The number of live-action remakes/re-imaginings of Disney’s classic animated films in the works continues to grow – though, purely as a business strategy, it’s easy to understand why. Director Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland made over $1 billion worldwide for the Mouse House in 2010; the Angelina Jolie-headlined Maleficent grossed $758 million in 2014; and in 2015, Cinderella (directed by Kenneth Branagh) has made over half a billion in theaters worldwide.
Disney will release a live-action Jungle Book movie (from director Jon Favreau) in 2016, along with an Alice sequel titled Alice Through the Looking Glass – and odds are, both will be significant commercial successes for the House of Mouse. If so, that will only increase the odds of similar in-development live-action retellings moving forward – such as, the Fantasia-inspired project we’ll be discussing here.
THR is reporting that Disney has jump-started development on a live-action feature based on the famous “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence from the original Fantasia movie released in 1940. Said animated “Bald Mountain” segment depicts a devil-like creature (named Chernabog) as he summons his various supernatural minions to dance and cavort on Walpurgis Night (the Witches’ Sabbath) – set to the original compositions by 19th century Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky, which were then arranged by Leopold Stokowski for the Disney animated feature.
The live-action Fantasia inspired project will be penned by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless – a screenwriting duo who have found their niche, working on various supernatural genre studio movies. That includes the Fall 2015 release The Last Witch Hunter (starring Vin Diesel) and the Gods of Egypt movie scheduled for arrival in Spring 2016. So far, though, the only film they’re written that has made it to the big screen is the 2014 supernatural/horror origin story re-telling Dracula Untold (starring Luke Evans). Judge their storytelling abilities as you will.
You can also (re-)watch the original “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence from Fantasia, above.
THR‘s report indicates that the Fantasia movie is going to feature the Chernabog character as its protagonist, much as Maleficent revolved around the eponymous Sleeping Beauty villain. Sazama and Sharpless were able to craft a morally-ambiguous version of a famous supernatural-powered baddie with their Dracula Untold script – so, a Chernabog film (which is what this movie sounds like it’s going to be) would lie in their wheelhouse, if nothing else.
Thing is, some would point to Maleficent as proof that not all Disney villains are created equal (read our review of the movie, for example) – would a “Night on Bald Mountain” inspired movie be even more of a stretch, seeing as the original Fantasia sequence is a work of cinematic poetry, not linear storytelling? Perhaps, but it depends on what Sazama and Sharpless do with the basic concept. Also, the animated images of the original “Bald Mountain” segment are quite gorgeous – but will some of their glamor be lost in translation during the transition to live-action/CGI?
What do you think – does a “Night on Bald Mountain” live-action movie sound any more, less, or equally promising than other upcoming Disney live-action retellings (such as the Beauty and the Beast musical arriving in 2017 or the Dumbo live-action feature film that Tim Burton is attached to direct)?
We’ll bring you more information on Disney’s Fantasia-inspired live-action project when we have it.