator in the 1950s.

The economics of remakes tend to run counter to creative value: Studios eager to cash in on existing properties choose to revive their most beloved titles, which generally condemns remakes to be a pale shadow of established classics. It also handcuffs filmmakers significantly, because they can't paint too far outside the lines or risk alienating fans of the original. The ideal remake would take a flawed film with a strong premise and build something completely new and inspired around it.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind’s best-selling book, “Life Animated, A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism,” tells the story of how he and his family discovered that Disney films were a way to communicate with his son Owen, who has autism.

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