Disney has started a trend that most fans find upsetting: the constant announcement and production of ‘live-action’ remakes of classic animated films. Or, as Disney calls them, ‘reimaginings.’
Aside from the incredibly loose use of the term ‘live-action,’ this trend isn’t exactly new. Disney had a smattering of live-action/hybrid remakes in the 1990s: 101 Dalmatians, starring Glenn Close, and The Jungle Book (yes, Disney did it before). What is especially astonishing with the recent trend is both the amount of remakes and the unnecessary frequency of the films. We’re more likely to see remakes in the next few years than original live-action films from the creative giant.
One could argue the trend began in 2010, with Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, but that hardly drew from the original Disney animated adaptation, if at all. Instead, many recognize the start of the ‘live-action’ remake list as Maleficent in 2014. Maleficent was, really, a reimagining of the most epic villain in Disney history – giving her an origin story that both explained her and reduced her bad-a** standing drastically. This was followed by Cinderella, in 2015, which featured a stellar cast and gorgeous costumes, but not much of the animated classic; The Jungle Book, in April this year, which was not live-action (save for Mowgli) but hyper-real CG animation, directed by Jon Favreau; and Pete’s Dragon, which premiered last month, modernizing the live-action/hybrid animation classic. As we pause to catch our breath, here’s a gentle reminder: we’re not even close to done yet.
Next year, we’re treated to the next reimagining of Disney’s classic fairy tales: Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson (Harry Potter series). After that, things get a little messy. Disney has, according to Wikipedia, seven untitled live-action films on their slate, spanning from mid-2017 through late 2019. Of those seven, six films are referred to as “fairy tale” films – we don’t know if that means remakes or new adaptations. The safe bet, though, is on remakes.
Now, onto the ever growing list of Disney animation ‘reimaginings.’ Last year, around June, I compiled a list of remakes announced; it numbered nine films (not including those recently released this year). Today’s list, including the most recent announcements, includes
nineteen twenty films:
In late 2013, with Maleficent on the horizon, Disney announced its interest in Cruella, an origin story for the villainous fur-loving fashionista. Aline Brosh McKenna (Cinderella, 2015) penned an early draft with screenwriter Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr. Banks) following, with producer Andrew Gunn (Sky High) and executive producer Glenn Close, who portrayed the villain in the original live-action adaptation. Emma Stone has, more recently, signed on to play the title role.
Untitled Chip N’ Dale Film
Announced in early 2014, Disney picked up a script from Robert Rugan, well-known commercials director, for a story highlighting the mischievous chipmunks in a live-action/CG hybrid film reflecting the original “Rescue Rangers” stories. Mandeville Films/TV, headed by David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman, is producing.
In mid-2014, the reimagining of Dumbo was announced. Supposedly live-action, with an expected amount of CG animation, the film crew includes Ehren Kruger (Transformers) as screenwriter, Justin Springer (Tron: Legacy) as producer, and Tim Burton as director.
Nottingham & Hood
In late 2014, around the time Sony was looking into Robin Hood, Disney announced development for its own Robin Hood franchise. This will be a revisit for Disney, who adapted the story to live-action in the 1950s. Under the title Nottingham and Hood, the new franchise aims to create a series tonally similar to Pirates of the Caribbean. Brandon Barker wrote the script.
Early last year, a live-action Mulan was announced, from writing duo Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek. Chris Bender and J.C. Spink (We’re The Millers) are attached to produce. Rumors are already circling concerning the main cast, as are petitions to ensure that Disney doesn’t whitewash the film with such actors as Jennifer Lawrence or Zac Efron.
Also early last year, Disney took on a script from Peter Hedges (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?), for a Pinocchio adaptation closer to the original novel. This adaptation might face competition from Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation, though his seems to be stalled.
Winnie the Pooh
Disney hired writer-director Alex Ross Perry (Queen of the Earth) to pen a new adaptation for the Winnie the Pooh franchise. This film, intended to be a live-action/animation hybrid (surprise!) will focus on a grown-up Christopher Robin. It’s unclear if the animation portion of the film will be hyper-real CG or more two-dimensional like the original films.
