Disney has been capturing the hearts and minds of children and adults alike for close to one hundred years. The company has crafted dashing princes, unforgettable princesses, and the most lovable of four-legged friends. Disney has brought light into the darkest of stories and it is their iterations of these timeless tales that have become the most well known. The Mouse House has become the gold standard of animation and, though there are undisputed classics created by other animation studios as well, there is no denying that Disney reigns supreme.
At this point, Disney has no less than twenty projects in the works, adapting its beloved animated features into live-action glory. Several of these films have already been cast, but that doesn’t stop fans from choosing their own favorites. The Disney Dream Portrait Series even recreated famous animated scenes with celebrities cast in the roles - don’t worry, we’ll get to those. The Mouse House has made their characters so iconic that there is no doubt who we are seeing in any of these images.
Although most of these pieces will never become a reality, these performers have all been completely transformed and they look amazing. Let’s hope that life eventually imitates art.
Here are 15 A-Listers Reimagined As Disney Characters.
15 Gal Gadot as Princess Jasmine
Released in 1992, Aladdin oft winds up under appreciated. Although it wasn’t responsible for birthing a new era of Disney animated features and fell a bit short of what came immediately before and after, the film still had stunning visuals and unforgettable characters. It was incredibly successful, spawning a Broadway musical and soon, a live-action remake.
Disney may have landed on Naomi Scott to portray Princess Jasmine in the movie - slated for 2019 - but long before that was decided, graphic designer Thomas Kurniawan cast Gal Godot in the role. In fact, he made this poster before the actress’s star turn in Wonder Woman last year. Gadot has proven herself capable of playing an Amazonian princess and Kurniawan’s work makes it easy to imagine her as Disney royalty as well.
Of course, Gadot is a bit busy shooting Wonder Wonder’s much anticipated sequel and Disney has already cast the upcoming movie. The Mouse House seems very committed to making Aladdin the best that it can be, with director Guy Ritchie at the helm and a script from John August. As beloved as Aladdin is, it’s not without its issues, chief among them perpetuating some ugly stereotypes. Casting a white actress like Gadot would certainly cause a scandal.
Let’s hope that Disney learns from past missteps and gives fans a film that not only pays homage to the original, but elevates the material as well.
14 Rachel Weisz as Snow White
From 2007-2014, renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz took pictures of celebrities dressed as Disney characters, utterly transforming them and creating an unforgettable ad campaign for Disney Parks. One of these cast Oscar-winning actress Rachel Weisz as Snow White, the original Disney Princess.
Weisz may not be the first actress to come to mind when considering who would play a live-action Snow White, but the resemblance here is undeniable.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs holds a special place in Disney’s history as the first full-length animated feature that the studio released, ushering in a new age of animation. The movie hit theaters in 1937, forever altering the way that audiences viewed both cartoons and fairy tales. Disney animated features not only proved that animation could be fun for the whole family, delighting both children and adults, but also famously changed what began as some very dark stories.
Disney’s upcoming live-action remake, which will reportedly feature original music from the team behind the tunes of La La Land, will likely stick far closer to Disney’s own version of the tale than earlier incarnations. We know that Weisz won’t be portraying the pale-skinned, raven-haired beauty, but this photo makes it obvious that she could have.
13 Jessica Chastain as Merida
The same year that fans fell head over heels for Katniss Everdeen, Brave introduced them to a very different archer. The movie followed Merida (voiced by Kelly McDonald) and her horse Angus across the Scottish countryside as she attempted to reverse the charm that had turned her mother into a bear - which was pretty much her fault.
At its core, the film was about the failure to communicate between mothers and daughters, as the two had to work together to break the spell. Merida was independent and adventurous, having no interest in marrying any of the dummies her parents had in mind for her. She chose instead to carve out her own path.
Jessica Chastain was the perfect choice to represent Merida in this Leibovitz piece. The actress is known for portraying strong women. She has appeared in many films, including Zero Dark Thirty, The Martian and Interstellar.
Chastain will be playing a role in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which is set for release next year. She has also been tapped to play Jane Vasko in the upcoming comic book adaptation Painkiller Jane. Chastain looks quite at home here astride a horse with her bow and arrow at the ready.
