From Angelina Jolie’s reinvention of the wicked Maleficent to Kristen Stewart’s heroic Snow White to Emma Watson’s much anticipated turn as Belle in Beauty and the Beast, adding a star to a beloved Disney story is a well-known formula for movie magic. Fairy tales like Cinderella tend to be remade over and over again, but there are a few Disney classics that haven’t found their way to a live-action transformation quite yet.
Emma Stone is in talks to bring one such neglected character, Cruella de Vil, to movie theaters, and Disney has a plethora of other untapped material that only needs the missing ingredient of a popular actor to help them onto the big screen. After all, everyone already knows the stories, so a studio only requires the right famous face to give these animated classics new live-action life.
Here are 12 Stars Who Should Bring Classic Disney Characters to Life.
12 ZENDAYA – ARIEL (THE LITTLE MERMAID)
If there was a safe and predictable choice for Ariel from The Little Mermaid, it was Chloe Grace Moretz. She’s a young starlet with some big films under her belt and pretty well-established acting chops — one can see why a big studio like Universal would invest in the sure bet of a traditional fairy tale with Moretz attached.
However, predictable can easily bore audiences, and having the opportunity to see how Universal’s The Little Mermaid performs may work in Disney’s favor if they choose to make their own Mermaid reboot. One of the ways Disney could make a much bigger splash in their casting is by hiring one of their alumni who has been making a name for herself away from their channel, Zendaya. She would be an unexpected choice, but one that still comes with a lot of recognition, press, and fans.
11 DEVERY JACOBS – POCAHONTAS (POCAHONTAS)
Considering the incredible diversity problems the film and TV industries are still struggling with when it comes to casting black and Asian actors, it likely won’t come as a surprise that Native American actors are even more severely underrepresented in Hollywood. So, while there’s no A-list star that a studio could turn to for a guaranteed hit based on fame alone, the story of Pocahontas is still worth revisiting with talented actors who are able to tell the story.
Devery Jacobs impressed audiences at the Toronto Film Festival with her tour-de-force role in Rhymes for Young Ghouls. Since then, she’s worked on other independent films, but has yet to hit the mainstream. From her work in Rhymes for Young Ghouls alone though, it seems that Jacobs would be more than capable of telling Pocahontas’ history in an incredibly moving way.
10 JACOB TREMBLAY – PINOCCHIO (PINOCCHIO)
Everyone who saw Jacob Tremblay’s performance in Room last year would say that the kid’s got a big career ahead of him. Although he didn’t end up getting an Oscar nomination for his role of Jack, Tremblay has become an instant sensation in Hollywood. Jurassic World’s Colin Treverrow cast Tremblay in his new movie, The Book of Henry; and, Tremblay will be starring alongside Julia Roberts in Wonder, an adaption of a best-selling novel.
If Tremblay is cast in the forthcoming Ron Howard helmed live action Pinocchio, his wide-eyed innocence and intense emotional range for his age could tell the story with a new level of depth. In the hands of Tremblay, the tale of the puppet longing to be a real boy could end up moving even the coldest of hearts.
9 JAMIE CHUNG – MULAN (MULAN)
Jamie Chung’s performance as Mulan on Once Upon a Time could easily qualify as a multiple-episode-long audition for the feature film version of the Chinese warrior’s story. And considering Mulan’s character hasn’t seen a significant amount of screen time on the show, Disney would still have a lot of freedom to tweak any plot elements they wanted for a live-action movie. Additionally, OUAT’s Mulan is gay, which would be a big step for Disney to take if they (hopefully!) kept that character detail consistent in the feature film.
Chung has been on the verge of a breakthrough for years, from kicking ass as an action star in Sucker Punch to wrangling freshman in Resident Advisors. A starring role as Mulan, especially if she was the first openly gay Disney princess, would be sure to earn Chung some well-deserved praise.
8 MAISIE WILLIAMS – RAPUNZEL (TANGLED)
Disney did a great job of rebooting the classic damsel in distress story of Rapunzel when they updated it with a capable and enthusiastic heroine who is so much more than her lengthy locks. Tangled's Rapunzel may not start out a very worldly character, but her bravery in the face of danger and eagerness to learn endear her to the audience and to all of the oddballs she meets on her journey to discovering her past.
In casting a live-action Rapunzel, one would need someone with equal spunk and joyousness to prevent the tale of the long-haired maiden from being stale. By this point, Maisie Williams is a pro at playing the unexpected badass female thanks to her fan favorite role as Arya on Game of Thrones. Arya and Rapunzel’s skills are constantly underestimated, and Maisie Williams is an expert at making people regret making such quick assumptions.
7 REBEL WILSON – URSULA (THE LITTLE MERMAID)
Rebel Wilson’s killer performance as Ursula in the recent live rendition of The Little Mermaid in L.A. certainly doesn’t hurt her chances of being cast as the villainous sea witch in any future versions of the film. While it's possible that Wilson may have missed the boat on the Chloe Grace Moretz adaptation being made by Universal Pictures and Working Title Films, Disney has suddenly become interested in the property once again, giving Wilson another opportunity to snag the role.