Announced mid-2015, Reese Witherspoon is set to star as Peter Pan’s companion, Tinker Bell, in her own film. Witherspoon will produce with Bruna Papandrea, partners at their production banner, Pacific Standard. Victoria Strouse (Finding Dory) was reported to be the screenwriter for the project, but the project is in development without a director as yet.
Night on Bald Mountain
In early development, reportedly, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (Dracula Untold) are set to write the script for this project, which was announced summer last year. They are also executive-producing. This announcement led into an announcement earlier this year: the Nutcracker Suite sequence is to become its own film, too, tentatively titled The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.
Cinderella and Snow White both received various live-action roles in the past dozen years. Last year, Disney announced Matt Fogel‘s project to center on the brother of the ever-desired Prince Charming; as yet, it’s unclear who’s Prince Charming it is. David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman will produce with Tripp Vinson.
Originally announced last year with the intention to use some of Robin Williams unused voice recordings from Aladdin, this project will be a live-action adventure/origin story (shocker!) for the comical genie. Unfortunately, Williams’ recordings will not be used, according to a stipulation in his will. The script is being written by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (Friday the 13th), with Tripp Vinson producing under his Vinson Films banner. The long-term plan is to have this ‘prequel’ lead into an Aladdin live-action movie (which would make this list twenty films long).
The Sword in the Stone
Clearly, last year was the year for all announcements. The Sword in the Stone is set for a live-action reimagining, with a script from Bryan Cogman (HBO’s Game of Thrones) and to be produced by Brigham Taylor (The Jungle Book).
Chronicles of Prydain
And just when we thought The Black Cauldron would languish in the Disney vault forever, Disney announced earlier this year that they’re planning a return to the original series. Although the 1985 animated film flopped in the box office, the studio is looking at developing Chronicles of Prydain into a full movie franchise.
Also announced earlier this year, Disney is developing a live-action fairy tale film titled Rose Red. Pitched by Evan Daugherty (Snow White and the Huntsman) with a script by Jason Merz, the film puts a new spin on Snow White by using the point of view of Snow’s sister, Rose Red, making her a key active player. The script clearly disregards the fact that Rose Red is from a fairy tale completely unrelated to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, save for the similarity of her sister’s name. Tripp Vinson is also producing.
Yet another live-action trip to Never Land is in the works from Disney, according to an announcement earlier this year. David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon) is set to direct this adaptation, with Toby Halbrooks (Pete’s Dragon) screenwriting. According to Lowery’s interview with Collider in June, we at least know it’s unlikely to be any kind of origin story.
The Little Mermaid
Recently, Universal announced its intention to make a live-action Little Mermaid adaptation, and rumors abounded in May that Disney was also interested, but more in a remake of its own popular animated adaptation. This August, that vision became a reality. Pairing Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, Moana) with Alan Menken, Disney plans to create a live-action reimagining with a blend of old and new songs.
James and the Giant Peach
Not part of the Disney canon,
as it was released under the Touchstone Pictures banner, Disney is also in early talks, as of August, to develop a live-action James and the Giant Peach. Sam Mendes (Skyfall) is in talks to direct, with Nick Hornby (High Fidelity author) taking on the screenplay.
EDIT: James and the Giant Peach was produced by Skellington Productions (Burton and Henry Selick’s stop-motion team) and released in 1996 with the Walt Disney castle banner instead of Touchstone, likely due to The Nightmare Before Christmas’ success in 1993. It is still not part of the Disney canon.
The Lion King
And, finally, the latest in our long, long list: Disney announced Jon Favreau is taking the helm of The Lion King reimagining, featuring the hyper-real CG animation used in The Jungle Book earlier this year. The announcement came as a shock to many fans, who considered the classic as one of the movies Disney would never touch, a never-happening scenario along the lines of Disney acquiring Anastasia. Unfortunately, The Lion King is not sacred. As yet, we have no idea how similar the remake will be to the original animated film, whether it will be a straight-up musical remake or an entirely new interpretation of the story.
What do you think about all these remakes/adaptations?
Sources: Variety and The Hollywood Reporter
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes