With the blockbuster success of films like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, it’s no wonder Walt Disney Pictures is putting its all into reimaginings of its animated library. Seemingly nothing‘s off the table at this point, with The Little Mermaid on the way, and the likes of Lilo & Stitch and Hercules popping up in publications. With so much news circulating about these projects, I’ve decided to compile what we know so far into one informative article. Here’s the Disney Live-action Remake Roundup!
Unlike the other Disney Renaissance remakes thus far, Niki Caro’s Mulan deviates from the source material in major ways. Mushu, Shang, and the fan-favorite songs have all been cut. Shan Yu and his Huns have been replaced by Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and the shapeshifing witch Xianniana (Gong Li), as the central antagonists. There’s also a mystical Phoenix, who appears to fill the void left by Mushu. With a heavier emphasis on martial arts, the mystic, and the war itself, Caro’s Mulan sets out to deliver a grounded retelling of the ancient story.
As someone who has criticized Disney’s remakes for their unoriginality, these deviations seem promising. I feel a sense of intrigue, beyond the superficial, “I wonder what X scene would look like in live-action” as happened with the prior remakes. I’m curious to see how this story plays out with its new elements.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has shuttered movie theaters across North America, the release of Mulan has been delayed indefinitely.
The Little Mermaid
Rob Marshall’s The Little Mermaid sees the return of Alan Menken, who has confirmed to have co-written four new songs, alongside Hamilton’s Lin-Manual Miranda. By the time of this writing, both the new and classic songs have all been recorded. Shooting was slated to begin in March 2020 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. That aside, things seem to be moving along swimmingly (ha) with this new Mermaid. Alongside Halle Bailey as Ariel, and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, Melissa McCarthy was recently confirmed to play Ursula. Other such names as Awkwafina (Scuttle) and David Diggs (Sebastian) have also made headlines. It shouldn’t be too long before a release date is finally announced.
The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite Disney movies, but I can’t say I’m excited about seeing creepy, hyper realistic seagulls and crabs singing to reggae hits. Regardless, I do appreciate the colorblind casting of Bailey, and the Menken-Miranda mashup sounds like a match made in heaven. If nothing else, this movie will likely be a treat for the ears.
It’s safe to say they’re running out of ideas at this point. Yes, Bambi, Thumper, and Flower are returning to the big screen in what will be considered a “successor” to Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book and The Lion King. So, expect CGI deer, rabbits, and skunks against a photorealistic forest. Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Lindsey Beer will pen the script, which will apparently refrain from padding out the original tale in an attempt to expand the story. I’m not the biggest fan of Bambi, but I greatly respect its maturity and visual splendor. That said, I feel that it’s pretty underrated in modern times. My one hope is that this remake reignites love for the 1942 movie.
Lilo & Stitch
As Disney has nearly gone through the entirety of the Walt-era and Renaissance catalogs, it makes sense that they’d aim for more recent outputs. First hitting trade headlines in late 2018, information about this remake is scarce. Dan Lin and Jonathan Eirich are reportedly producing, with Mike Van Waes penning the script. Chris Sanders—who had a duel role in the original film as the director and voice of Stitch—weighed in on the prospect of a live-action retelling, stating:
“I definitely thought CG was, not at that point, up to the task of turning [Stitch] into something that would be visually not disturbing. With traditional hand-drawn animation cells you can make it in a particular way you can look at that and not see it as odd. If you think about a reinterpretation of Lilo as a CG character, she would just look very strange because I think she’d feel very Muppet-y because of her big mouth, while in the hand drawn realm she looks pretty normal.”
After what happened with the enchanted objects in Beast castle, I sympathize with Sanders’s concerns. Still, this could end up being a Detective Pikachu situation where the translation is just about perfect. Only time will tell. As a fan of Lilo & Stitch, I’m extremely curious about this one. The quality will likely be dependent on the alien designs/animations and the performances of Lilo and Nani’s actresses. If they can muster charm out of those two elements, this could be a fun watch.
Oo-de-lally, I knew Disney would get to a live-action Robin Hood eventually, but I expected the story would feature human characters. Instead, we’re getting the fox and bear duo in a remake of the 1973 musical. For me, that the entire cast will be made up of photorealistic anthropomorphic animals in a medieval setting makes this the most intriguing movie on this list. With this iteration also being a musical, this Robin Hood could be the spiritual successor to Cats. The jokes write themselves.
