Disney live-action remakes have become a popular trend in recent years, with the studio bringing classic animated movies to life on the big screen. While some of these remakes have been highly successful, others have received mixed reviews.
Fans of classic Disney storytelling have been critical in their reception of Disney’s slate of live-action remakes, ultimately impacting their usually dominant box office performance. As audience enjoyment would seem to be a priority for Disney, it’s astonishing to some that their plans to move forward with new remakes remain intact, despite outcries for original animated content such as Frozen (2013) and The Princess and the Frog (2009).
Disney Remains Determined to Make Live-Action Remakes Work
2023 was a tough year for Disney at the movies. In a time where they usually dominate, the giant entertainment company saw its reign as king of the box office usurped by Universal Pictures.
Although releases of live-action remakes like The Little Mermaid (2023) and Haunted Mansion (2023) where high-profile projects, well advertised by the Walt Disney Company, ultimately, both were considered flops by the general public.
Past experience and success of films like The Lion King (2019) seem to have possibly changed the course of production and project determination for Walt Disney Pictures. Ignoring expensive failures, new projects featuring old names like Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, and Pinocchio have been all the rage.
Although Disney has little problem magnetizing talent, drawing big names like Emily Blunt, Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, Ewan McGregor, and even Angelina Jolie for their live-action productions, the recent casting of Halle Bailey and Rachel Zegler has left some scratching their heads.
Still, despite box office numbers and controversy shrouding upcoming projects like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt Disney Pictures seems insistent on carrying on with what some consider to be an unoriginal approach to entertainment with their live-action movie projects.
More Live-Action Remakes are on the Way
Probably the most anticipated remake, Snow White is already turning heads, as lead Rachel Zegler has done herself no favors in making friends with an already tired and relentless crowd. However, despite the poor press associated with the upcoming remake, Disney doesn’t seem to have any plans to slow down.
According to Screen Rant, the following films are all in talks to get a live-action retelling:
- Lilo & Stitch
- Sword in the Stone
- Mufasa: The Lion King
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- The Aristocats
- Cruella 2
- Jungle Book 2
- The Black Cauldron
- Robin Hood
- Aladdin 2
Whew! That’s a pretty exhaustive list of films. Although it’s likely that some of these projects may be halted and never come to fruition, the list shows that Disney is determined to make their success on films such as The Lion King, Maleficent, and Christopher Robin work, even if it means adding subscribers to their streaming app, Disney+.
These upcoming live-action remakes will continue Disney’s tradition of bringing beloved stories to life, hopefully in a new, captivating way. Fans want to look forward to experiencing the magic of these timeless tales with a fresh perspective and modern filmmaking techniques; however, as some feel Disney has incorporated too much change, they are likely to be met with opposition from moviegoers.
The Worst Disney Live-Action Remakes
Now, let’s get into what you all came here for. Much like you, I am full of opinions, and also, like you, I have my own personal thoughts regarding each and every Disney live-action remake out there. Although I’m a huge fan of some of the work Disney has done (especially in conjunction with the likes of Tim Burton and Jon Favreau), I, too, hold some new projects at the bottom of the barrel.
In saying that, prior to moving forward, it’s important to note that this is my opinion, and it may not hold value over your enjoyment of each film that will be listed. Also, this list isn’t exhaustive. To save you from a 20-minute read, we’ve compiled a short list of what we consider to be the worst Disney live-action remakes of late.
Yes, the original 1940 story is a classic among Disney fans. However, despite the star power of Tom Hanks, the 2022 live-action version left a lot to be desired. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film was just sort of there; it flowed, but it didn’t. It was a tough watch.
The Little Mermaid (2023)
What was meant to be a classic retelling of the original 1989 film, which brought on a resurgence of Disney animation in the 90’s, left a lot of folks feeling like a fish out of water. Although many had issues with using a black actress to portray Ariel, my issues with the film were just that it didn’t suit well for live-action. In a time where CGI seems to have devolved, The Little Mermaid just missed the mark.