12 Emma Stone as Cruella De Vil
While many fans go crazy for the Disney Princess movies, there are just as many of us that prefer to watch anthropomorphized animals save the day instead. One Hundred and One Dalmatians was released in 1961, introducing the world to a slew of painfully adorable puppies and one unforgettable fur coat-loving villain with a pretty catchy theme song. Now that you’ve got that stuck in your head, let’s discuss Cruella De Vil.
Cruella was an excellent Big Bad. Although some have referred to her as a feminist icon, we can all agree that it takes more than going after what you want and running your own business to be one of those. She may have been more interesting than Anita, but let’s face it, that doesn’t take much. There should be no doubt that Cruella was a monster. Seriously, the woman was desperate to make a fur coat out of puppies!
This piece is more than a fan cast, but rather simple fact at this point.
Emma Stone is set to play the iconic villain when Cruella gets the Maleficent treatment.
The prequel movie doesn’t have a release date yet, but reports indicate that it will take place in 1970s London. We look forward to witnessing Cruella’s punk rock roots.
11 Penelope Cruz as Esmerelda
At first glance, Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel seems far too dark to ever be adapted as a Disney animated feature. However, dig a little deeper into just about any of your favorite classics created by the Mouse House and you’ll find a significant amount of darkness lurking beneath that shiny veneer. Disney is so good at crafting its own versions of classic stories that it is their iterations that are woven into the very fabric of our DNA, rather than the source material.
While many were skeptical about The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the resulting film - while bleaker than most Disney animated features - was pretty epic. Of course, the ending had to be rewritten, but there are few examples where this isn’t the case.
Voiced by Demi Moore, Esmerelda was a kind-hearted, clever, Romani woman who sought justice for herself, as well as her fellow outcasts. Thankfully, she got a much happier ending in the film than in the novel. This piece by SiaPit casts Penélope Cruz in the role and she looks pretty perfect.
Cruz has an extensive resume in film, appearing in movies such as Vanilla Sky, Volver and Murder on the Orient Express, but of course it would be preferable if an actual Romani actress played the role. She recently portrayed Donatella Versace in American Crime Story.
10 Jessica Alba as Kida
Most Disney animated features are pretty well known and generally, if you haven’t heard of one, it’s not necessarily worth hearing about. However, Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a true gem, despite the fact that many Disney fans have never seen it.
Released in 2001, the film din't do great at the box office. Regardless, the animation was absolutely gorgeous and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola was one of the production designers. Aside from the fact that it looked different than other Disney movies, Atlantis was not a musical. It was a fast-paced adventure with a protagonist that eschewed many of the characteristics of which Disney’s heroes are generally comprised.
Milo Thatch isn’t the only Disney character involved that doesn’t get the love he deserves. Kida is by far one of the coolest princesses in any of the studio’s features and not nearly enough people have heard of her. Luckily, Thomas Kurniawan not only knows who she is, but made this awesome poster casting Jessica Alba in the role.
While it is true that the actress seems to have taken a break from Hollywood, she looks every bit the part here.
Unfortunately, despite the wealth of live-action Disney remakes, it’s likely that Atlantis will never be considered for such treatment. Still, a fan can dream.
9 Lupita Nyong'o as Cinderella
One of Disney’s most beloved classics, Cinderella was released in 1950 and became the studio’s greatest success since Dumbo, which came out nearly a decade earlier. As with any fairy tale adapted by Disney, the darkest parts of the story wound up on the cutting room floor. The studio did make several new and vital contributions to the tale, aside from the unforgettable songs, namely some very adorable animals.
Cinderella is a favorite Disney Princess for many fans and there are obvious reasons why. For survivors of abuse, Cinderella has always been very representative of hope. She never gave up and was eventually able to remove herself from tragic circumstances, albeit in typical Disney fashion. Notably, she also did not seek revenge - although in earlier iterations of the story, her stepmother and stepsisters do get what is coming to them.
While it is true that Disney has already given us a live-action Cinderella in 2015, this image casts Lupita Nyong’o in the titular role. Let’s not forget that the actress has already appeared in public looking suspiciously like Cinderella, in a dazzling blue gown. Perhaps that was in part the inspiration behind this piece.
Nyong’o first came to audiences attention with her incredible performance in 12 Years a Slave, but has since appeared in many other films. She played Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as well as Nakia in Black Panther - both Disney-owned projects.
