Continuing their tone-deaf approach at the box office, despite the cries and calls from fans to stop the madness surrounding each live-action remake, Disney has set its course in stone, refusing to extract the once great weapon of animated storytelling. Although no one asked, Disney’s future slate of live-action adaptations of once classic films, which hold extreme nostalgic value for many, are primed and ready to flop to the jeering sounds of consumers who are tired of the exhaustive and unoriginal approach that is Disney movie magic.
Despite once being a leader in its industry, presenting creative and original stories through animation without the extra dashes of pixie dust, or what many would consider to be preachy, pandering social pushes from the entertainment company, Disney has no plans to slow down their live-action remake factory. Fresh off the Achilles heel of The Little Mermaid, Haunted Mansion, and the soon-to-be failure of the already controversial Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney is ready to keep audiences on their couches at home with a slew of remakes, including Moana, Lilo & Stitch, and The Sword in the Stone.
Disney’s Dedication to Unoriginal Live-Action Remakes
The idea was fresh at first, exciting even, but since, the concept of readapting classic Walt Disney Pictures original films into live-action has become stale. With complete disregard for the pioneering, innovative storytelling of Walt Disney, as well as clear dissatisfaction from a shrinking fanbase, Dinsey has chosen to double down on their unoriginal content, forcing viewers to rely on lecture-heavy, politically-affiliated stories under the guise of ingenuity and entertainment.
Sure, the idea of rehashing well-performing products from the past has worked previously for The Walt Disney Company. Films like The Lion King (2019) were originally profitable ventures as Disney dipped its toes into the live-action market. However, dumping new films, heavily ladened with super-charged socio-political bias, has become the norm for the once great animation studios at Disney, leaving fans of their new original animated content scraping meat from the bones of movies like Elemental (2023).
Taking creative liberties to retell classic Disney favorites is a bold choice. One that has been hit or miss for Walt Disney Pictures. Some fans have loudly displayed their displeasure at the casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel in Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. As well, others couldn’t handle the completely different story told in 2023’s Peter Pan & Wendy. Some hated the idea of bringing storied animated characters like Baloo (Bill Murray) and Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) to live-action in Jon Favreau’s 2016 retelling of The Jungle Book, and some couldn’t stomach Tim Burton’s take on 2019’s Dumbo. It’s been difficult to be a Disney fan lately, as they’ve insisted on feeding their once precious audience hand-me-downs from a bygone era.
They Aren’t All Terrible
To be fair, Disney has had a few wildly popular live-action retelling of its classic stories. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010), featuring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, is a memorable real-life telling that fans adored. Also, fans mostly enjoyed 2017’s take on bringing Belle (Emma Watson) and Gaston (Luke Evans) to live-action in Beauty and the Beast. Cruella (2021), featuring Emma Stone, was also another appreciated take on Disney’s bombardment of live-action remakes.
However, many more have failed as films such as Mulan (2020), Pinocchio (2022), and Christopher Robin (2018) all left fans confused and feeling as if Disney strayed too far from what made them enjoyable in the first place. It would seem that fans take their live-action remakes with a dash of originality.
That doesn’t mean that Disney should expect success by recasting skin colors (as has been a fan complaint about Rachel Zegler’s upcoming portrayal of Snow White) and promoting lifestyles through their retelling; it means that for live-action remakes to work, Disney must tell a different story, that’s closely knitted into the fabric of something they’ve found success with in the past. For example, Maleficient works because it isn’t a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Instead, it’s an entirely new story based on a compelling character from the Disney animated film. Not to Disney: Casting Angelina Jolie helps.
The Problem with Using Films to Preach to Audiences
Another big reason that Disney’s latest blunders are failing is their inability to not preach to their audiences. People go to the movies to be entertained, that’s it, there’s nothing more. If we wanted to be educated, we’d go to school or watch a documentary on Disney+ or National Geographic. If we wanted a spiritual experience, we’d go to church services. If we want to affect change, we’d go to a rally, protest, or vote. For whatever reason, maybe social pressure, Disney has decided to use its place in popular culture as a soapbox for serious issues that ravage today’s world. Because of this, their films and parks are no longer detached from the non-magical everyday existence that we endure. Disney is no longer a safe space.
Because of their willingness to bend the knee to every hot-button social issue out there, many are tuning out, as Disney films no longer offer that fresh, unique stroke of brilliance that carried us off to faraway places. Instead, they preach to audiences about issues they’re already constantly flooded with at school, work, or in the news. Rachel Zegler, who will play Snow White in the upcoming live-action remake of one of Walt Disney’s shining achievements, is a great example, as she’s been extremely vocal regarding her stance and approach to the cherished Disney character.
Citing Variety, The Hollywood Reporter did a great job of illustrating the disconnect between Disney and its audience by highlighting Zegler’s deadset approach to a character that many feel like Disney should never have touched in the first place.
“She’s not going to be dreaming about true love. She’s dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be and the leader that her late father told her that she could be if she was fearless, fair, brave, and true. People are making these jokes about ours being the PC Snow White, where it’s like, yeah, it is — because it needed that.”