Ursula’s particular brand of cruel comes with a snarling and sarcastic personality, suited to Wilson’s rowdy and off-kilter brand. Wilson’s comedic chops are well documented in movies such as Bridesmaids, Bachelorette, and Pitch Perfect, but playing a Disney villain would really up Wilson’s status as a star.
6 KEVIN HART – GENIE (ALADDIN)
It’s become unclear whether Disney is moving forward with a Genies movie ever since Robin Williams’ passing put some roadblocks in their path to reviving his phenomenally funny blue character. And having someone attempt to recreate the comedic genius of the character that Williams made so iconic would be an uphill battle for whoever was charged with matching the fond memories people have of Williams’ singular Genie. So, whether it is a new Genie character or a reimagining of Williams’ work, it would take a universally liked comedian to release the Genie from the lamp once again.
Kevin Hart has been a comedy hit machine for the last several years, making a string of profitable movies like Ride Along and Get Hard that have turned him into a favorite of the film world. While copying Williams’ Genie would almost certainly not work, Hart could bring his own energy and enthusiasm to the beloved role.
5 GAL GADOT – MEG (HERCULES)
Despite the numerous versions of Hercules seen onscreen throughout the years, the world has yet to see the full story of his love interest (and fan favorite from the Disney film), Meg. And if there’s an actress with some experience taking the spotlight away from bulky heroic types, it’s Gal Gadot. The 31 year old Gadot stole the show from Batman and Superman in this year’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and revved up the excitement for her standalone Wonder Woman movie in 2017.
Even though it seems pretty unlikely that Gadot would do two such similarly Greek-influenced roles in a row, she’s still at the top of the list of actresses who could truly pull off Meg’s guarded and snarky attitude while rocking a toga.
4 JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT - MILO THATCH (ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE)
Although Atlantis: The Lost Empire may not be one of Disney’s most popular movies, its ensemble of oddball characters and deep-sea adventure could be just the ticket to a box office hit. Creating Atlantis with extraordinary effects and sets could be a chance for Disney to design another beautiful, mythical (most likely 3D) world that would immerse children and adults in the ancient legend.
Atlantis’ central character, Milo Thatch, is a bookworm with a sense of adventure who is finally getting the opportunity to see if his years of research will result in a spectacular discovery. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s boy-like charm and sincerity would be the perfect match for Milo and his academic enthusiasm combined with social awkwardness. Gordon-Levitt is an actor who can handle comedy and drama with equal aplomb, and has grown into a serious leading man who could anchor this massive underwater exploration.
3 AMANDLA STENBERG – TIANA (THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG)
Ever since she broke our hearts with her brief stint in The Hunger Games series as the ill-fated Rue from District 11, Amandla Stenberg has continued to build up her acting resume. Most recently, she landed at the Sundance Film Festival with the little indie, As You Are, a grungy teen drama and was a part of Beyonce’s recent Lemonade music project. But, the film world isn’t the only place Stenberg is making her mark. The now 17 year old has spoken out about cultural appropriation, diversity representation in film, and the importance of self-acceptance as an LGBT teen.
As such a strong female figure, Stenberg could be the perfect fit to bring the first black animated Disney princess, Tiana from The Princess and the Frog, to life. The only downside may be that the character spends a lot of her time on screen in frog form.
2 TARON EGERTON – JIM HAWKINS (TREASURE PLANET)
Ever since he won the hearts of fanboys and fangirls alike as the underdog trainee spy, Eggsy, in Kingsman: The Secret Service, Taron Egerton has shot straight to the top of everyone’s hot young actors list. He may have lost out on the chance to be young Han Solo, but his career still has plenty of momentum. Egerton landed the titular role in Lionsgate’s Robin Hood: Origins and will be playing a financial bad boy alongside Ansel Elgort in Billionaire Boys Club.
Tackling the mischievous Jim Hawkins in a live-action adaption of Treasure Planet would be right in Egerton’s wrong-side-of-the-tracks heartthrob wheelhouse. The lesser-known space pirate story could be a tremendously entertaining trip through the galaxy, with some stunning visual effects paired with the time-tested and beloved characters from Treasure Island.
1 RAMI MALEK – ALADDIN (ALADDIN)
As the star of one of the most talked about shows on television, Rami Malek sits in the envious position of being on the verge of a career breakthrough. Mr. Robot is adored by critics and audiences largely thanks to Malek’s complex and compelling portrayal of Elliot Alderson, a hacking genius with more than a few eccentricities. It seems like it will only be a matter of time until Malek has his big break in one franchise film or another.
And nothing announces your arrival as a bankable star quite like Disney making you the lead in their latest reboot. Aladdin has remained relatively untouched -- aside from some straight-to-video sequels -- since its release in 1992. With a talented actor like Malek as the lead, it could be a great opportunity to do a bit of overhaul with the story and make something a bit more contemporary with all the same magic and fun.
Is there a Disney character you want to see brought to life? Have a specific actor in mind for the role? Let us know in the comments!