8 Meryl Streep as the Wicked Stepmother
Lady Tremaine, aka Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother, was the primary antagonist in Cinderella. She psychologically abused her charge at every turn, jealous that Cinderella was clearly superior to her own daughters. One of the most terrifying aspects of this villain is that unlike many other Disney Big Bads, she very much takes her cues from real life. This instantly makes her scarier than her peers. In the 1950 film, the character was voiced by Eleanor Audley, who also served as a reference for her appearance. Audley was dressed as Lady Tremaine and filmed performing the same actions that animators would then draw, using the movie as a reference.
This piece imagines the incomparable Meryl Streep in the role of Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother, who was portrayed by another amazing actress in the 2015 film, Cate Blanchett.
Although we won’t ever really see Streep as Lady Tremaine, the actress has had a foray into the fairy tale realm.
She played the witch in Into the Woods. Streep has been nominated for the Academy Awards twenty-one times and has won three. It’s safe to say that any production is lucky to have her, so perhaps she will one day appear in another live-action Disney adaptation.
7 Amanda Seyfried as Rapunzel
Released in 2010, Tangled was Disney’s take on Rapunzel. The titular heroine was voiced by Mandy Moore and her paramour, Flynn, was portrayed by Zachary Levi. The movie was the studio’s 50th animated feature. It also featured a wicked stepmother of its own, Mother Gothel, who keeps Rapunzel locked in a tower in order to have control over her golden tresses. The songs may not have been particularly memorable, but were all the better for having Moore be the one to sing them. The movie may have looked new, but thankfully, it was sporting that same old Disney magic.
This piece by javivi81 casts Amanda Seyfried as Rapunzel. Seyfried is perhaps best known for her role in Mean Girls, but she has been in plenty of other films, including Mama Mia! and Les Misérables. She has also appeared in a fair amount of TV shows, such as Veronica Mars, Big Love and the Twin Peaks revival.
This isn’t artist isn’t the only one that sees Seyfried in the part of Rapunzel. She is a very popular fan cast for the character, who not only looks the part, but could definitely pull it off. Seriously, it’s long past time for Seyfried to play a Disney character and it’s understandable that many fans feel that it should be Rapunzel.
6 Emma Watson and Henry Cavill as Ariel and Prince Eric
In many ways, The Little Mermaid was one of Disney’s most important films, heralding a new era for the studio and leading to the animation renaissance that yielded Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. The movie was released in 1989 and featured Disney's best songs since The Jungle Book, thanks to Alan Menkin and Howard Ashman. It also had an incredible score. The film’s crowning achievement though - aside from those incredible underwater sequences - was undoubtedly Ariel. She remains one of the most beloved of all Disney Princesses, just as beautiful and kindhearted, but far less bland than those that came before. Ariel was fierce. She was rebellious. She was flawed. She was also incredibly relatable.
Emma Watson has already had the honor of bringing a Disney character to life, having played Belle in last year’s live-action Beauty and the Beast. Prior to that though, she was often fan cast as Ariel, likely thanks to her unforgettable time as another iconic female character: Hermione Granger.
Let’s face it, Henry Cavill was born to play a Disney Prince.
Fans may be divided on his portrayal of the Man of Steel in the DCEU, but we can probably all agree that the guy would make a dreamy Prince Eric. This piece by Thomas Kurniawan says it all.
5 Queen Latifa as Ursula
This is another entry from Annie Leibovitz’s ad campaign, casting Queen Latifah as Ursula the Sea Witch. The Little Mermaid was based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen and it was far more gut-wrenching than the version that you saw on the big screen. Seriously: Ariel does not live happily ever after. Disney only does happy endings though and we can all agree that Queen Latifah looks pretty incredible here as the villain behind Ariel’s misfortune.
Ursula is one of the Mouse House’s most frightening Big Bads. With a design based on famed drag queen, Divine, Ursula brought the house down with “Poor, Unfortunate Souls”. She was much scarier than many other Disney villains, especially the human ones, who were often more goofy than terrifying. Ursula, however, was legitimately frightening. We’re sure the upcoming live-action remake will be the source of many a nightmare, if it does the sea witch justice.
Queen Latifah is an award-winning rapper and actress. Aside from her music, she is known for her performances in films like Chicago and Last Holiday. She also did an excellent job portraying blues legend Bessie Smith in the HBO movie, Bessie. Latifah likely won’t play the sea witch in the upcoming film, but we have no doubt that she could nail Ursula’s musical cues as well as make her a formidable villain.
