In 2010, Disney released Alice in Wonderland, the studio’s first live-action adaption of one of their classic animated properties. Seven years later, the newest live-action remake, Beauty and the Beast, is set to premiere this month, with several other titles close behind it. Live-action remakes are a great way to breathe new life into animated classics and to take advantage of all the technology cinema currently has to offer. (Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book did it so well they won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects.)
These films already have a built in audience who grew up loving the animated versions and will eagerly shell out money to see the live-action take. But it’s a delicate balance for Disney. They need to keep audiences engaged with new content, but also not change too much to upset diehard fans (like those already complaining about hair color changes in the latest Beauty and the Beast clip).
Disney has a number of live-action remakes currently in production and if Beauty and the Beast makes anywhere near as much money as The Jungle Book, or even Cinderella, it doesn’t look like this will stop anytime soon.
Here are 15 Disney Live-Action Remakes You Didn’t Know Were Coming.
15. The Lion King
So far, when it comes to announcements (and the excitement around them), The Lion King is leading the pack. The film has already cast its two main leads: young Lando Calrissian himself, Donald Glover, as Simba and James Earl Jones, the original Mufasa, who is coming back to reprise his role in the live-action film. With a script by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales scribe Jeff Nathanson and director Jon Favreau, who has already seen massive success with The Jungle Book, the film is starting to shape up nicely.
The Lion King is a live-action film that is going to come with a lot of expectations. No matter how good the effects were in The Jungle Book, that movie is not loved in the same way and also featured a human protagonist to ground it emotionally. It’s going to be interesting to see just how Favreau and co. will use the 3D technology to create realistic animals that can evoke an emotional response.
A live-action version of Mulan makes perhaps the most sense out of all these movies. The animated movie is full of action and adventure and tells the story of a brave young woman who disguises herself as a man to protect her father and ends up saving all of China along the way. It has everything Hollywood needs right now: a diverse cast, a strong female lead, and a great story.
Niki Caro, director of the upcoming The Zookeeper’s Wife, is set to direct Mulan. The initial script was written by Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin with rewrites by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver from Jurassic World. No one has been cast as the titular heroine yet, but Disney has pledged to keep the leads Chinese and has hired Hong Kong-based Bill Kong as an executive producer.
Sony has a rival version of Mulan also in production set to be directed by Game of Thrones director and The West Wing producer Alex Graves.
Aladdin is a live-action adaptation that already has a lot of potential. The combination of director Guy Ritchie and screenwriter John August may seem like an odd pairing, but both men have unique sensibilities that could help make the street rat from Agrabah really come to life. August is known for his work on fantastical films such as Big Fish, Corpse Bride, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which will come in handy for incorporating characters like the genie and the magic carpet.
Ritchie seems like an unconventional choice for a Disney film, but his dynamic heist style will make Aladdin’s early days of stealing food and running from the authorities even more exciting. He has already taken on legends such as Sherlock Holmes and King Arthur, so another hero will fit right in.
While no one has been cast yet, Disney has promised the cast of Aladdin will be diverse to reflect the story’s Middle Eastern roots. The film will also maintain its musical status like the original, although there is no news yet if the songs will be new or the same ones we already know, like “A Whole New World”. (Although it is probably safe to assume it will be a mix of both like Beauty and the Beast.)
12. The Jungle Book 2
Jon Favreau is a busy man. He’s not only tackling the live-action remake of The Lion King, but also the sequel to The Jungle Book. So far only Favreau and screenwriter Justin Marks have been announced as returning, but here’s hoping young star Neel Sethi comes back as well. There is no news about what direction the story is going yet, but Favreau has expressed his desire for the second film to feel connected to the original.
The engaging characters and stunning photo-realism are what helped make the first Jungle Book film so successful. The sequel will need to do the same if it wants reproduce its box office and critical success. But Favreau is the man who helped launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe so it’s not necessarily something to be worried about. If anyone can do it, it’s him.
11. Maleficent 2
Like The Jungle Book, Maleficent is also getting a sequel. The original film was the origin story of the Sleeping Beauty villainess as portrayed by Angelina Jolie, with Elle Fanning as the Princess Aurora. Jolie is so far attached to reprise her role. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton is also set to return. A Disney vet, she wrote not only the original Maleficent film, but also the screenplays for the animated versions of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.
The announcement of Jolie’s return was a surprise to many because of her focus on directing and her humanitarian pursuits as of late. Since there is no director attached to Maleficent 2 yet, Jolie could potentially direct the film as well as star if that was something she wanted to do. She most recently directed film, At First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, based on the memoir of the same name. The film is set for release sometime this year.
10. Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Poppins was not an entirely animated Disney film, but did feature some animated sequences. The film, however, is getting a live-action sequel in Mary Poppins Returns. The film revolves around the now grown Banks children, played by Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw, who have suffered a loss and need the magical nanny to come back into their lives. Filming is currently underway in London.
Mary Poppins Returns features an exciting cast, including Emily Blunt as Mary and Hamilton creator and Moana songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda as a lamplighter named Jack, who is similar to Bert from the original film. The film’s cast also includes Angela Lansbury, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, and Dick Van Dyke as Mr. Dawes Jr, the son of the character he played in the original film. Rob Marshall is directing Mary Poppins Returns with a screenplay by Dave Magee.
9. Snow White
Disney’s first animated film, Snow White already got a live-action remake of sorts from Universal with Snow White and the Huntsman, but now it is also getting a more traditional remake from Disney along the same lines as Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast.
Erin Cressida Wilson, who most recently wrote the screenplay for the adaptation of The Girl on the Train, is writing the script for the classic fairytale. The Oscar winning songwriting duo from La La Land, Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, are also set to write new original music for the film so this project already seems pretty promising. There are no directors or stars attached to Snow White yet.
Both Mirror Mirror, starring Lily Collins as the fairest of the land, and the modern day take on the story, Sydney White with Amanda Bynes, were not commercially successful and were met with mixed reviews. As Disney’s oldest animated film it will be interesting to see how or if the story of Snow White and her seven dwarves will be updated to give it a more modern tone and feeling.
8. Rose Red
When you think classic Disney animated films, the name Rose Red is probably not one that comes to mind. That’s because she was never included in any of the earlier films. Rose Red is a character from a different Grimm Brothers story called Snow White & Rose Red about two sisters who encounter an enchanted bear (which sounds more like Brave than Snow White and the Seven Dwarves). However, Disney is taking this other story and merging it with the better known story of the Princess Snow White to give us Rose Red.
Going with the sister angle from the other story, Rose Red will feature Rose going off on an adventure with the seven dwarves to find a cure to save her sister Snow White, who has fallen into the poison apple-induced sleep. The screenplay is being written by newcomer Justin Merz who is working on a script pitched by Snow White and the Huntsman writer Evan Daugherty. No announcements have been made yet regarding casting or a director for the project, but it sounds like an exciting female-led adventure tale, which is never a bad thing.
7. The Little Mermaid
Many people count The Little Mermaid as their favorite Disney animated film. With songs like “Under the Sea” and “Part of Your World”, a star-crossed romance between a willful young mermaid and a leg-having human, and one of the best villains in Ursula, how could you go wrong? It makes perfect sense that Disney wants to make a live-action version of this film.
So far The Little Mermaid does not have a cast, director, or screenwriter, but the biggest news comes in the form of the music. Lin-Manuel Miranda is teaming up with original The Little Mermaid songwriter (and legend) Alan Menken, to write new music for the film to go along with the pre-existing songs.
Seeing as Miranda has a son named Sebastian and a love for all things Disney, there is no one who seems better suited for the role. No word yet on if he will have a part in the film itself, but knowing Miranda, he will find a way to sneak in somehow.
6. Peter Pan
Yes, the boy who doesn’t want to grow up is getting yet another movie. Following Joe Wright’s Pan, the NBC live musical, and the 2003 film starring Jeremy Sumpter, Disney is taking on the adventure of Peter Pan and the Darling family with their own live-action adaptation. Peter Pan is set to be directed by David Lowery, with a script by Lowery and Toby Halbrooks. The two previously worked together on the well-received Disney film Pete’s Dragon, a remake of the live-action and animated 1977 film.
The story of Peter Pan is very familiar to audiences, so it will be interesting to see how Lowery and Halbrooks give it new life. Their take on Pete’s Dragon was praised for how it elevated the original source material to create a story full of magic, heart, and compelling characters. This is just what Peter Pan needs.
Disney is also still working on a spin-off movie about Peter’s sassy fairy friend Tinkerbell called Tink, with Reese Witherspoon in the lead role.
5. Oliver Twist
Okay, so the Disney movie about the scrappy cat named Oliver who gets taken in by a gang of street dogs ld by Billy Joel isn’t exactly becoming a live-action movie, but it’s close enough. Disney’s animated film Oliver & Company was (loosely) based on Charles Dickens’ story Oliver Twist. And Disney is making a new, live-action musical version of Oliver Twist.