The Hollywood Reporter went on to cite other comments from Zegler regarding the original, which Zegler calls “extremely dated when it comes to the ideas of women being in roles of power and what a woman is fit for in the world.
Although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with promoting strong, independent women, the point of illustrating these comments in The Hollywood Reporter is to acknowledge that many hold the original Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs feature as the holy grail of animated film. Many have called the remake, which takes several creative liberties, championed by someone who publically compared their struggles on set of a multi-million dollar production to the financial strain experienced by those impacted by the SAG-AFTRA strikes, an insult to the profession as well as to Walt Disney.
Disney’s Newest Live Action Remake Takes Aim at Another Classic
Despite the public outcry to stop the train of less-than-stellar remakes, Disney is taking aim at another beloved animated classic film adored by fans just as much as The Lion King, Peter Pan, or The Jungle Book. This time, Arthur Pendragon, Merlin, Madam Mim, and Archimedes find themselves up for grabs. However, fate may have different plans for the newest live-action take by Disney.
The Sword in the Stone, the popularized animated story of a young King Arthur from 1963, is a musical retelling of T.H. White’s novel The Once and Future King. The classic tale of how King Arthur came to be features more than a few amazing voice talents, including Karl Swenson, Junius Matthews, Martha Wentworth, and Richard Reitherman. Although not as popular as other Disney animated films in its decade, like One Hundred and One Dalmatians or The Jungle Book, the story holds a dear place in the hearts of Disney fans, leading their studios to announce a live-action retelling in 2015.
Since then, there’s been little detail regarding plans to move forward with the project, which was rumored to be a Disney+ exclusive. However, we do know that director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later) was set to bring the story of Arthur and Merlin to live-action visualization. However, the future of the film may sit in limbo currently, with its release uncertain. As it’s been several years since Disney has provided updates on the film, it’s safe to say that there’s not much to go on in terms of expectations.
Despite the mystery surrounding the project, citing THR, ScreenRant has provided a few details of note, including that Game of Thrones screenwriter Byron Cogman would be working on the storyline for Disney’s live-action Sword in the Stone. It was also confirmed that producer Brigham Taylor, who has worked on several live-action Disney remakes, including 2019’s Lady and the Tramp and 2016’s The Jungle Book, would take over officiating duties of the project.
Release Date and Casting of Disney’s Latest Live-Action Movie
It’s difficult to say anything definitive regarding Disney’s live-action The Sword in the Stone. Although it was reported via Deadline that the film would be a premiere exclusive to Disney+, little detail regarding production timelines or cast was provided. As Disney has been extremely quiet since the announcement of the remake, there’s considerable concern, as almost a decade later, not even a cast has been identified.
It is likely, assuming production has yet to begin and based on other timelines of films such as Peter Pan & Wendy or The Lion King, once filming actually starts, we wouldn’t expect a release for several years. Assuming production starts at the end of 2023, a release date of 2026 would be extremely ambitious, according to ScreenRant. Despite the confirmation that the film was happening back in 2015, it’s likely that the idea, although there’s been no official announcement by Disney, has been placed on the back burner as more and more live-action productions hit the brick wall of fatigue by Disney fans and movie-goers.
Other Rumored Productions
Taking on the story of Arthur and Merlin seems like an actual fit for a live-action remake, even if Disney is heralding the project. The story is one that’s been told in different ways already via movie cameras. However, some of Disney’s other planned productions may not translate as well, especially if they continue to treat their films as socio-political PSAs. Many rumors abound on the internet regarding Disney classics getting a live-action makeover, some confirmed and others simply hearsay, but which is which?
One particular note that has made its rounds lately is the remake of the classic Halloween/ Christmas story surrounding Jack Skellington in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Although we’d all love to see Johnny Depp and Helena Bohnman Carter take on the roles of Sally and Jack, this is simply a rumor that caught fire after an April Fool’s post made by Inside the Magic. It isn’t happening.
Despite the failure that was The Little Mermaid, Disney isn’t giving up on cashing back in on some of their more successful princesses and female characters. Moana, made famous in 2016, is getting a live-action remake with the likes of Dwayne Johnson returning as the loveable Maui. Considering the star power, if there’s one remake that can prove profitable outside a Mufasa-based sequel to The Lion King, it’s certainly this one.
We all love talking animals, but that wasn’t enough to save Ewan McGregor and Winnie the Pooh in Disney’s live-action Christopher Robin. Despite the failure, Disney is carrying on with a few confirmed projects that feature other animal-based Disney characters. Robin Hood and Bambi (which will change scenes which are deemed traumatizing to children) are slated to get live-action adaptations, much to the disgruntled exhaustion of fans.
A few other live-action remakes of note that could or could not come to theaters and Disney+, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Aristocats, Aladdin 2, Lilo & Stitch, and Hercules have all been chosen to receive makeovers as Disney continues to milk the proverbial cow of days past.
Which films do you think will work as live-action remakes?