Disney’s Next Live-Action Remakes Could Be Great–Or Not


Not all Disney Live-Action remakes are created equally. The most recent releases are proof of that.

Sometimes, the more beloved a Disney Animated Classic, the harder it is to get the live adaptation right. For better or worse, Disney keeps giving live-action remakes another shot. While it is starting to look like they might be scraping the bottom of the idea barrel, some of these movies were long overdue for a makeover. Whether they hit the magical mark is yet to be seen.

While we still have a moment to wonder, worry, and dream, let’s place our bets on the three best and the three worst Disney live-action remakes still on the way.

Best: The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid
Walt Disney Pictures

The Little Mermaid is becoming a part of our world on July 9, 2021. And it’s about time. Rob Marshall is directing the highly anticipated live-action flick. And it’s going to be groundbreaking in more ways than one.

Halle Bailey will play Ariel. You may recognize her as one half of the R&B duo Chloe X Halle. On choosing the right lead for the larger-than-life character, Marshall has stated, “After an extensive search, it was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance—plus a glorious singing voice—all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role.”

Some very famous faces are also taking on reimagined roles. Melissa McCarthy will play Ursula, Awkwafina will play Scuttle, Daveed Diggs will play Sebastian, and Jonah Hauer-King will star as Prince Eric. Adding to the excitement, the movie is rumored to include all of the most beloved songs from the animated version, plus a few new ones.

Casting initially sparked controversy. As noted by Glamour, some people on Twitter began using the hashtag “NotMyAriel” in response to a Black woman portraying the Disney Classic’s leading lady. Despite any ongoing hate, Bailey has received boatloads of support every step of the way. The OG voice of Ariel, Jodi Benson, says “the story” is the important thing, adding, “I think the spirit of the character is what really matters.”

We couldn’t agree more.

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Worst: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hunchback of Notre Dame
Walt Disney Pictures

Simply called Hunchback, David Henry Hwang is taking on the script for the live-action version of Disney’s 1990 take on Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel. Got all that?

While a fascinating idea, the result could go either way, depending on how the ingrained issues are tackled (or avoided) in the live-action version. No matter what, this is one live-action remake that should be handled with care because of sensitivity issues and the grim tone of the film. And of all the Disney movies they could’ve chosen to redo right now, the timing of this one seems ill-guided.

As noted by Vanity Fair, Netflix is currently working on a live-action adaptation of its own. That means soon there will be dueling Hunchbacks. This reality undercuts the possibility of “one big remake” coming from any direction. Disney might be too focused on yet another battle with Netflix and therefore scrambling to redo a classic best left alone for now. Hopefully, that’s not the case. But the general worry with Disney’s Hunchback is that the powerful story within the original might be needlessly lost in a time crunch.

Speaking of bad timing, Notre-Dame de Paris where Quasimodo fictiously rings the bells caught fire in 2019. All of the world watched in fear as one of Paris’s most historic landmarks almost burnt to the ground. Too soon? I think so.

On the plus side, the maestros who wrote the wonderful songs and scores for the 1996 animated film (Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz) have signed on to revamp the music. Josh Gad will also be involved, but as far as we know, he’s only producing. We still await casting details for this one–and with breath that is bated, I might add.

Best: Lilo & Stitch

Lilo & Stitch
Walt Disney Pictures

It has taken me some time to wrap my head around this one, but I’m officially on (surf)board.

Lilo & Stitch is hopping that live-action/CG wave and riding it out very soon. For a while, we weren’t sure when or if it was really happening, but it looks like we’ll be gifted with this adaptation by December 2021. Produced by those behind the live-action version of Aladdin, expectations for this remake are high but hesitant.

Award-winning director Mike Van Waes is reportedly writing the script. As noted by Variety, Crazy Rich Asians’ Jon M. Chu is said to be directing. Much about the cast remains unknown, but it’s set to film in Hawaii. So if nothing else, the backdrop will be breathtaking. Even with much still left to the imagination, this one feels like a safe bet. After all, the animated character of Stitch helped make the original film a fan favorite in the new era of Disney. With Stitch’s portrayal now in CG, it’s not too far removed from the original at first glance.

