SBox Soapbox: A Rundown of Disney’s Live Action Remakes

It’s no secret by now that Disney is currently in the business of recreating their animated classics into new live action films. This trend has been especially prevalent during the past three years. What you may not know is that Disney has a long list of other remakes planned for the next several years. You’ve probably heard about a couple of them, but you may not know about some of the even weirder ones set to come after this year’s Beauty and the Beast.

Today, we’ll be looking at all of Disney’s announced live action remakes as I give my thoughts on each project. This only applies to movies and projects announced as of July 2017 (up to D23 2017), and only those based on a Disney Animation Studios film. That means similar movies like Kiki’s Delivery Service, Inspector Gadget, and The Rocketeers, while related, won’t be covered here. I also won’t be covering the Maleficent and Jungle Book sequels for time sake.

I’ll give as many details on these projects as possible, though keep in mind that many of these are still in very early development. Many of these I’ll only be discussing at face value, as that’s all any of us can currently do. Also, I’m combining movies based on the same property for convenience sake. This list is in no particular order. I’ll bring up my ideas for each and invite you to do the same in the comments.

Mulan

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Initially set to be the next live action remake after Beauty and the Beast, Mulan is now set for a 2019 release. After a previous failed attempt at launching a live action Mulan in 2010, production resumed in 2015 with a previously written script being redone by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes/Jurassic World). The film will also be produced by Jason Reed (Alice in Wonderland [2010]/Pearl Harbor) alongside producing duo Chris Bender and J.C. Spink (American Pie/The Hangover), and will reportedly feature an all Chinese cast. Casting began in October 2016 with no announced cast as of yet. It was also recently confirmed that this will not be a musical. Niki Caro (The Zookeeper’s Wife/McFarland, USA) will direct the film.

So far, everything about this movie sounds great. Mulan is definitely one of Disney’s best animated films in my personal opinion, and I can see it working well in a live action setting. This will definitely be one of the more action-packed remakes, which is why I’m glad to see Jaffa and Silver on as part of the project. As a war movie, the film should have a Dawn of the Planet of the Apes feel to it. However, I do find the producer list interesting to say the least. Reed makes sense, but Bender and Spink are very comedic producers. I guess we can assume this film will have a strong comedic edge then, which is fitting. I don’t have any opinion in terms of casting, though it’s nice to hear that it’ll be authentically Chinese (which ensures that this film will make some serious box office money in China). My only request would be to, if possible, get Ming-Na Wen in at least a cameo role. I think that would be cool. Oh, and if you can’t get Eddie Murphy back for Mushu, try casting Kevin Hart.

As for the delay from November 2018, the film was originally set to come out on the same day as an X-Men movie and an unnamed Paramount film. So, I don’t blame Disney for moving the date to sometime less crowded. It has been suggested that the film could release on November 8 or December 20, 2019. To me, the November slot makes more sense as December 20 places the film directly against Wicked, and that may not be a date worth fighting for.

Aladdin & Genies

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A live action Aladdin was announced in October 2016 with director Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes) signed on for the film. John August (Frankenweenie/Dark Shadows) has penned the script which was later re-written by Vanessa Taylor (Game of Thrones/Divergent) while Dan Li (The LEGO Movie) will produce. The film is reportedly seeking a diverse cast, with a Middle-Eastern unknown eyed for the lead. After difficulties in casting the titular street rat caused the production to be delayed from July 2017 to August, Mena Massoud was announced to play Aladdin alongside Naomi Scott as Jasmine. Will Smith was also cast as the Genie, a role reportedly turned down by Kevin Hart. Alan Menken has returned to rewrite the original songs along with new songs with the help of Pasek and Paul (La La Land/James and the Giant Peach).

Meanwhile, a prequel story about the aforementioned Genie was also announced, though its status remains unclear. Genies will be a comedic origin story written by Mark Swift and Damian Shannon (Baywatch/Freddie vs. Jason) and produced by Tripp Vinson (San Andreas/Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters). The film is meant to be released before the Aladdin remake, though filming schedules may suggest otherwise if the project hasn’t been cancelled.

Aladdin is another good choice all things considered. It’s one of the best known of Disney’s properties, and it’s not everyday you see a film based in the Middle-East that isn’t a modern-day war film. I’d imagine the set design will be absolutely beautiful and the effects magnificent. I do find it interesting how Genies is meant to lead into this new Aladdin remake, but it does give me hope that both films would be set in the same continuity. That means that if this new Genie can even live up to Robin Williams (I don’t envy Smith for having to fill those shoes), we’ll see more of him in a year or so. While my personal pick for a new Genie would’ve probably been Jack Black or Gabrielle Iglesias, I think Smith is a good choice, too. Also, kutos to Disney for really taking the time to find an ideal Aladdin. I’m looking forward to seeing what Massoud can do.

