Love them or hate them it looks like Disney’s live action remakes are here to stay, for now. Disney’s live action adaptations of their animated works and properties have proven to be massively successful so it’s no surprise that the remakes we’re getting this year, “Dumbo”, “Aladdin” and “The Lion King”, won’t be the end of this fad. Hell even the “Maleficent” sequel has reportedly been moved up to 2019 giving this year FOUR scheduled live action adaptations from Disney. A while back I actually posted a list of Disney films that deserved the live-action treatment and you can read that countdown by clicking here. Funny enough at least one of them is now being developed. Since Disney’s first live action remake of the year, “Dumbo”, comes out this weekend I decided to look at what we can expect from this lineup of retreads in the foreseeable future. So here are Ten Disney Live Action Remakes Currently in Development.
For today’s countdown I looked at Disney’s slate of upcoming live-action adaptations of animated properties that are set to be release in 2020 or later and are confirmed to be in development. Not all of these films have release dates and many are merely concepts at this point, but as long as they were in development as of March 2019 I considered them. This isn’t a typical list meant to rank these films though. Rather today is just an opportunity to showcase a handful of live-action Disney remakes that are in the pipeline whether we like it or not. I’m also not considering and movies currently slated to debut on Disney+, such a “The Sword in the Stone’ and”Peter Pan”. I only care for theatrical films or movies that have yet to receive a specific release format.
What Disney animated movie do you hope gets the live action treatment? Which live action remake are you looking forward to the most? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to look for my review of “Dumbo” this weekend. Now, on with the show!
Let’s start with one pretty much everyone knows is coming by now. “Mulan” is a live-action version of the 1998 Disney classic of the same name and, like 2019’s “Aladdin”, will include a cast with appropriate racial backgrounds. In this case the cast is mostly, if not complete, Asian with the likes of Liu Yifei, Yoson An, Jason Scott Lee, Jet Li, Donnie Yen and others playing characters in the film. Disney even attempted to court Asian directors for the project with two-time Oscar winner Ang Lee offered the director position although he turned it down. With that said, Disney will take a different step forward in terms of inclusivity with Nika Caro directing making “Mulan” the second $100 million film produced by Disney (after “A Wrinkle in Time”) to have a female director. The production is expected to include new characters and elements to expand on the “Mulan” legend as well as familiar characters like Mulan’s trusted companion Mushu and the soldier trio Ling, Po and Yao. “Mulan” is the only movie on this list today with a specified release date with the film slated for March 27, 2020.
9. “The Jungle Book 2”
The 2016 live-action adaptation of “The Jungle Book” was a monster hit that year $966 million at the box office and helped solidify public interest in Disney’s live action remakes. So, it should be no surprise that the studio has green-lit a sequel. Director John Favreau, who also led 2019’s “The Lion King” remake, will return along with screenwriter Justin Marks and star Neel Sethi who played Mowgli in the first film. Originally this sequel was meant to be shot back-to-back with “The Lion King” but was put on hold to allow for more focus on the later. Since then pre-production has continued with an early draft of the script completed in January of 2018. According to Mark, the film will further explore the work of Rudyard Kipling while also including elements from former Disney animator Bill Peet’s original version of the animated classic that spawned a legendary disagreement and parting of ways between Peet and the company.
8. “The Little Mermaid”
In 2016 it was announced that 1989’s “The Little Mermaid” would get the live action treatment which shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, “The Little Mermaid” launched the Disney Renaissance and three of the films that followed it, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Aladdin”, and “The Lion King”, have all received live action remakes. The problem is nobody knows when this film will even begin production. In December of 2018 director Rob Marshall was asked about the development and casting and said, “it’s way too early” and that pretty much where we still stand today. However, some big names have shown interest in starring in the project including Chris Evans and even Lindsay Lohan. The most controversial casting rumor though has been the possibility of Zendaya, an African American actress, playing the role of Ariel. In September of 2018 Zendaya was asked in an interview with Teen Vogue about the rumors and called them simply that, “rumors”. However social media turned the casting into a debate with some complimenting Disney for their continued attempt at diversity while others have called the potential for a black actress to play a character known mostly for being white with red hair an attempt at pandering more than a genuine attempt at diversity. Regardless of your take on the casting rumors it has certainly garnered a lot of buzz for a film that isn’t even in production just yet.
Following suit with “Maleficent” which sought to humanize the main antagonist of “Sleeping Beauty”, “Cruella” will seek to explore the origins of Curella De Vil, the main villain of “101 Dalmatians”. It’s not the first time the Disney animated classic will receive a live-action adaptation. Long before Disney made it a common occurrence the studio adapted the story to live action in the 90s with Glenn Close as the black-and-white-haired baddy. Close is said to be a producer on the film with Oscar winner Emma Stone set to step into the shoes of De Vil and is expected to explore where Cruella came from and how she became the evil villainess we know and love to hate today. Some rumors even claim it will be directly connected to the original live action remakes from 1996 and 2000. Originally the film was to be directed by Alex Timbers, known more for his Broadway production, but in December of 2018 it was confirmed that Craig Gillespie, who directed the Oscar nominated and incredibly hilarious “I, Tonya”, would be at the helm. Not much else is known about “Cruella” or when it will be released.
6. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”
There are actually two films in the works at Disney that will give the studio’s original animated classic the live-action treatment. Disney isn’t even the first studio to try and bring the “Snow White” legend to literal life in the last few years. Both Fox and Universal attempted live action treatments of the tale in 2012 with “Mirror, Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” respectively, both receiving mixed reviews from critics. In 2016 Disney announced two live-action movies in developments, one based on the tale of Snow White’s sister, Red Rose, and the other an actual adaptation of the animated feature. While there have been few details released about the “Red Rose” movie, the “Snow White” adaptation has made some ground with Erin Cressida Wilson negotiating the script as of 2016. What’s even more exciting is that Pasek and Paul are expected to write new songs for the film. This is the amazing musical duo behind the soundtracks for “La La Land” and “The Greatest Showman” and also new material to be featured in 2019’s live-action version of “Aladdin”. So the music at least is in good hands.
One of Disney’s earliest animated films and the origin of its famous theme song “When You Wish Upon A Star”, it should surprise no one that “Pinocchio” is getting its own Disney-led live action film. Announced in 2015, the film has gone through several directors including Sam Mendes and Paul King. King stepped down in January of this year due to family issues leaving the film’s director position vacant. The movie’s script and screenplay have also changed hands several times while a cast has yet to be announced. However, rumors are that Tom Hanks has shown interest in playing Pinocchio’s creator and father figure Geppetto. Production was slated to begin in 2019 until King left the project so as of this write-up the film is in limbo, but Disney still plans to push through and find a new director. Whoever they choose will have a lot of pressure on their shoulders as Disney is not the only company adapting the story. In fact, several filmmakers are involved with different interpretations of the property for different studios and even Guillermo Del Toro is reportedly working on a darker rendition of the tale. So, Disney knows that their “Pinocchio” film has to be done right. It’s just a matter of who will lead the production and when the studio plans to roll it out.
4. “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”
Back when I posted my list of Disney movies that deserve a live action remake the film that topped them all was “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. Well I’m getting my wish. In January of this year Disney announced that one of its more often overlooked but still excellent animated classics from the 90s would get the live-action treatment with a script to be penned by David Henry Hwang. Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz are expected to return to lead the musical score and songs as they did with the 1996 animated feature while Josh Gad, who appeared in the live-action “Beauty and the Beast”, is set to produce and is reportedly in talks to play the lead character Quasimodo as well. For a movie that has only just been announced this year, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” has made more ground than many other films on this list and considering how rarely this classic story has been adapted to the big screen over the years this is one of the few live action remakes from Disney that not only feels appropriate, but also timely. Let’s hope the live-action version can capture the dark and uncompromising honesty of its predecessor.
3. “Lilo & Stitch”
Another film that made my “should be remade” list, not a lot of details have been released as of yet but, yes, Disney is working on a live action version of “Lilo & Stitch”. The 2002 story about a young Hawaiian girl who befriends an adorable and hyperactive blue alien is the newest animated feature set to get the live-action treatment although it’s still unknown when we will get the film or if it will be a theatrical picture or a Disney+ exclusive. Stitch has become something of a cult favorite Disney character earning television and direct-to-video spinoffs and even his own admittedly underwhelming attraction at the Disney parks. So while “Lilo & Stitch” is still quite new compared to other Disney films it’s not much of a shock to company wants to cash in on Stitch’s popularity. The Hollywood Reporter made the announcement that Disney will remake “Lilo & Stitch” in October of 2018 with Dan Lin, the producer of all four of WB’s “LEGO” movies and the horror film “It”, to produce the project and Jonathan Eirich and Mike Van Waes to write a script.
2. “Night on Bald Mountain”
Disney’s 1940 musical compilation of stories “Fantasia” has been the source of inspiration for two cinematic live-action films to date, 2010’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and 2018’s “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms”. It looks like a third live action adaptation of one of the film’s sequences is on the way. In 2015 Disney announced that one of the movie’s most famous sequences, the concluding number “The Night on Bald Mountain” which featured the Chernabog, will get the live-action treatment in the near future. Few details have been released as to exactly what kind of story the film will follow or how closely it will resemble the themes and imagery of the “Fantasia” segment, but with writers Marr Sazama and Burk Sharpless (who penned “The Last Witch Hunter”, “Gods of Egypt” and “Dracula Untold”) at the helm it stands to reason the dark atmosphere of the story will likely be retained. The problem here is that none of the films this writing duo are known for turned out to be hits which makes it a risky move for Disney to put them in charge of adapting a legendary villain and story into a quality live action feature.
1. “The Chronicles of Prydain”
In 1985 Disney released what is possibly one of their most divisive, unique and strange animated features, “The Black Cauldron”. It was based on two of the books in the “Chronicles of Prydain” series by Lloyd Alexander. Over the year’s “The Black Cauldron” has garnered a cult following and become a unique part of Disney history. Maybe it’s that fact alone that has inspired Disney to go ahead with a movie based not just on “The Black Cauldron”, but the entire “Prydain” series. Both Variety and comingsoon.net reported the plans in 2016 although in the years that followed it has become increasingly more apparent the project will be a live action film, either continuing or rebooting the events of “The Black Cauldron”. Some have even theorized that Disney will instead make a full-on series following the books for Disney+ but as of this write-up the plan remains a live-action film reboot of one of the studio’s most obscure animated projects. It will be interesting to see where Disney goes from here. Whether it’s a television series or the currently planned live-action theatrical picture a “Chronicle of Prydain” franchise could prove to be among the studio’s darkest offerings to date.