Kari Granlund, who penned the screenplay for Disney+’s Lady and the Tramp, will tackle the script. Carlos Lopez Estrada, meanwhile, will helm the project as director. I love Disney’s Robin Hood for all its charming absurdity. Who knows? Maybe Estrada and Granlund can recapture some of that here.
Hercules is a cornucopia of MCU alumni, with the Russo brothers producing, and Shang-Chi writer Dave Callaham penning the script. News of this adaptation is still fresh, but the fervor surrounding the project is intense. Fans are already petitioning for Arianna Grande as Meg (an obvious response to her “I Won’t Say (I’m in Love)” cover), while others are advocating for Danny DeVito’s return as Phil. While casting details are up in the air at this point, we know for certain that the Russos are not interested in a shot-for-shot recreation of the 1997 film. Anthony went on to explain:
I think we’ll do something that’s in the vein of the original and inspired by it, but we also bring some new elements to the table.
That’s good at least. I see Hercules going the way of Aladdin—a faithful adaptation, but the character motivations and world-building are tinkered with a bit. What will likely make or break this movie is the casting. If Hercules, Meg, and Hades have enough chemistry and charm, this could be a fun romp.
Peter and Wendy
Director David Lowery helms Peter and Wendy, soon-to-be the latest iteration of J.M. Barrie’s play about flying kids, fairies, and a crocodile-fearing pirate. Working alongside Lowery is writer Toby Halbrooks and producer Jim Whitaker. If those names sound familiar (and I’m sure they don’t), it’s because they’re the same trio behind Disney’s 2016 Pete’s Dragon adaptation—one of the better received remakes from Disney. We even have casting info; Alexander Molony as Peter Pan, and Ever Anderson as Wendy Darling.
I haven’t seen Pete’s Dragon, but Peter Pan is one of my favorite stories. I’ve seen and enjoyed numerous iterations—from stage plays, to Robin Williams’s Hook, to Disney’s 1953 animated musical. Some versions are better than others, but regardless of the quality, I get a kick out of seeing Pan and Hook go at it. I’m looking forward to this one.
A spiritual successor to Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent, Cruella tells the origin story of the fashion-obsessed villain from One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Emma Stone tackles the role of Cruella, with I, Tonya’s Craig Gillespie directing. During the 2019 D23 Expo, Disney released an image of Stone donning the iconic black and white ensemble, while being surrounded by her henchmen, Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser).
While I don’t think we need a long, dramatic explanation as to why Cruella is obsessed with Dalmatian-skin fashion articles, I’m still mildly interested in this story. Partly because of Emma Stone’s involvement but also because of the promo image. I love the thuggish, biker gang-esque aesthetics going on. I’m also very glad to see that Jasper and Horace are involved, as some of Cruella’s best scenes involve the back-and-forth between herself and her lackeys.
Cruella is set for a May 28, 2021 release
The last remake with solid traction so far is Pinocchio. Acclaimed filmmaker Robert Zemeckis is tackling this project as director and co-writer, alongside Cinderella’s Chris Weitz. While talks about a Pinocchio remake have been circulating for years, little is known about how this remake will play out. My personal interest starts and stops with the filmmaking team. I will forever revere Robert Zemeckis for Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and 2015’s Cinderella was genuinely enjoyable. Like Bambi, I feel that Pinocchio is greatly under-appreciated in this day and age. It would be nice if this remake breathes some new life into the little wooden head.
What do you think about Disney’s upcoming slate of live-action remakes? Which one are you most excited to see?
Hey, I’m Q Anderson, a New York native born and raised on Long Island. An avid lover of drawing, music, writing, travel, video games, and animation. I’m currently a first-year student at Lynn University, pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Media. When not absorbed by schoolwork, my focus is on world-traveling and development on original, creative projects like comics and graphic novels. Since childhood, the Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons have been my source of escapism, as well as my source for creative inspiration. To take a drawing, and imbue it with believable human emotions is something that enraptures my mind in ways that live-action has never been able to accomplish. Of the lot though, my favorite animated movies are 1992’s Aladdin, followed closely by 2001’s Spirited Away.