The Little Mermaid

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Little is currently known of the live action Little Mermaid, but so far the film has at least one familiar face. Alan Menken will return to compose the film alongside Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton/Moana), who co-produces the project alongside Marc Platt (La La Land/Scott Pilgrim vs. the World/Bridge of Spies/Into the Woods). The film will have a combination of old and new songs in its soundtrack, similar to Beauty and the Beast. As far as casting, Chloe Grace-Moretz was originally in talks to play Ariel, but dropped out in September 2016. Additionally, Lyndsay Lohan has expressed interest in starring in the film. (Take that for whatever it’s worth).

This particular project doesn’t surprise me and shouldn’t surprise you. However, may I say that even with the puddle of information we have so far this sounds great? As of right now, you have three huge names attached to this film: the original composer, an acclaimed musical genius, and a storied producer with so many great films under his belt that I couldn’t even list them all. It’s a shame Moretz dropped out, because I think she’d do a good job if she can sing, but there are a slew of young talent out there who will also be just as eligible to fill the role. In my opinion, Bella Thorne would be a good choice.

Dumbo

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Disney’s 4th ever animated film will be the next live action remake to be released, following Beauty and the Beast, with a targeted date of March 29, 2019. The film will be directed by Tim Burton, while the screenplay will be handled by Ehren Kruger (The Ring/Transformers: The Dark of the Moon/Brothers Grimm/Scream 4). Justin Springer (Tron: Legacy/Oblivion) is also signed on as co-producer. At one point, the film was to star Tom Hanks as the villain character and Will Smith was to play a father of children who befriend Dumbo; however those roles have since been given to Michael Keaton and Collin Farrell respectively. Also among the cast includes Eva Green as an trapeze artist, Danny Devito as a ringleader, and Scott Haney as the rancher. It was announced at D23 that the film has begun filming as of July 2017.

To me, this is one of the more fascinating remakes of the bunch. Given the amount of talent set to appear I’m predicting this film is either trying to pad out the original story (which is understandable since the original was just 64 minutes long), or telling a slightly altered story. We don’t know for sure at this time, though. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t the first Disney film Burton’s remade, having directed both the 2010 Alice in Wonderland and its sequel. I actually quite like the latter of the two, which gives me hope that Burton will make an enjoyable flick here.

As of now, the film is the only one slated for that March 2019 release day, though it will be preceded by Godzilla: King of Monsters and an untitled Nickelodeon film the previous week, and it will be followed by the DCEU’s Shazam! the following week. Pretty stiff competition, but unless something huge decides to take Dumbo on directly, I think the film should do fine financially.

The Lion King

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Despite the fact that this isn’t technically a “live action” remake, I thought I’d include it anyway since its related. The Lion King is scheduled for a July 19, 2019 release date. The film will share similar CG effects as 2016’s The Jungle Book, as well as the same director, Jon Favreau. Jeff Nathanson (Catch Me If You Can/Rush Hour 3/Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) will write the script. The cast so far includes Donald Glover as Simba, Billy Eichner as Timon, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, John Oliver as Zazu, and James Earl Jones returning as Mufasa. Jon Favreau has also offered the role of Nala to Beyonce, though she’s not officially signed yet. A rumor of Hugh Jackman voicing Scar aroise during D23, but was deemed untrue by Jackman’s representative.

Everything about this film sounds like it’s going to be great, especially given how good Favreau did with The Jungle Book and the amount of films under Nathanson’s belt that I didn’t mention. However, I’m approaching this film in a similar way to Beauty and the Beast. It’s going to be very hard to top this particular film, given that many claim this as their favorite Disney animated film. I’m hoping for the best, though. The casting has so far been amazing, and even the potential for Hugh Jackman as Scar is pretty damn good. If he won’t do it, though, I say get Jeremy Irons back.

While July 2019 will be a very crowded month for movies by the look of things, I don’t currently see much reason The Lion King will have trouble making a ton of money. By the 19th, Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 and The Secret Life of Pets 2 should be winding down its box office, and I don’t see Top Gun: Maverick posing much of a threat financially.

Christopher Robin (based on Winnie the Pooh)

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Now we’re starting to get into weird territory with Christopher Robin, a film about an adult Christopher Robin revisiting the Hundred Acre Wood. Yes, really. The original script was written by Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up Phil/Golden Exits), though it has since been rewritten by Tom McCarthy (Up/Spotlight) and then Allison Schroeder (Hidden Figures). It will be produced by Brigham Taylor (The Jungle Book [2016]/Tomorrowland/Remember the Titans) Marc Forster (Finding Neverland/World War Z) will direct the film which will star Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin. Gemma Arteton has declined the role of Christopher’s wife, Evelyn.

