Okay, I know all these Disney live-action remakes are about making bank. But as a long time Disney aficionado and a writer to boot, I still want to see a little more creativity going into them than “the same movie you’ve owned for 20 years, but irl.”
No prizes for deducing that so far, Maleficent has easily been my favorite. It took a great character and made her more interesting and complex without removing what made her so fun in Sleeping Beauty, and it subverted the original climax of the story in a one-two punch of hilarious parody and touching sincerity. It’s not a perfect film by any stretch, but it doesn’t simply re-tread old ground, and by the end it gives you a lot to think and talk about.
With that in mind, looking over the slate of Disney’s upcoming live-action films is a mixed bag. The Jungle Book, released last month, gives me a little hope for something like Peter Pan, given how much there is thematically in Barrie’s novel that didn’t make it into the 1953 film. But a Tim Burton Dumbo has me super wary. Still, on paper there are enough interesting pitches in the mix to make for a good list.
So here are the Top 5 Disney Remakes to Watch For!
5. Sword in the Stone
Based on the novel by T. H. White, the 1963 animated film tells the story of a young King Arthur and his training with the wizard Merlin. Despite the changes, the film is largely faithful to the novel, both in content and tone. That tone is likely going to change a whole lot with Game of Thrones writer-producer Bryan Cogman on board. Between media like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones having such massive mainstream success, Medieval high-fantasy is much less of a gamble than it was a few decades ago. Whether they play it straight or go more for a genre subversion à la Game of Thrones remains to be seen, but having The Jungle Book producer Brigham Taylor on board makes things interesting.
While there’s a long-term plan for a live-action Aladdin film, to whet the appetite for it Disney has a prequel in the works called Genies. The film would center on the realm of the genies, and tell the story of how Genie from Aladdin became enslaved in his lamp. This sounds like a really fun idea on paper, but Hollywood also has kind of a bad track record when it comes to dealing with characters and stories from the Middle East. Another concern: can anyone really step into Robbin Williams’ role as the Genie without it being disappointing? The current writers are Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, who wrote 2009’s Friday the 13th, a film which did not do very well critically. All of this will make it interesting to see how this production unfolds.
3. Rose Red
Taking the revisionist route of Maleficent, Rose Red is part midquel, part spin-off of the 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The film will take place after Snow White falls into her sleep-like-death from the poisoned apple, and see Snow’s estranged sister Rose Red team up with the dwarfs to find a way to break the curse. Justin Merz is working on the script with Tripp Vinson producing. The film sounds really promising. With the right actress in the lead and a female director behind the camera, this could be a really smart, fun take on Snow White and sister relationships.
2. Prince Charming
Disney has always kinda known their princes are somewhat… lacking. Animators in the early decades had a hard time getting the movement on the princes to look natural rather than stiff and restricted.
During an interview about 2009’s Princess and the Frog, directors Ron Musker and John Clements, who also directed The Little Mermaid, jokingly referred to Ariel’s Prince Eric as “Prince Gen-Eric.” From the very little we know so far, Prince Charming is going to take on the archetype of the Prince from Disney’s films like Snow White and Cinderella. The script is by Matt Fogel, who has worked with Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and has the same company producing as next year’s Beauty and the Beast. With Disney trying to actively break away from and even subvert the Prince Charming archetype in their recent princess films, it will be exciting to see just how this film breaks things down even further.
There was already a live-action 101 Dalmatians film back in the 90s, so this time Disney is actually doing something a bit different. In the same vein as Maleficent, Cruella will tell the story of 101 Dalmatians from the point of view of the main antagonist, Cruella De Vil. Like Maleficent, Cruella is an iconic antagonist and just a really fun character to watch and spend time with, so it’s no surprise they’ve taken this route. Saving Mr. Banks writer Kelly Marcel has her work cut out for her: how do you make a character sympathetic when they are a puppy murderer? With Emma Stone in the lead, this is no doubt going to be a heck of a lot of fun.
Finally, some Special Mentions:
A live-action Winnie the Pooh film written by Alex Ross Perry is in the works. It would have an adult Christopher Robin return to the Hundred Acre Wood after many years, and, well, is it just me, or does this sound like Hook? Also on the table is a live-action Mulan, written by Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek. This could be awesome, and no doubt will be aiming to capitalize on the lucrative Chinese market, but did you know there’s already a live-action Mulan? From this century? That was made in China?
The Hollywood Reporter has a full list of the current live-action films under consideration by Disney, including sequels to both Maleficent and The Jungle Book. You can check it out here, and let us know what you’re looking forwards to in the comments!