Disney has announced production on a new live-action remake of their 1970 animated film The Aristocats. This comes as part of a new wave of live-action revivals of their classic properties, most recently with Disney +’s Lady and the Tramp and the theatrical hits The Lion King and Aladdin. Disney has an enormous well of beloved IP to pull from, and they are definitely not holding anything back. This new Aristocats film is set to be written by Peter Rabbit 2’s Will Gluck and the Pixar film Onward’s Keith Bunin. There is no announced release date as of yet.
The original 1970 Aristocats is considered a minor classic within the Disney canon that includes enormously influential films like Snow White and Beauty and the Beast. It is one of the basic stories of animation, old as time: rich Parisian cats are kidnapped by a greedy butler out for their inheritance and left for dead in the countryside. They meet up with a streetwise alleycat, who brings them back to the city. A group of cat jazz musicians helps them and sings a song about how being a cat is something everyone would like to be. Eventually, there is a happy ever after. Pretty simple. It is currently unknown whether the remake will be one of Disney’s near shot-for-shot adaptations, like 2019’s Lion King, or a re-envisioned take on the story, like Dumbo.
In the last decade, Disney has tasked their legendary animation studios to remake existing property. While Pixar Studios generally produces well-regarded original stories to critical acclaim (like Luca and Coco) and Marvel Studios is continuing their utter domination of global box offices, Disney Animation has relatively kept to remakes. This year’s Encanto was well received and broke a Billboard record for its song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” Meanwhile, 2019’s Jon Favreau-directed Lion King grossed $1.663 billion worldwide (per Box Office Mojo). With that kind of global financial success, it is no wonder why even a relatively obscure film like The Aristocats would be remade.
Disney has a number of other remakes in production other than The Aristocats. Rumor has it that they have been trying to lock down current Spider-Man Tom Holland to star in a remake of Atlantis: The Lost Continent and casting has already been done for an upcoming live-action Snow White. In the “re-imaging” field, Emma Stone is being pursued for a trilogy of Cruella films, after the success of her 101 Dalmatians villain rehabilitation film.
It could be argued that the entire direction of Disney Animation changed with a similar film, when the Angelina Jolie-starring Maleficient became a success in 2014. Since then, Disney has experimented with CGI photorealism with The Jungle Book and Lion King, and trying new takes on classics like the Winnie the Pooh tale Christopher Robin. A lot could be made of whether this means Disney has completely run out of ideas, or whether they are simply finding new aspects of stories that were already old before they got to them. But at the end of the day, everybody wants to be a cat. Or an Aristocat.