Alice Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Disney’s highly successful live-action adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, is poised to become another in a long line of Disney live action films to find success at the box office. In a world of remakes and reboots, Disney is not letting itself be left behind.
After the success of live action adaptations based on Disney animated classics like Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, and The Jungle Book, Disney is showing no sign of slowing its reboot train any time soon. The studio recently released the first trailer for its next live-action adaptation, Beauty and the Beast, prompting some to wonder, when will it end? Disney appears to be slowly making its way through its animated catalogue, but there are some movies that are probably best left untouched. Here are 12 Disney Animated Films that should never be remade in live action.
12) The Rescuers
The Jungle Book proved that Disney could make a successful live action movie even if a majority of the characters are animals, but it’s worth noting that the very human, non-CGI Mowgli is the film’s main protagonist. Without a human performer to ground the film, making a CGI ‘live action’ adaptation is a risk. This is why Disney should think twice before taking on a live action version of The Rescuers, the 1977 animated classic about two mice who help save a kidnapped little girl. Though the film does feature a handful of human characters, the mice are the real stars of the show, making it a tricky live-action adaptation.
11) Home on the Range
Released in 2004, Home on the Range is probably a bit too recent for Disney to be considering producing a live-action remake. Then again, if Marvel can reboot Spider-Man in the span of a few years, anything is possible. Home on the Range, about a group of farm animals who take on bounty hunting to save the family farm, would either be turned into a CGI-filled live action or one of those old-school talking animal movies using real animals and voice-overs. Neither of these sounds very appealing. Moreover, Home on the Range was far from a massive Disney hit, so it lacks the nostalgia factor to really draw in an audience with a live-action reboot.
10) Lady and the Tramp
There’s no question that there would be an audience for a live-action Lady and the Tramp movie. The Disney Animated Classic about two dogs who fall in love and share the most romantic plate of spaghetti in pop culture history is known the world over. That said, just because there is a market for a film doesn’t mean it should be made. Given that the film is so focused on its animal characters that human characters’ faces are never directly seen onscreen, a live action adaptation would either be entirely CGI or use voice-overs and real animals, a technique that has become outdated by CGI. If Disney ever does move forward with a live action Lady and the Tramp, it would need some very serious re-writes, mostly concerning “The Siamese Cat Song,” largely considered one of the more racist scenes in Disney Animation.
The fact that Saturday Night Live made a ridiculously funny (and successful) skit out of the idea that Disney would make a live-action Bambi film should give the studio an idea at how ludicrous an idea it would be to reboot Bambi. It seems impossible to remake Bambi as a live-action film — it’s more likely that it would end up being just a computer-animated reboot. This would be a tough blow to the artistic integrity of Disney animated films as well as the history of Bambi’s stunning visuals. Inspired by the work of artist Tyrus Wong, the animation in Bambi is highly respected in the art world, and should be allowed to keep that mantle.
Fantasia, Disney’s musical opus made up of eight separate scenes, has already inspired a live action film, but it hasn’t been remade in its entirety, and it should stay that way. Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice starring Jay Baruchel and Nicolas Cage (who else?) wasn’t a huge hit at the box office, and it’s not hard to see why. A large part of Fantasia’s charm lies in its adorable animation — there is something inherently watchable about Mickey Mouse dancing around with a bunch of mops that isn’t the same when a gangly, twenty-something does it.
To be fair, Disney is currently adapting a sequence of Fantasia into a live-action film. “Night on Bald Mountain,” the final scene in Fantasia that involves ghost-like creatures and winged devils appearing in the night is being made into a feature film that will no doubt inspire nightmares everywhere. Still, there’s a difference between adapting a spinoff of Fantasia and remaking the entire film in live action. And two Fantasias are more than enough.