I’m usually a huge fan of whatever Tim Burton does. However, Dumbo, already a depressing story, didn’t need any more dark undertones when Disney decided to rehash the story. Michael Keaton, Colin Farrell, and Danny DeVito couldn’t save this straight to Disney+ flop.
Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)
Another miss by famed director Tim Burton, 2016’s follow-up to the successful Alice in Wonderland movie was another hard-to-swallow pill. The film felt as if it went off the rails a bit, although I suppose that was the purpose. However, Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter character pranced too far away from what made it iconic in the original film.
The Best Disney Live-Action Remakes
As we’ve said, these lists are exhaustive, and they’re solely of our own opinion. There are plenty of Disney redos out there that find themselves in the “meh” category. Christopher Robin (2018), Peter Pan & Wendy (2023), and Pete’s Dragon (2016) all rest squarely within a grey area. However, when talking about the best that Disney live-action has to offer, there are a few titles that are clear-cut favorites.
The Jungle Book (2016)
Directed by Jon Favreau, The Jungle Book is widely regarded as one of the best Disney live-action remakes. This visually stunning film seamlessly blends live-action and CGI, bringing the beloved characters and the lush jungle to life. It garnered critical acclaim for its impressive visual effects, faithful adaptation, and compelling performances. The Jungle Book is a true testament to the magic of Disney storytelling.
The Lion King (2019)
Also directed by Jon Favreau, The Lion King remake is a visual masterpiece. This film amazed audiences with its breathtaking CGI animation, making the animals and landscapes look astonishingly real. While some critics felt that the remake lacked the emotional depth of the original animated film, there is no denying the stunning visuals and the nostalgic appeal that made it a box-office hit.
Kenneth Branagh successfully brought Cinderella, the classic fairy tale, to life in a visually stunning and enchanting way. This remake received positive reviews for its beautiful cinematography, memorable performances, and its faithfulness to the original story. Lily James shines as the iconic princess, and the film captures the timeless magic of the Cinderella story.
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Directed by Bill Condon, Beauty and the Beast is a charming and visually impressive adaptation of the beloved animated film. With its strong performances, lavish production design, and memorable musical numbers, this remake successfully captures the magic and romance of the original. However, some critics felt that it didn’t offer enough new material to truly stand out.
Guy Ritchie and his live-action adaptation of Aladdin faced high expectations due to the animated film’s popularity. While it received mixed reviews, audiences enjoyed its vibrant visuals, energetic musical numbers, and the charismatic performances of Will Smith as the Genie and Mena Massoud as Aladdin. Despite some criticisms, Aladdin still manages to capture the fun and adventure of the original.
Cruella followed the path of other villain origin stories, giving Disney fans a taste of the beginnings of one of the most disgusting baddies they’ve ever made. Featuring the marvelous Emma Stone, Cruella adds a bit of flair and flavor to the beginnings of the infamous Disney villain, Cruella de Vil.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Directed by Tim Burton, Alice in Wonderland took a darker and more fantastical approach to Lewis Carroll’s classic story. While it was a commercial success, the film received mixed reviews, with critics praising the visual style but criticizing the lack of emotional depth. Despite its flaws, this remake offers a visually stunning and imaginative world.
Probably number one for me, Robert Stromberg’s Maleficent is a reimagining of the classic Disney film “Sleeping Beauty” from the perspective of the iconic villain. Although Angelina Jolie delivered a captivating performance as Maleficent, the film received mixed reviews for its uneven storytelling and lack of depth. While it may not be the strongest of the Disney live-action remakes, it still offers an intriguing twist on a familiar story.
In conclusion, while Disney live-action remakes have had varying degrees of success, these films have provided audiences with a mix of nostalgia, visual spectacle, and new interpretations of beloved stories. From the breathtaking visuals of The Jungle Book to the enchanting charm of Cinderella, these remakes have brought the magic of Disney to life in a new way. Though opinions may differ on the rankings, there is no denying the impact these remakes have had on audiences worldwide.