In this age of reboots and sequels dominating the box office, it was just a matter of time before Disney began adapting their greatest hits for the big screen again. With the upcoming release of The Lion King, Disney will have remade nine of their animated classics, not including Pete's Dragon or Mary Poppins Returns.
Although many love the originals, the reactions to these live-action adaptions have been less than stellar. While The Jungle Book, Cinderella, and Christopher Robin received praise, other releases such as Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast were not so lucky. The core to many of the complaints steep in confusion over unoriginality and necessity of these remakes. That being said, Disney shows no signs of slowing down, with The Little Mermaid, Mulan, and more soon to come. Looking ahead, here are some Disney classics that are actually deserving of adapting.
When it first released in 1999, Tarzan was generally favored by critics. Its use of lush color palette with revolutionary animation techniques was a refreshing change of pace compared to previous Disney films. That being said, it is regarded as the beginning of the end for the beloved Disney Renaissance, leaving it somewhat forgotten among other Disney classics.
This film is ripe for a retelling. With its action-heavy sequences anchored by a deep and relatable core, Tarzan is an underappreciated gem of the late 90s. A proper action director, such as Christopher McQuarrie, for example, would be a perfect fit. No matter what, as long as Disney brought Phil Collins back they would hit this one out of the park.
9 The Hunchback of Notre Dame
It was reported last year that Disney is currently developing a live-action retelling of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The original film holds a strange place in Disney history. While many admire the film for its artistry and beautiful music, others have remarked on its tonal disparity. The film itself has major identity issues, never committing to a more mature tone over the traditional family-friendly fare.
A live-action adaption could fix the lack of tone commitment from the original. Rewatching the film, many adults find the more mature content refreshing and honest. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of the bravest films in the Disney canon. A live-action adaption could really do the story justice.
8 The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad
During World War II, Walt Disney animation was strained both financially and in its duty. While they were lacking animators due to the needs of wartime and most of their staff worked on propaganda pictures, the development of features was sidelined. The few that were made were instead package films of smaller individual shorts, usually combined through a loose narrative or framing device. Most of these films were far from great, but The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad remained a beloved outlier.
Split between two stories, this was Disney's take on both The Wind in the Willows and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. A live-action adaption of either of these two stories would be a perfectly original and whimsical move on Disney's part. The film has far less attachment and could provide some much-needed room for a director to play with.
7 The Great Mouse Detective
Squeezed between two distinctly different Disney eras, The Great Mouse Detective is a lost gem. The film is often not included in the Renaissance but is nowhere near bad enough to be lumped in with the pile of most 80s Disney films. No matter what, it is an excellent example of Disney finding its footing as a studio again, and it deserves more attention because of it.
The film itself is fairly cutesy, with adorable little mice filling the roles. That being said, there are some genuinely scary moments from its villains and an excellent action sequence set in Big Ben that is begging for a live-action remaining. Perhaps Disney can redeem itself after scrapping the Mouse Guard movie by bringing some of the similar style and tech to a Great Mouse Detective adaption.
6 Robin Hood
In a similar fashion, a more action-heavy animal film could work with Disney's Robin Hood. This is certainly a beloved film by many, but it is inherently flawed. Rewatching, the film has little to offer outside of nostalgia value. It's biggest offense is reusing animation from many other Disney films.
A Robin Hood remake could add a bit more urgency to the narrative and provide a new visual language that doesn't have to steal from other films. Also, who doesn't love animal casts? With the success of Zootopia, an animal lead Robin Hood could flourish.
5 Atlantis: The Lost Empire
The early 2000s was an odd time for Dinsey Animation. the Renaissance had ended, Pixar was thriving, and 2D animation was falling to the wayside. But, in times of uncertainty, studios tend to experiment. This experimentation might not have earned Disney much in income, but the creative spark of this era produced films, unlike anything Disney had ever done.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire is one such film. A steampunk fantasy, Atlantis utilized dashing visual style with the help of Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, creating a peerless animated feature. The film is massive in scope and harkens back to serialized adventures like Indiana Jones. This is one of the most fitting films for a live-action adaption. A director with a wild imagination (Guillermo Del Toro perhaps?) tackling such a project would bring big bucks to Disney.
4 The Princess And The Frog
The Princess and The Frog was criminally underappreciated upon release. One of the last traditional animated films to come from Disney, Princess and the Frog combines multiple elements to be arguably the quintessential Disney film. New Orleans, magic, princesses, Broadway musical numbers, and wishing stars, so much of The Princess and the Frog screams Disney.
A live-action adaption would be welcomed with open arms. Not only would it attract Disney fans, but the energy surrounding diverse filmmaking and casts is more so now than ever before. The same amount of energy that made Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians phenomenons would make a Princess and the Frog remake a billion-dollar earner. It only makes sense for Disney to capitalize on this investment.
3 Treasure Planet
Like Atlantis, Treasure Planet would be perfect if translated to live-action. Few Disney pictures embraced such imagination in its visual style, or as fun an adventure tone as this. Treasure Planet was a sci-fi reimagining of Treasure Island, the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. It has so much going for it that it is honestly surprising that Disney has done so little with it.
So much of Gen Z has fond memories of this film as well as Atlantis that remaking them makes so much sense. Although it didn't perform well at the box office, this and Atlantis have grown an immense cult following. Hopefully, Disney can see that there is still life to be found in these forgotten classics.
2 The Sword In The Stone
The Sword in the Stone is a classic example of myth and fairy tale. Nearly everyone knows the key tenants, a young King Arthur who is destined to rule is the only one who can pull the fabled Sword in the Stone. Yet somehow, the Disney iteration, which is as charming as you would expect, has flown somewhat under the radar.
It is such a fun take on the myth and is perfect for a whimsical Harry Potter-esque adaption. There have been tidbits of news that a version is in development, but little concrete has come of it. If there is any justice in the world, this perfect coming of age film will get a second chance through live-action.
1 The Black Cauldron
No Disney animated film has been more maligned or forgotten than the 1985 film The Black Cauldron. This was the lowest point for Disney Animation, losing out the box office infamously to The Care Bears Movie. Ever since this failure, The Black Cauldron has been locked away, not to be mentioned in merchandising, theme parks, or anything else. This is a huge mistake.
The Black Cauldron, at the time, was not a smart move on Disney's part. But, in retrospect the film has aged wonderfully, combing a darker fantasy aesthetic than any other Disney film before it. It is also packaged perfectly to become a brand new fantasy franchise, as it is based directly off a series by Lloyd Alexandar. This could be Disney's next big live-action series with the proper creatives behind it, and it could fill the gap left by both Harry Potter and Game of Thrones.