As an eternal supporter of the unlikely love story that is Lilo & Stitch, a live-action adaptation seems like it might be tough to pull off–or rather, it’s going to be hard to please everybody. The characters were as distinctive and beloved as the watercolor animation. All skepticism aside, if they are able to bring Lilo & Stitch to life, it will undoubtedly pave the way for a new generation of fans to find even more to love about the story. And I’m okay with that.

So let’s keep our fingers crossed, Ohana.

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Worst: Peter Pan and Wendy

Peter Pan
Walt Disney Pictures

Hear me out on this one. It is not that this is a terrible idea. It isn’t. The issue has more to do with the fact that it is actually a good idea, a great one even. So great, in fact, that this live-action adaptation has been done before. Many, many times. And the source material has produced a plethora of great live-action spin-offs, to boot.

There are still Disney classics in the vault that haven’t been given a chance. So why on Earth are we flying to Never Never Land again? According to Director David Lowery, it’s not a matter of doing it better this time around, but doing it differently. Per The Radio Times, Lowery explains, “I started thinking, ‘Well, how would I do it, not better, but differently?’ As soon as I started thinking that, I started getting ideas and it seemed like a good fit.”

Perhaps that is the lasting appeal. This is one story that people never get tired of reimagining in live-action. After all, Peter is meant to inspire audiences to get in touch with our imaginations. And the storyline could feasibly go on forever since Peter Pan’s legacy is that he never grows up. But that’s the thing, it doesn’t go on forever. Just like the adaptations to come before, this one is based on the same storyline, the same characters, the same proclamation that it’s “something different.” My highest hopes are for the adventure-fantasy film’s cinematography. There’s no way it won’t be spectacular.

As for reliving Peter Pan’s journey again, I feel we’ve all done that enough times.

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Best: Pinocchio

Walt Disney Pictures

Congratulations are in order: Pinocchio is finally getting his wish and becoming a “real boy.” Robert Zemeckis has signed on to co-write and direct the live-action remake of the Carlo Collodi 1883 story, turned 1940 Disney Classic. And honestly, I can’t wait to see it both for its unavoidable strangeness and its foreshadowed goodness.

Reportedly, Tom Hanks will be starring as woodworker and surrogate puppet father, Geppetto. Benjamin Evan Ainsworth is said to be playing the title character, Cynthia Erivo is taking on the Blue Fairy role, Keegan-Michael Key will play Honest John, and, drum roll, please: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is going to play Jiminy Cricket.

While this is another “already made” remake, it is one that has yet to resonate quite like the original. In turn, expectations for the latest Pinocchio are that much higher, especially since it’s already received a few Oscar nods. Along with its all-star cast, the fact that they’ve taken their sweet time also gives me hope they might do this one justice.

First announced in 2015, release dates have continuously been pushed back, but it might soon come together. Chances are, this Pinocchio will have learned from mistakes of recent live-action Pinocchio’s past and find fresh ways to avoid falling flat whilst freaking out audiences. But for now, we must wait.

Worst: Bambi

Walt Disney Pictures

Some things are just better left alone. I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb when I say that Bambi has been through enough already. Generations were traumatized enough by the harrowing animated tale the first time. Of course, this isn’t exactly a “live-action” remake, but it’s close enough. The upcoming adaptation of the 1942 classic will be recreated through photorealistic computer animation, just like The Lion King. In other words, it will look very real.

Don’t get me wrong, I am curious how a life-like film with an almost entirely animal-based cast will play out. But I am not sure that it should. The only human in the animated version was its villain, better known as “man.” And because the OG Bambi is only 70 minutes long, those behind the scenes are said to be expanding the notably sad story. For all of these reasons, I fear that much of the cuteness will be lost.

Considering the possibility of real bunnies and skunks combined with (seemingly) real deaths, making Bambi more realistic seems like a bad plan on Disney’s part.