For the past few years, Disney has been unleashing a live-action remake of one of its animated classics every couple of months. While it’s impossible to see the reasons for this from a creative perspective, it’s obvious from a business perspective, because it allows Disney to make a boatload of money from the same movie twice.
Why take a risk on an original story when audiences will show up in droves to watch a shot-for-shot carbon copy of The Lion King? But they haven’t all been major successes at the box office. So, here are Disney’s Live-Action Remakes, Ranked By Worldwide Box Office.
9 Pete’s Dragon ($143,695,338)
For any of Disney’s other live-action remakes, this box office haul would be considered a disappointment. But since Pete’s Dragon’s budget was a fraction of the usual $200 million+ price-tag, it could afford to gross a fraction of the usual $1 billion+ pull and still be considered a success.
The great thing about remaking Pete’s Dragon is that the original isn’t as beloved as something like Aladdin or The Lion King, so the audience is less precious about the source material. As a result, the remake’s director and co-writer David Lowery could offer his own take on the premise of a boy befriending a dragon.
8 Dumbo ($352,999,695)
There are a number of reasons why Dumbo ended up becoming the only Disney live-action remake so far to disappoint at the box office. (Don’t get me wrong: $352 million is far from a box office bomb, but with a production budget of $170 million and even more spent on marketing, it is underwhelming.)
It could’ve been that the movie’s oddly bleak color palette was off-putting; it could’ve been that the studio spent too much money remaking a movie that isn’t as popular as Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast; or it could’ve been that the remake glorified circuses while preaching against them in an attempt to have its cake and eat it, too.
7 Cinderella ($543,514,353)
Kenneth Branagh didn’t so much reimagine the Cinderella story as follow its tradition, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Before Disney was trying to force progressive values into these remakes with limited returns, Branagh allowed them to come up naturally in Lily James’ performance and the psychological complexity that she brought to the embattled lead character.
It doesn’t add much to the story that we didn’t already get in the classic 1950 original, which was produced by Walt Disney himself and pretty much nailed it, but it is as entertaining and satisfying as anyone could expect it to be.
6 Maleficent ($758,539,785)
Although it wasn’t technically the first live-action remake of a Disney animated movie, Maleficent was the one that inspired the studio to announce remakes of damn-near its entire back catalog. It’s not even really a remake of Sleeping Beauty; it’s a reimagining, told from the point of view of the villain, played by Angelina Jolie.
The movie was an attempt by Disney to humanize one of its most iconic villains to appease feminists that it feared would respond negatively to, God forbid, a depiction of an evil woman. In the end, turning Maleficent into a misunderstood victim was even worse.
5 The Jungle Book ($966,550,600)
Easily the best of the Disney live-action remakes, The Jungle Book took the loosely connected, bare-bones, episodic plot of the animated original and made it tighter, more engaging, and more intertwined. On the whole, as great as the original animated class is, the 2016 remake is simply a more satisfying moviegoing experience.
The only problem with the newer movie is its music. The original has a timeless soundtrack, but for the remake, they got Bill Murray to butcher “The Bare Necessities” and then indulged Christopher Walken with an endless, borderline unbearable solo. Still, on the whole, it was deserving of its $966 million haul.
4 Alice in Wonderland ($1,025,467,110)
Tim Burton is a visionary director with a strong grasp of the filmmaking craft. Having said that, 2010’s Alice in Wonderland is what happens when you give him too much creative control. The pale-skinned, frizzly-haired, nonsequitur-spouting, silly-dancing Mad Hatter might be Johnny Depp’s Johnny Depp-iest role yet.
The CG characters are so blown out of proportion and creepy that they actually become difficult to look at after a while. The color palette is overly gloomy and bleak, even by Burton’s usual standards. And Mia Wasikowska’s Alice is so misguidedly characterized that she could’ve wandered out of Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch.
3 Aladdin ($1,048,820,057)
This year’s live-action remake of the 1992 classic Aladdin – the movie that exploited Robin Williams’ Genie to create the Hollywood trend of casting A-list stars in animated roles that led to Mike Myers as Shrek, Tom Hanks as Woody, and, well, Will Smith as the Genie in the remake – has grossed so much at the global box office that Disney is seriously talking about sequels.
These potential sequels won’t be entirely lifted from the direct-to-DVD remakes that flooded bargain bins in the mid-‘90s, but they could take inspiration from them (which probably means they’ll be The Force Awakens of the Aladdin franchise).
2 Beauty and the Beast ($1,263,521,126)
Every change made to Beauty and the Beast was a bad idea. It seemed as though Disney was trying to respond to criticisms of the studio’s brand as a whole at the expense of Beauty and the Beast’s plot making sense. Belle faced cartoonish sexism for teaching a girl how to read in an attempt to make her a ham-fisted feminist idol; a backstory involving Belle’s mother was shoehorned in to answer criticisms of absent mother figures in Disney princess stories.
And all the magical objects are weirdly retconned into being townspeople who became trapped as household items, as opposed to just enchanted versions of household items. Still, it topped $1 billion worldwide.
1 The Lion King ($1,631,651,336)
After improving on The Jungle Book, Jon Favreau phoned in a remake of a much better Disney movie, The Lion King. But it didn’t matter that The Lion King was basically a shot-for-shot remake of the original; it didn’t matter that the photorealistic characters didn’t have as much liveliness or personality as their animated predecessors, and it didn’t matter that the new soundtrack lacked the soul of Elton John’s 1994 soundtrack.
2019’s The Lion King played on audience’s nostalgia and offered them a breathtaking spectacle, so it became one of the highest-grossing movies of all time without even really trying.