If Beauty and the Beast’s box-office reception made anything clear it’s that these live action Disney remakes are solidified goldmines alongside Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. Having enjoyed two of these seven conversions, there’s definitely potential for this practice outside of duplicating money, but only if the intent is artistic improvement rather than recapturing lightning in a bottle line-for-line, shot-for-shot. These are the Top 5 live action remakes that the mouse house should leave well enough alone or give another chance outside the infamous vault. The rules might not always apply to certain categories for the sake of a broader scope. And for all the negativity surrounding the don’ts, I pray to the Hollywood executives that something proves me wrong when these classics go from ink and paint to ultra-realistic computer physics (eat your heart out Square Enix). Let’s start venting the unwanted.
#5 Winnie the Pooh
Some things are meant to stay animated for a reason because they translate to live action like a fish to dry land. Does anyone remember the TV series Welcome to Pooh Corner and how creepy the people in costumes looked? It’s like something out of Five Nights at Freddy’s. The upcoming Goodbye Christopher Robin works because it focuses on the author, A.A. Milne and his son. Admittedly it’s low on the list because the story of an aged Christopher Robin starring Ewan McGregor sounds promising, but does it need to be live-action? Is hand-drawn animation still considered box-office poison? Surely the star power of Obi-Wan interacting with Winnie the Pooh a la Roger Rabbit is enough to bring in the crowd, right? Right?
#4 Peter Pan
Not only has the original overshadowed the play, but the entire mythos of the boy who never grew up has been expanded upon for nearly a century. From the sequel Return To Neverland (much better than people give it credit), to Steven Spielberg’s what if spin-off, Hook to the more faithful 2003 cult hit to the disastrous 2015 prequel. What more is there to tell? And out of good conscience to avoid controversy surrounding the natives that weren’t even politically correct in the play, let this be please? The last thing this needs is another Rooney Mara incident. Though with Pete’s Dragon director, David Lowery, there could be a little bit of faith and trust in this live-action pixie dust.
Perhaps it’s prime for a remake after 75 years, but unless this wants to go PG-13 or even R by killing Jiminy Cricket, is there anything new that can be done outside of changing the medium? Just because the Disney version is the most recognizable doesn’t mean other directors can’t have a faithful shot at the darker tale. I hear Del Toro’s been playing with the idea for a decade. And it would only cost a quarter of Sam Mendes’ vision. All while use an animation technique that’s almost as extinct as pen and paper. One can wish upon a star for this outcome.
#2 The Lion King
A common theme with these entries is they’re so good that remaking them is pointless if they’re not on par or even better than the original. If 2000’s Dinosaur proves anything, it’s that this isn’t a live-action remake, but a digital conversion. Sure there will be realistic settings and backgrounds, but the majority of the characters will be computer animated like the prehistoric film that’s considered cannon to the animation department. So what’s the difference here? Especially after this has gotten multiple re-releases in IMAX long ago and 3D back in 2010? And while Pete’s Dragon isn’t perfect, it tried something new compared to the insane randomness of the original. Why does Disney feel that the most recognizable names are the only properties worth remaking? Even with Jon Favreau at the helm, there’s still a sense of Beauty and the Beast’s contagious Psycho disease infecting this classic that, again, most likely won’t add a thing. Does Gus Van Sant need to pay the studio a visit? Granted Faverau’s technology won’t disappoint after The Jungle Book, but if the whole project is for technical reasons, why bother? If you know how Hamlet concludes, will the story be even more faithful to that? There’s more than one original way to make a billion dollars.
Any Pixar film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Tangled, Bed knobs and Broomsticks, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Emperor’s New Groove
#1 Anything Fantasia Related
Plain and simple, why? Turning any of these shorts based on the pinnacle of Walt Disney’s career into a full length movie is more padding than a Dr. Seuss movie. Don’t believe me, watch the Nicolas Cage vehicle The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. With Night on Bald Mountain up next, how can you expand a few minutes into an hour and a half? The point of Fantasia is to set animation shorts to timeless music. Nothing about it convinces me there’s a sizeable story to compliment the visuals. I don’t care how cool Chernabog will look in live-action because there’s already misses what the original was trying to convey. There’s a reason why shorts work as a feature when stitched together. Ask the Looney Tunes.
