Written by Lindsey Cook
First thing's first: there is no stopping the Disney live-action remake train.
You can hate on the trend all you want, but let's look at the facts: Disney's live-action movies are basically printing money for the studio. Aladdin just passed the $1 billion mark worldwide, and The Lion King is poised to hit that number soon, despite mixed reviews from critics and audiences. The Beauty and the Beast (2017) and Alice in Wonderland (2010) remakes also earned more than $1 billion each, and since 2010 the House of Mouse has earned over $7 billion just from its live-action remakes.
So no, these films are not going away anytime soon.
In fact, we have trailers for two upcoming films based on Disney animated properties: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil coming in October, and Mulan arriving in 2020. Beyond that, Disney has several projects in the works, based on the properties of: The Little Mermaid, 101 Dalmatians, Lilo and Stitch, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Peter Pan, and Snow White, to name just a few of the projects in development.
With all that in mind, these are the projects that I think have the strongest potential, plus a few classic Disney titles that I would actually like to see receive the live-action treatment.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
It's been a while since I've revisited Hunchback, but I remember being impressed (and at times frightened) by the serious tone of the movie. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is by far one of Disney's darkest films, dealing with intense themes, and I think the complex themes are ripe for revisiting in a remake. Hunchback's tone lends itself well to the "gritty remake" treatment, and the fact that the animated movie is based on a pre-existing text (aka the Victor Hugo novel) means creators have plenty of material to turn to if they need extra plot points or connect the film more to its original source material.
The Little Mermaid
With the casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel and Melissa McCarthy as Ursula already announced, and several other juicy casting rumors circling, not to mention Lin Manuel Miranda doing the music, you best believe I am hyped for The Little Mermaid. The animated film was in heavy rotation throughout my childhood, and it has some of the best songs in the Disney canon, from "Part of Your World" to "Poor Unfortunate Souls". I'm also very excited to see great, diverse casting in a Disney film that is not set in a specific culture, and hope that this casting attitude will become the new normal in Hollywood.
P.S. While you're waiting for the new Little Mermaid movie, please do yourself a favor and watch the 1997 Cinderella for a perfect example of "color blind" casting. Brandy as Cinderella? WHITNEY HUSTON as the Fairy Godmother!? This movie is phenomenal.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Another movie based on an underwater civilization, Atlantis has a cult fanbase but is not nearly as popular as some other Disney titles. To me, this makes it the perfect film to adapt; instead of retreading the perfect 1994 Lion King or another bonafide classic, why not take a title that's kind of just fine and turn it into something amazing? The visuals would also be amazing, and unlike a lot of Disney films, the majority of the characters are human, so you won't have uncanny valley monstrosities.
The Princess and the Frog
I realize that this is a pretty recent film in the Disney timeline, but it is a very good one that lends itself well to live-action. Just imagine the lively New Orleans scenes, the rich atmosphere of the bayou, and the possibilities for some visually stunning voodoo magic from Dr. Facilier. If you slept on The Princess and the Frog when it came out in 2009, please watch it and see how gorgeous it is.
...And some titles that should NOT get live-action versions:
- A Goofy Movie: we saw what they're doing to Cats. Please do not give me nightmares with an extremely veristic version of Goofy and just let me jam to the OG Powerline instead.
- Pocahontas: look, I love "Colors of the Wind" as much as the next person, but Disney's take on this historical figure is a little (okay, a lot) inaccurate, and I'm not sure if I trust them to take on the story with the delicacy it requires. As gorgeous as the original film is, this is one that I think we should just leave in the past.
- Fantasia: apparently there might be a Chernabog movie in the works, but Fantasia is a masterpiece precisely because it is a celebration of animation. It also doesn't have a cohesive plot, so Disney would have to concoct a contrived storyline for today's audience that would just bring it down.
What Disney live-action movies are you most looking forward to? Comment with your favorites!