4 Russell Brand as Captain Hook
It makes perfect sense that Russell Brand would find himself cast in the role of Captain Hook in this next Leibovitz piece, considering Hook is one of the funniest Disney villains of all time. He was, of course, the antagonist in the Mouse House’s 1953 release, Peter Pan.
Captain Hook had a vulnerability to him that most other Disney villains do not, making him far more relatable. Yes, he wanted simple revenge like many a Big Bad, but he sought vengeance against Peter not because Pan removed his hand, but rather because Peter had fed the appendage to a crocodile that had stalked the captain ever since.
There was a time when Brand was best known for his illegal exploits, but these days he is beloved for his standup and work in films such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall and its spinoff, Get Him to the Greek.
Although he has stepped out of the spotlight in recent years in order to focus on activism, Brand would no doubt be a fun choice to play Hook in Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of Peter Pan.
The film is set to be directed by David Lowry, who helmed Pete’s Dragon as well. A spinoff centering on Peter’s pint-sized companion, Tinkerbell, is also in the works.
3 Tang Wei as Mulan
Mulan hit theaters in 1998 and is notable not only for its Chinese heroine, but also for having a more feminist spin than the animated features that preceded it. Mulan was the rare Disney princess who didn’t need to be rescued and whose romance was earned as opposed to instantaneous. She was clever, adventurous and more than capable of taking care of herself. In fact, she pretty much took care of all of China. The film questioned gender roles, all while showing the inherent strengths of both men and women.
This piece by Thomas Kurniawan imagines what Tang Wei would look like as Mulan. The actress became well known for her role in Ang Lee’s 2007 film, Lust, Caution, and it’s easy to see why the artist chose her for this piece. She looks every bit the hero here.
Mulan is also set for a live-action remake, to be released in 2020, with Liu Yifei in the titular role and Niki Caro in the director’s chair. The cast will include major Chinese stars Jet Li, Donnie Yen, and Gong Li. Much to the chagrin of most fans, the extent of the role that music will play in the movie is currently unknown.
2 Beyonce, Lyle Lovett, and Oliver Platt as Alice, the March Hare, and the Mad Hatter
Disney’s 13th animated feature, Alice in Wonderland was released in 1951. Although beloved many years later, at the time of its opening, the film was criticized by Brits who felt the story had been “Americanized” and Americans who did not think the movie had done justice to Lewis Carroll’s famous prose.
The production was troubled as Disney attempted to replicate Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations, which was especially difficult with the majority of the animators told to prioritize Cinderella instead. There was also the fact that Carroll’s tale has little in the way of actual plot to adapt. The counterculture of the ‘60s helped to popularize the movie, but it was not a rousing success upon its release.
This Leibovitz piece casts Beyoncé as Alice, with Lyle Lovett and Oliver Platt filling in as the March Hare and the Mad Hatter, respectively. Beyoncé is, of course, best known for her music, but she has established herself as a fine actress as well. Most are familiar with Lovett due to his famed country songs, but he has also done some work as an actor. Platt has been acting for decades, appearing in films such as A Time to Kill and X-Men: First Class. He has also been featured in a lot of television shows.
While it is true that Disney has already given us a rather underwhelming live-action Alice in Wonderland, it’s still fun to imagine what the movie would’ve been like with this cast instead.
1 Jennifer Hudson as Tiana
In 2009, Disney created their first African American princess with Tiana in The Princess and the Frog. The movie had complex characters, as well as an incredibly engaging story. It also gave viewers a real taste of New Orleans culture, from the music - the legendary Dr. John even contributed to the soundtrack - to the food, and was beautifully hand-drawn.
Tiana was more of a realist than the Disney princesses that preceded her, working hard to achieve her goal of someday opening up a restaurant. In other words, she was incredibly relatable. This movie oft goes unmentioned during discussions of Disney classics, but it deserves far more love than it gets. Hopefully, someday The Princess and the Frog will get a live-action remake. It’s fun to imagine this picture becoming a reality.
Jennifer Hudson is cast in the role of Tiana in this Leibovitz portrait.
Hudson has had several notable parts in film and television, including The Secret Life of Bees and Empire.
The Academy Award-winning actress proved with Dreamgirls that she’s got the necessary pipes to pull off the role. Plus, let’s be honest, Hudson looks like absolute royalty here. We’d love to hear her belt out “Almost There”!
What A-Lister would you most like to see as a Disney character? Let us know in the comments!
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