With that out of the way, let’s foresee those that can benefit from another shot at the silver screen.
#5 The Black Cauldron
Why remake a bomb that lost to The Care Bears Movie back in the day? The same reason we have three Spider-Man incarnations: another chance for a proper adaptation. Spread across multiple books, this could be it’s own saga for at least half a decade should the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe be around the corner. With dark material growing in popularity, why not make this a phoenix rising from its ashes? Dragons, witches, an undead army, and of course the horned king. This practically writes itself. Guy Ritchie, Steven Spielberg, Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson would have a field day with this concept.
#4 The Fox and the Hound
The original had guts in handling characters, particularly the two leads. But with a live-action director, say Clint Eastwood or Spike Jones, there’s a lot of mistakes that can be corrected, especially on a certain character who should’ve met a pretty gruesome fate only to be saved by the executives. Who knows what more from the book can now be allowed to go into a new direction. And as the company moves forward in the coming years, their stories tend to be more realistic despite the superheroes, talking animals and magical powers that still exist. This would be to Zootopia what Return to Oz was to The Wizard of Oz: a spiritual successor that still stands on its own. And just when reality couldn’t get any stranger than how an animal society would predict the future.
#3 Robin Hood
The best post-Walt Disney feature still had to rely on recycled animation. A bigger budget could easily have this on par with the animated classic. With animal physics in medieval times, there’s no end to how Robin Hood, Little John and company can take on Prince John, Sir Hiss and the Sheriff of Nottingham. How about someone like Martin Campbell to take the reigns? If he can reboot two franchises (One of them twice), what other wonders can he accomplish with a wild fox chase? Arrow could sure use a bit of time off before the Justice League unites.
#2 Treasure Planet/Atlantis the Lost Empire
The reason these two are tied is because they share the same traits: a flawed sci-fi story yet able to stand out with deep characters and set-pieces, despite flopping at the box-office. J.J. Abrams, Garreth Edwards and James Cameron know how to hold suspense and mystery surrounding new worlds, a perfect fit for Treasure Planet. If the sci-fi setting is too distracting, remaking Treasure Island with the same characters would still work since they were the strength. While Joss Whedon, co-writer of Atlantis, could takeover directing The Lost Empire after jumping from genre to genre over the past decade. There’s a growth of more active and/or flawed protagonists these days which is why both the underappreciated Milo Thatch and the fatherless Jim Hawkins could fit the bill. Both above and bellow the surface.
The Lone Ranger, The Sword in the Stone, The Rescuers, Mulan, The Great Mouse Detective, Hercules, The Haunted Mansion, Oz the Great and Powerful, John Carter, Dick Tracy, Inspector Gadget, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Tarzan, Brother Bear
#1 The Hunchback of Notre Dame
If Night on Bald Mountain, a story about the devil, demons, spirits, hellfire and Ave Maria can get it’s own hour and a half cash grab, surely this wouldn’t be far off. Arguably the darkest Disney film despite criticism from fans of the book, imagine this without the comic relief Gargoyles (or toned down to supporting roles instead of comic relief). Yes, the animation will never be topped in live-action, yes it might repeat the past, but at the least it’ll let loose any restrictions and possibly be able to stick closer to the source, musical or not. I’m not asking for Quasimodo to die next to Esmerelda, but with how much the original deviated from the book aside from spirit, there’s a lot of potential to see a definitive version that would make even Lon Chaney jealous. Tom Hooper, Kenneth Branagh, Ridley Scott, Tim Burton, Rob Marshall, Bryan Singer and even Bill Condon, for all the trash talk I gave Beauty and the Beast, could pull this off. Just don’t cast Emma Watson if it’s a musical.
This is TheCinematicBandicoot and aside from The Jungle Book, the best live-action Disney remake goes to Once Upon a Time. Not only adapting multiple movies for multiple seasons, but also making better Disney sequel than half the actual Disney sequels. Thank goodness they’ve been replaced by Christopher Walken as a singing gigantopithecus.