Of all the films Disney could remake, Winnie the Pooh is by far the most out there candidate. Look, I’ve had a personal fondness for Pooh since the very beginning. Pooh’s my little homie. No one messes with Pooh and gets away with it, which makes me a bit concerned for this film. Granted, it sounds like a lot of qualified people are working on it, and it is comforting to know that Christopher Robin will be proficient in The Force. We’ll just have to wait and see, though.

Cruella (based on 101 Dalmatians)

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This is not to be confused for the 1996 live action remake of 101 Dalmatians with Glenn Close. Very little is known about the project currently besides it being an origin story of Cruella de Vil. Emma Stone will play the titular character and Alex Timbers (Mozart in the Jungle/Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) is currently in talks to direct the film, as is Kelly Marcel (Fifty Shades of Grey/Terra Nova/Saving Mr. Banks) to write the film.

I see this film will be taking a similar approach as 2014’s Maleficent, which isn’t that bad of an idea, admittedly. I loved Maleficent, and if they plan on making it tonally similar to that, I’m on board. It’ll also be interesting to see Emma Stone take on a villain role for once, and as for potential writer of the film I’ll simply say her take should be very unique… but if they give Cruella any weird kinks, I’m out!

Peter Pan & Tink

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That’s right! Peter Pan is getting adapted for the big screen yet again. This time, the film will be directed and co-written by David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon [2016]) alongside co-writer Toby Halbrooks (Pete’s Dragon [2016]), targeting a release date between 2019 and 2021. A spin-off film, Tink, was also announced with Reese Witherspoon playing Tinker Bell and acting as producer. Victoria Strouse (Finding Nemo/Finding Dory) will pen the screenplay.

As I said, Peter Pan has been adapted countless times before, which makes the challenge of making this adaptation work a bit more daunting. However, a beat-for-beat retelling of the Disney film does sound like it’ll rise above the other such films. It should at the very least be fun and have that lighthearted spirit the film needs to stand out. As for Tink, there’s no telling how that film will do just yet, but that casting? Perfect! Absolutely perfect!

Of Disney’s release slots, I believe it’d be wise to keep these films away from 2019. I say place Peter Pan in 2020 and Tink in 2021, and we’re good.

Nottingham and Hood (based on Robin Hood)

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Depending on the direction Disney is going with this film, this actually may not count as a live action retelling of 1973’s Robin Hood. In any case, Nottingham & Hood was a spec script apparently written by Brandon Barker (Wicked Bad), which Disney has purchased in order to launch a potential franchise. The film reportedly will have a similar tone to Pirates of the Caribbean.

Given how little is actually known about this movie, this probably won’t be released for a long time, but I like the idea of a Robin Hood live action series. The character lore is so deep and beloved that you can really go a number of directions with such a series, and making a beat-for-beat remake of the animated film could be a good way to peak interest longterm.

Pinocchio

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Pinocchio will also be receiving the live action treatment, and that’s no lie. This film will be written by Peter Hedges (About a Boy/The Odd Life of Timothy Green) and will apparently be closer to the much darker, original 1883 book. The script has since been reworked by Chris Weitz (Cinderella [2015]/Rogue One: A Star Wars Story/Antz/The Golden Compass), and Sam Mendes (American Beauty/Skyfall/Spectre) is in talks to direct.

This one honestly doesn’t surprise me. Given all the other announced remakes, this one simply seemed inevitable. That being said the direction chosen is intriguing. Let’s not be coy about this: Pinocchio is a fucked up tale of adolescent harm, slavery, manipulation, and despair, and that’s just the Disney version. I can only imagine how much more messed up the source material is, and I’m pretty excited to find out. You have really talented talented forces at play here. Hopefully the film retains this personnel through the years, so we can see exactly how Disney’s 2nd animated feature can be updated for modern audiences.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs & Rose Red

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A historic film not just for Disney but for film in general, Disney has two live actions adaptations of the first animated film ever made in the works. The first, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, will be a remake of the original written by Erin Cressida Wilson (The Girls on the Train). Pasek and Paul (see Aladdin & Genies) will pen new songs for the film.

Meanwhile, a spin-off film titled Rose Red will tell the story of Snow White’s estranged sister, Rose. Taking place after Snow eats the poison apple and falls into her sleeping death, Rose teams up with Grumpy and the other dwarfs in order to find a cure for the spell. This film is based on a pitch by screenwriter Evan Daugherty (Snow White and the Huntsman/Divergent). It will be written by Justin Hertz (The Boxcar Children) and produced by Tripp Vinson (see Aladdin and Genies).

I’ll admit, while I respect Snow White’s place in history, the idea of a remake of this movie isn’t all that interesting to me. That could very well change as we come closer to a release date and receive more details, though. I’m sure it’ll be a fine movie, but nothing I’m too excited about… minus that infamous forest scene. I look forward to seeing that remade for modern audiences. As for Rose Red, that idea fascinates me. It should be not Grimm’s original Rose Red fairy tale has nothing to do with the story of Snow White. In fact, this movie originally had no connection with Snow White’s remake either. So, Daugherty’s ability to marry the two stories will certainly be fascinating. Perhaps the bear (whose secretly a prince) from Rose Red will be the key to this new story. I look forward to it.

Night on Bald Mountain (based on Fantasia)

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Okay, this one’s fascinating. Now, if you’re familiar with the musical extravaganza known as Fantasia, you’re no doubt familiar with the film’s finale piece based on Leopold Stokowski’s arrangement of “Night on Bald Mountain”. This iconic Disney moment is set to be expanded into a feature length movie based on the devilish beast himself, Chernabog. Matt Sazama and Burk Sharless (Dracula Untold/Power Rangers [2017]/Gods of Egypt/The Last With Hunter) will write the script for this film, reportedly giving it a similar feel to Maleficent.

This is one of Disney’s more out-there ideas for a remake, but I definitely feel that this segment is among the most fitting candidates for a full remake; especially since The Sorcerer’s Apprentice already got an adaptation in 2010, which didn’t work very well. I can see this having potential, baring in mind I have very little memory of the original Fantasia and this scene. It’ll certainly be a visually interesting movie with incredible music. I’m actually rather interested in who they’ll get to score this movie as they’ll have quite the undertaking. Plus, while Sazama and Sharless have some pretty iffy films under their belt, we can certainly be assured that this movie will have the necessary dark feel Night on Bald Mountain needs.

That leaves the question of who could potentailly play Chernabog. If they’re going for a non-CG stand-in, I could see someone like Dave Bautista or Tom Hardy in the role.

The Sword in the Stone

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Ah, Sword in the Stone. I’ve had good times with this movie, and I’m glad to see this one up for a future remake. Very little is currently known of this project other then Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones) writing the film’s screenplay and Brigham Taylor (see Christopher Robin) producing.

Similar to how Peter Pan has probably been adapted to death by now, King Arthur is definitely a story done a few too many times. However, it has been a while since the last great King Arthur movie has been out, and perhaps this could be the one to really perfect the story on film. No promises on that, but who know? I’m at least assured by Taylor’s involvement that it’ll be of at least regular Disney quality. He’s been part of most of Disney’s live action outings since Remember the Titans, so take that for what you will. Bryan Cogman is also a good choice for stories of that time period, so overall everything seems fine.

I’m sure this film’s a while away but my personal pick for Merlin would probably be Michael Gambon. Probably a bit close to home, I’m aware, but it would still be fitting.

Oliver Twist (based on Oliver and Company)

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This last one may not actually count, as this film may simply be an adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel and not Oliver and Company. However, I figured I’d discuss it just in case. Oliver Twist will be directed by Thomas Kali (Hamilton), co-written by Jeff Kwatinetz (Unstoppable/Barbershop: The Next Cut) and co-produced by Kwatinetz and Marc Platt (see The Little Mermaid). Additionally, Ice Cube will serve as co-producer, co-writer and actor in the film, playing the role of Fagin.

Admittedly, I have no opinion on this film. I’m familiar with neither the story of Oliver Twist nor Oliver and Company. What I will say is that the project seems to have a lot of strong musical talent behind it. This makes me certain that as far as musicals go, this could be a masterpiece in the making. I look forward to hearing more about this project (preferably after I’ve actually seen Oliver and Company).

Honorable Mentions

  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was apparently in the works at Disney which would adapt the book, The Wind in the Willows, featuring one of the characters from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. The film began work in 2003 with Guillermo del Toro attached for a brief time. It’s not clear whether the project is officially cancelled.
  • An untitled Prince Charming movie is in the works, though its unclear whether this will hearken back to a particular Disney film or be an original. Mandeville Films will produce the project.
  • An untitled Witch movie is also in the works with no clear indication that it’ll connect to a previous animated film. Alli Shearmur Productions and Little Stranger Inc will produce.
  • A film based on The Merlin Saga is also planned for production, though its unclear is this will have any connection to The Sword in the Stone. No information is known of the project.

That is every live action remake of a Disney Animated Studios movie currently know. In total there are 17 planned films with many more announced projects on the way, no doubt. Let me know in the comments which movie interests you the most and which one appeals to you the least.

Also, if you liked this post, check out my D23 news recap post for more about the future of Disney!

I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!

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