Disney became fully entrenched into our lives with their animated classics. We fell in love with Bambi. We took that Neverland adventure with Peter Pan. We went under the sea with Ariel. But in a move that so far has turned out to be a financial success, Disney has started turning their animated classics into live-action remakes.
Reviews have been mixed, but what matters is what audiences think. Which live-action Disney remake do you think is best? You and your wallet are, after all, the driving force behind everything Disney does.
- ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: May 24, 2019
- AVERAGE VIEWER SCORE: 82% Positive
Who could possibly fill the role of everyone’s favorite manic genie voiced wonderfully by the late Robin Williams? When news broke indicating that Will Smith would become that person in a live-action remake outrage ensued. It only got worse when the first images of Smith as the genie appeared. But when audiences actually saw the live-action Aladdin, they had an entirely different reaction. Actual moviegoers rank Aladdin as the best live-action Disney remake.
Everyone knows the story. The thief Aladdin falls for Princess Jasmine and vice versa. The evil Jafar tries to get in the way but Aladdin, with the help of his blue friend the genie, triumph over evil. It’s a wonderful looking movie, complete with show-stopping musical numbers. Yes, it may not hit all the high notes that the animated original hit and no, Will Smith is NOT Robin Williams (no one is), but it was a solid effort. So it makes sense that it represents the highest scoring movie on this list.
2. The Jungle Book 2016
- ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: April 15, 2016
- AVG. VIEWER SCORE: 80% Positive
Jon Favreau made his leap into Disney by helming this live-action remake. We know what you’re thinking, but GIANT FREAKIN ROBOT, what about Iron Man, Iron Man 2 or 3 for that matter? Yes, he was part of those but this was before Disney bought Marvel. The Jungle Book represents Favreau’s first directorial jobs for Disney and what a perfect entry for him.
This wonderful Disney live-action remake tells the familiar story of the man-cub Mowgli who is raised by wolves. The threat of Shere Kahn causes Bagheera to take Mowgli to the man-village. Along the way, Mowgli runs into ol papa bear Baloo and a “simple” adventure goes into overdrive as Mowgli decides he wants to remain in the jungle.
3. The Lion King
- ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: July 19, 2019
- AVERAGE VIEWER SCORE: 79% Positive
This is Jon Favreau’s second live-action remake for the House of Mouse and another one fans loved. The question that has been brought up many times, though, is this truly a live-action remake? Not one living actor is in the movie, in fact not one living animal is in the movie. Maybe we’re splitting hairs here.
Simba is the little lion cub who just can’t wait to be king. After the extremely heartbreaking death of his father, Mufasa (again wonderfully voiced by James Earl Jones) his Uncle Scar scares him into running off and never come back to the pride. Simba does just that and along the way he meets favorites Timon and Pumbaa, growing into the lion his father always said he’d be. Now he just needs to go back and claim what rightfully is his.
4. Christopher Robin
- ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: August 3, 2018
- AVERAGE VIEWER SCORE: 78% Positive
This Disney movie is not necessarily a classic animated remake but more of a classic collection remake. It doesn’t follow one particular Winnie the Pooh story, but more a general feeling of what Winnie the Pooh is all about.
Ewan MacGregor stars as the title character, all grown up without his silly old bear. Life, as it always seems to do once one hits adulthood, has a way of making us forget what it’s like to be a child. This is where Christopher Robin finds himself and something his pal Winnie the Pooh senses. So Pooh decides to find his Christopher and with the help of his friends (and Christopher’s family) show Christopher Robin that being an adult doesn’t mean you have to give up the child inside.
5. Beauty and the Beast
- ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: March 17, 2017
- AVERAGE VIEWER SCORE: 76% Positive
The tale as old as time is brought forth once again, this time as the live-action fairy tale starring Emma Watson as Belle, Dan Stevens as the Beast, and Luke Evans portrays Gaston to the hilt. It is a faithful re-telling of Disney’s animated classic, complete with all the fun characters and wonderful songs.
- ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: March 13, 2015
- AVERAGE VIEWER SCORE: 74% Positive
Kenneth Branagh (Murder On The Orient Express, Dead Again) brings Disney’s 1950 classic to life with a live-action remake that remains faithful but offers up enough change (She is called Ella) to keep it fresh. Lily James (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Baby Driver) stars as Ella with Cate Blanchett as the delightfully evil Stepmother.
- ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2014
- AVERAGE VIEWER SCORE: 70% Positive
When Disney announced it was filming a live-action remake of Sleeping Beauty with a twist, fans were rightfully confused. See, this live-action story was to focus on Sleeping Beauty’s nemesis, Maleficent.
Angelina Jolie stars in her first go-around as the bad gal, whose story is told from her perspective, as we find out about the betrayal that turns her heart into stone. She places a curse on Aurora and as time goes on and the young Aurora grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace across the land.
8. Alice in Wonderland
- ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: March 5, 2010
- AVERAGE VIEWER SCORE: 60% Positive
The big news with this live-action remake was that Johnny Depp was returning to his Disney ways by starring as the Mad Hatter. This wasn’t really a shock in that Tim Burton was brought on as Director and the two have a great history working together. The concern was that the story would focus more on Depp’s Mad Hatter than Alice herself. And while it veered in that direction, Alice was still in the driver’s seat. Unfortunately, fans weren’t overly thrilled with the material.