7) The AristoCats
In the age of cat videos gone viral, it’s not hard to imagine Disney going forward with a live-action AristoCats movie. After all, the most beloved sequences in The AristoCats involve kittens playing the piano. Then again, there’s a reason viral videos are usually only about three minutes long. A two hour-long, live-action film about cats who are kidnapped and abandoned by a mean butler doesn’t have the same charm as an hour-long, animated film about cats who like to play jazz music. Plus, the lack of truly memorable songs significantly lowers the appeal for any kind of AristoCats reboot.
6) Oliver & Company
When Oliver, a cute orange kitten, gets lost in New York, he does what anyone would do: he joins a group of dogs who steal to survive. Oliver & Company is a sweet Disney movie, but, like Bambi and Lady and the Tramp, it lacks a human character to anchor a live-action reboot. It’s also a relatively new Disney Animated Movie, which significantly lessens any hype there might be surrounding a potential reboot. Yes, modern CGI could make a live-action Oliver & Company movie passable, but overall, the film is truly just another Disney film better left in the past, regardless of increasingly beautiful and convincing CGI.
5) The Fox and the Hound
The Fox and the Hound, aka one of the most heartbreaking and cruel Disney Animated Classics, is similar to Bambi in that it would likely lose a large part of its emotional resonance in a live-action adaptation. The movie, about a fox and a hound who become friends, only to grow up and discover that one has been trained to hunt the other, is probably best expressed in animation.
Disney has shown no indication that The Fox and the Hound might be in the running to receive its own live-action reboot, though there are certain thematic similarities between The Fox and the Hound and Disney’s recent hit animated film, Zootopia. Perhaps that’s as close as fans of The Fox and the Hound will get to a full-fledged remake.
4) The Lion King
One might argue that the world already has multiple live-action versions of The Lion King, they’re just called Hamlet instead. But unless Rosencrantz and Guildenstern break out into “Hakuna Matata,” it’s not really The Lion King. Everybody loves The Lion King, which makes the idea of a live-action reboot threatening to hardcore fans. Furthermore, just like Lady and the Tramp and Bambi, The Lion King features an exclusively animal cast, making a live action adaptation pretty impossible (CGI upgrade not included). Unless Disney is planning on releasing a high-definition recording of the Broadway musical version of The Lion King, it’s best the studio leaves this tale alone.
3) The Princess and the Frog
The Princess and the Frog is well on its way to becoming a certified Disney classic, and there’s no question that Princess Tiana could lead a live-action film. However, for a majority of the film, the two leads are frogs — not exactly the love story everybody wants to see onscreen, certainly not in live-action, at least. Advancements in CGI technology could make the film somewhat believable in live-action, but overall it would lack the old-school charm of Disney animation that made the film successful in the first place. On another note, it would also be disappointing for a major blockbuster from Disney to star an African American protagonist and then make her a frog for a majority of the film.
2) Winnie the Pooh
Disney is reportedly developing a live-action Winnie the Pooh movie, with writer-director Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up Philip) signed on to write the script. However, the live-action film wouldn’t be the same Winnie the Pooh stories audiences have come to love from Disney. Instead, the movie is rumored to be about a grown-up Christopher Robin who returns to the Hundred Acre Wood. Perhaps it will follow the Alice in Wonderland model of aging its protagonist and creating a mostly CGI world for said protagonist to explore.
It’s hard to say what audience would be attracted to a live-action Winnie the Pooh, especially given the fact that recent Winnie the Pooh movies from Disney have been very careful to avoid appearing too computer-generated.
A live-action update of Pocahontas could be a success, but it would have to change the entirety of the plot first. Disney’s Pocahontas is arguably one of Disney’s more groundbreaking animated pictures — it stars a Native American protagonist and features an interracial relationship — but it is also arguably one of Disney’s more offensive films. Though not horribly racist, Pocahontas does take more than a few artistic liberties with the actual events that inspired it, including the genocide of Native Americans by white settlers. It’s horribly, historically inaccurate. Unless Disney would be willing to make a more respectful (and researched) film about Native Americans and Pocahontas, this movie is probably better left alone.