Oliver Twist is being directed by Hamilton and Grease Live! director Tommy Kail. Marc Platt is producing the film, along with many of the other live-action Disney remakes including Mary Poppins Return, The Little Mermaid, and Snow White as well as the Wicked movie.
The film will star Ice Cube, who serves as another of the film’s producers, as Fagin. Cube is writing a treatment alongside fellow producer Jeff Kwatinetz. The film will feature a variety of different musical styles, including hip-hop, to tell the story of the orphan who joins a gang of young street pickpockets.
4. James and the Giant Peach
James and the Giant Peach is a live-action and stop motion animation film released in 1996 and directed by Henry Selick, based on the book by Roald Dahl. It tells the story of a young boy named James who is transported to a magical world inside a giant peach. Disney announced last year that they were planning on making a live-action adaptation of the film, written by novelist and screenplay writer Nick Hornby. Sam Mendes, director of the James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre, is set to direct.
James and the Giant Peach is a film like The Jungle Book that could really benefit from a mix of live-action and motion capture animation. Steven Spielberg did a commendable job of using motion capture in his adaptation of Dahl’s The BFG, but the film failed to gain box office success.
Adapting an already beloved film could work in Mendes’ favor for James and the Giant Peach to draw fans old as well as new to the films and to introduce a new generation of children to Dahl’s wacky and whimsical storytelling.
3.Winnie the Pooh
Winnie the Pooh is the classic tale of a young boy named Christopher Robin and his stuffed bear on adventures in the Hundred Acre Woods. Pooh has several animated films and TV series, and now is getting his own live-action film. However, the main character of this film will be an adult Christopher Robin, now a businessman with no time for his wife and daughter or the imaginary world he once inhabited. When Pooh comes to him for help finding his other friends, Robin must help his old friend to save both his old and new lives. (Sounds a lot like Hook.)
Called Christopher Robin, this live-action film is being directed by Marc Forster, director of Finding Neverland and World War Z. The screenplay is being written by Alex Ross Perry, who previously directed and wrote Listen Up Philip and is getting re-writes courtesy of Spotlight writer Tom McCarthy. The film is said to share similarities with another live action boy-and-his-bear film, Ted (minus the vulgarity of course).
Fox Searchlight is making their own film about Pooh’s creator, author A.A. Milne. The still untitled film stars Domhnall Gleeson as the writer, Margot Robbie as his wife Daphne, and Will Tilston as their son and inspiration for the character, Christopher Robin.
Dumbo, the story of the elephant who can fly because of his enormous ears, doesn’t seem like the natural choice for a live-action film and yet here we are. The film is being directed by Tim Burton, who has also helmed the live-action take on Alice in Wonderland. Ehren Kruger, writer of The Brothers Grimm and three of the Transformers films (2, 3, and 4), is penning the screenplay.
The film has suffered a number of setbacks since its initial announcement, including the inability to lockdown any actors. Will Smith was in talks to play the father of two children who befriend the elephant after seeing him at the circus. Smith turned down the role for “salary and scheduling” reasons and no other actors have been mentioned for the lead role since.
Interestingly, Tom Hanks was also approached for Dumbo— to play the film’s villain. Playing a Disney baddie would be a fun role for Hanks, who is mostly known for playing nice guys. There is no news as to who exactly this villain is or if it is the same ringmaster from the original animated film.
“If she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will.” Cruella De Vil is the dog-coat-wearing villain at the center of Disney’s animated film 101 Dalmations. Like fellow lady bad guy Maleficent, she is set to get her own live action origin story spin-off titled Cruella.
The film is being directed by Mozart in the Jungle creator and first-time film director Alex Timbers. The script has been worked on by a number of people so far, including an initial draft by Devil Wears Prada screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, a second draft by Kelly Marcel of Saving Mr. Banks, and revisions by Edge of Tomorrow writer Jez Butterworth.
The biggest news of this film is not the multiple re-writes (which isn’t out of the ordinary), but the star. Newly-crowned Academy Award-winning actress Emma Stone is set to play the titular role. Will the film go the musical route to show off her La La Land-honed musical chops? Or will the character stay closer to the crazed evil perfected by Glenn Close in the 1996 live action film? Only time will tell. No one else has been cast yet, but so far the film is set for a 2018 release.
Which of these Disney live-action remakes and sequels are you looking forward to most? Let us know in the comments!
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