10. The Jungle Book 1994
- ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: December 25, 1994
- AVERAGE VIEWER SCORE: 58% Positive
This is the second time The Jungle Book is on this list but it is the first Disney live-action remake of the animated classic. The movie starred Jason Scott Lee (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story) as an adult Mowgli and unfortunately, this is where the story went wrong. This one is about a grown-up Mowgli that includes characters not in the original animated classic. Yes, it does feature real-life animals, a bear named Baloo, a panther named Bagheera and of course a tiger named Shere Khan, but the animals don’t talk.
11. Lady and the Tramp
- ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: November 12, 2019
- AVERAGE VIEWER SCORE: 58% Positive
The very first live-action feature released on the new streaming service Disney+ and it was far from a hit. The bottom line on this production, according to you the people, was there was too much change when it came to characters along with enough material left out from the original animated classic that perhaps Disney finally went too far with change. Give it a shot though, see what you think.
- ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: March 29, 2019
- AVERAGE VIEWER SCORE: 56% Positive
The little elephant who could fly. Admittedly the CGI on this Disney live-action remake is amazing. The storyline leaves little to be desired. Granted filmmakers like Tim Burton, who helmed this project, like to put their stamp on these movies. Who can blame a filmmaker for wanting to change things up a bit?
Unfortunately, too much change can rankle an audience who are so invested in what came before it. This one brought in the real family element, a father (maimed in war), a son and daughter and while it had most of the Dumbo elements, it didn’t strike the right balance its fans saw in the animated classic.
13. 101 Dalmatians
- ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: November 27, 1996
- AVERAGE VIEWER SCORE: 49% Positive
One of the very first live-action remakes Disney ever did starred Glenn Close in an over-the-top performance as Cruella De Vil, the lady with a Dalmatian jones. She loves her furs and will stop at nothing to get her hands on Pongo and Perdita’s litter. The movie, unfortunately, left fans feeling flat and cheated, not what they were hoping for when compared to the classic.
The Future Of Disney’s Live-Action Remakes
It is obvious fans young and old (okay, mostly the older crowd) have an aversion to these live-action remakes. Most viewers seem to prefer their Disney animated and classic. But that is the older generation. Nothing wrong with how they look at their Disney, but remember, Disney is also about a new generation. And these live-action remakes could end up being their classics.
So despite tepid response from audiences Disney is pushing forward with more live-action remakes. The list of future live-remakes Disney has in the works is staggering. The most recent will be Mulan, scheduled to premiere on March 27, 2020. Another one in the works is a different take on 101 Dalmatians and it looks like they are going the Sleeping Beauty route on this, calling it Cruella. Emma Stone (Zombieland: Double Tap) will play a younger version of Cruella de Ville.
Other upcoming live-action remakes Disney has slated include The Little Mermaid, another Jungle Book from Jon Favreau, Snow White and Seven Dwarfs and a Peter Pan movie called Peter & Wendy with the rumor that Disney is trying to grab Margot Robbie in the role of Tinker Bell and that the movie just may appear on Disney+.
You can pretty much guarantee that any animated classic (The Sword in the Stone, Lilo & Stitch, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Bambi, and Pinocchio) is up for grabs and being considered for a live-action remake by Disney. Nothing is off limits.
The Live-Action Cash Grab
Disney recently took things one step further with its live-action remakes when they threatened an elementary schools for showing the 2019 Lion King without paying them a licensing fee.
It happened at Emerson Elementary School in Berkley California, where the school screened the live-action remake of the Lions King as part of a “parents night out” fundraising event. Two-months later they received a letter from a company handling licensing for Disney demanding a licensing fee.
Here’s what the letter said according to CNN…
“Any time a movie is shown outside of the home, legal permission is needed to show it, as it is considered a Public Performance. Any time movies are shown without the proper license, copyright law is violated and the entity showing the movie can be fined by the studios. If a movie is shown for any entertainment reason — even in the classroom, it is required by law that the school obtains a Public Performance license.”
If we’re going by the letter, even if a teacher had just shown the movie to some kids during class instead of using it as part of a fundraiser, then Disney believes they are owed a fee.
Emerson PTA President David Rosse explains, “One of the dads bought the movie at Best Buy… He owned it. We literally had no idea we were breaking any rules.”
The school’s fundraiser event raised $800 to buy things for their kids, now $250 of that will be handed over to Disney in order to keep their lawyers at bay.
Pointing out what she believes to be the hypocrisy of this demand Berkley City Council Member Lori Droste says, “There was an initiative passed in 1979 called Proposition 13 which casts the property tax on all land, and so Disney’s property tax rates are at 1978 values which translates into millions upon millions of dollars a year that Disney is not paying. Because of that, our schools are now extremely underfunded… We went from the ’70s being among the top education systems in the US to one of the lowest.”
UPDATE: DISNEY RESPONDS
When the news of Disney’s letter to Emerson Elementary broke, there was a public backlash. That backlash has prompted Disney to respond.
Disney CEO Bob Iger himself issued the following statement on Twitter: “Our company @WaltDisneyCo apologizes to the Emerson Elementary School PTA and I will personally donate to their fund raising initiative.”