Above, you can view the new trailer for Disney’s live-action remake of Cinderella. The film marks the third such reimagining, following this year’s hugely successful Maleficent and 2010’s Tim Burton-directed Alice in Wonderland. If Cinderella proves successful, which seems to be a foregone conclusion, the question becomes: which other Disney classics might lend themselves to a live-action treatment?
Not every old Disney film stands as an ideal candidate. Many feature talking animals as their main characters and, if you were to try to translate them into CGI within a live-action setting, wouldn’t prove that much different than their animated originals.
Weeding those out, let’s rank what’s left. Here are 10 Disney classics which deserve a live-action remake.
The tale of a young Chinese girl who poses as a man to save her elderly father from conscription could have easily started as a live-action film, rather than the 1998 animated musical. It has everything a live-action blockbuster needs: epic battle scenes, narrative tension between tradition and family, and huge stakes on the global and personal level.
There’s a romance imbued in ancient Chinese culture which lends itself to effective drama. The story of Mulan comes from a Chinese legend, and in that way proves similar to the fairy tales that have inspired so many Disney films.
Snow White has seen several recent live-action iterations in films like Snow White and the Huntsman and the Julia Roberts vehicle Mirror Mirror. However, none have captured the same ambience of Walt Disney’s first feature-length animated film.
The appetite for this character and her world never seems to be satiated, having fueled three seasons of ABC’s popular Once Upon a Time television series. A live-action remake of the Disney classic would probably benefit from a unique perspective, like Maleficent gave us a different angle on the tale of Sleeping Beauty.
Walt Disney’s second feature-length animated film tells an intimate story which nonetheless takes on an epic scope toward its conclusion. The toymaker Geppetto who wishes for a child of his own, the wooden puppet brought to life who longs to be a real boy, the exploration of morality guided by our conscience – Jiminy Cricket… it all would translate beautifully to a live-action experience.
Some liberty would need to be taken here. Characters Honest John and Gideon, a fox and a cat respectively in the 1940 animated film, should probably be reimagined as human characters. That said, Pinocchio’s world is one of magic, so things like a talking cricket aren’t outside the scope of plausibility.
Translating Disney’s Beauty and the Beast to live-action would be difficult, mostly due to a large supporting cast of walking, talking clocks and dining ware. Perhaps a literal translation wouldn’t be necessary. Once Upon a Time, a show produced by Disney-owned ABC Studios, demonstrated how the animated film could be alluded to without necessarily portraying a talking tea cup.
As long as the essence of the story remained intact, a live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast could work. With a focus on themes of vanity and prejudice, the tale remains relevant to any time.
A fun and lesser known film in the Disney filmography, The Sword in the Stone serves as a prequel of sorts to the legend of King Arthur. During a dark age when England has no king, a mysterious sword appears stuck in an anvil at the center of town. The blade carries an inscription declaring that the person who can remove it will be the next king.
Enter a young and unassuming Arthur, an underling to his foster brother Kay. Through seemingly random circumstances, Arthur finds himself under the peculiar tutelage of the wizard Merlin, who confounds the boy with bizarre references to future wonders.
Reimagined for modern audiences, The Sword in the Stone would introduce a new generation to a story not commonly told today. With many qualities of the classic Campbellian hero’s journey, it would no doubt be a hit.
#5. The Jungle Book
This one is actually happening. Currently in production under the guidance of Iron Man director Jon Favreau, the live-action rendition of The Jungle Book will boast the voice talent of such luminaries as Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, and Christopher Walken.
In this particular case, CGI talking animals will translate well to live-action, due to the nature of the story. The world of The Jungle Book, in all its iterations, has always been one where animals take on anthropomorphic characteristics, and the human boy Mowgli will ground the action. So it shouldn’t be as jarring as if they tried to do a live-action remake of Bambi.
The Little Mermaid would pose challenges if remade in live-action, much like Beauty and the Beast, due to its large supporting cast of singing sea life, not to mention its setting beneath the waves. However, like Beauty and the Beast, certain artistic choices could be made to retain the sense of the story without making it look silly in live-action.
As a narrative, the story of The Little Mermaid proves as cinematic as any. The literal fish-out-of-water tale of a rebellious teenage princess who strikes a deal with a devil remains relevant to any time in which daughters struggle against the protective instinct of their fathers.
The tale of Aladdin lends itself to a darker tone, and thus a starker departure from the original animated film if it were remade in live-action. The combination of an exotic setting, a mystical MacGuffin, and an action-packed struggle against a conniving evil give Aladdin a sense similar to Indiana Jones. In fact, filmmakers would be well served to borrow heavily from the tone of those adventures.
It would certainly prove a challenge to follow-up on the iconic performance of the late Robin Williams. A fresh approach would be best, rather than an attempt to recreate what was. Retain the humor. Retain the fun. But don’t give us a Robin Williams impersonation.
#2. The Incredibles
This one might be controversial. The Incredibles only released a few short years ago. Do we really need a remake so soon?
It may be too soon to reboot The Incredibles today. But it doesn’t have to be Disney’s next project. Ten years from now, the film will be 20 years old. Plus, no movement has been made on any sort of sequel or follow-up thus far. So either the franchise lays dead, or Disney takes a new shot at it.
Comic book films are extremely hot right now, and by the time Disney got around to a remake of The Incredibles, making light of the genre might be vogue again.
#1. The Lion King
Atop our list reigns this glaring exception to the rule which we established at the start. Yes, The Lion King is a film with a cast of talking animals. However, as demonstrated by the hugely successful Broadway musical, you can place live actors in these roles and retain the sense of wonder conveyed by the original animated film.
The Lion King could excel as a piece of performance art, as actors portraying animals primarily through movement and voice work, rather than CGI, costuming, and makeup. People would line up to see it, dragging their kids in tow, no matter what Disney did with the property. So they might as well take the opportunity to do something experimental and bold which could earn critical acclaim and even Oscar contention.