When Disney decides to do something, they go all out. If they dip their toes into a certain pool and decide that it’s a good temperature for them, they don’t slowly lower themselves into the shallow end – they go and hurl themselves into the deep end. They buy Lucasfilm and start bringing out new Star Wars movies every five minutes, or they buy Marvel and start bringing out Marvel movies every five minutes – or they do a live action remake of Cinderella that does really well and start penciling in live action remakes of every single animated movie they’ve ever created. And so far, so good. It’s paid off! The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast have won the hearts of critics and made double the money that Cinderella did. So, out of the gazillion coming our way in the next few years, here are the 10 most exciting forthcoming live action Disney remakes.
10. Peter Pan
The Peter Pan story has suffered up on the big screen in recent years. The original Disney animated version was a big hit, of course, and Steven Spielberg’s Hook, which starred Robin Williams as an adult Peter Pan and was released back in 1991, cost $70 million to make and went on to gross a whopping $300 million worldwide. But recently, the live action Peter Pan movies have not done so well. There was a live action version released in 2003 that cost $130 million to make and only grossed $122 million at the worldwide box office. And then there was that weird, non-traditional, steampunk adaptation Pan that came out 2015, and with the reviews it got, Pan is an apt title. It also similarly failed at the box office, grossing only $128 million on a massive production budget of $150 million. Still, the Disney brass are hoping that a new live action remake of Peter Pan will gross a lot of money. David Lowery, who has already directed Disney’s live action remake of Pete’s Dragon, has been tapped to helm this one, while the script is being written by Toby Hallbrooks, who also wrote that remake of Pete’s Dragon.
There was once a live action version of Pinocchio in the works that was to be directed by Tim Burton and star Robert Downey, Jr. as Geppetto. But then that seemed to get scrapped as those two guys moved on to do other projects. Then there was a script commissioned by Disney to be written by the guy who co-wrote and directed The Odd Life of Timothy Green. That got scrapped, too. Then there was talk of a version to be directed by Sam Mendes, the guy who helmed American Beauty and Skyfall, which would’ve been scripted by Chris Weitz of Rogue One and live action Cinderella fame. But then that one got scrapped, too. Still, the Disney guys are determined to make this one work, one way or another. Paul King is currently the director in the running to helm the live action Disney remake of Pinocchio. He’s the guy who directed Paddington and its sequel, and will direct its upcoming threequel. Jack Thorne is writing a new script for him. That guy co-wrote Wonder and was one of the many writers and come and go from Star Wars Episode IX, so he’s making quite a name for himself.
8. Lady and the Tramp
Charlie Bean, who has worked on all kinds of animation over the years, has been tapped to direct a remake of Lady and the Tramp that will combine CGI effects and live action shooting in the same way that The Jungle Book was made and The Lion King is being made. Bean has worked on every cartoon series from SpongeBob SquarePants to Cow and Chicken to The Amazing World of Gumball to Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends to his most recent work in Tron: Uprising. In terms of his film work, he has also worked on The Powerpuff Girls Movie and The Lego Batman Movie. He doesn’t have much directing experience, but he did direct last year’s The Lego Ninjago Movie, and while he doesn’t have an awful lot of live action experience, it seems like bringing a story like Lady and the Tramp to the big screen would require more know-how in animation than live action. The script is being written by Andrew Bujalski, who most recently wrote and directed Support the Girls, which is essentially Clerks, but with women characters instead and set in a sports bar instead of a convenience store. It’s early days yet, but this should be a good one.
7. Maleficent II
All right, fair enough, this is not a remake. It’s not even the sequel to a remake. Maleficent was a reimagining of Sleeping Beauty with a focus on the villain, who was played in this case by the hugely famous and hugely talented Angelina Jolie. The first movie went on to gross a whopping $758 million at the global box office, so a sequel was a given. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton is back for the new one, with the help of co-writers Micah Fitzerman Blue and Noah Harpster this time around. Jolie is back in the lead role and Elle Fanning is returning to the role of Princess Aurora. Other big stars like Michelle Pfeiffer and Chiwetel Ejiofor and Robert Lindsay and Imelda Staunton and Juno Temple and Ed Skrein (the villain from the first Deadpool movie) will also be appearing in the sequel. Maleficent II will be shooting in the coming months and Jolie has told the entertainment media that the writers “have been working on the script and this is going to be a really strong sequel.” Pfeiffer will add an interesting angle to the Maleficent/Aurora dynamic as she will be playing the role of Queen Ingrith alongside them.
The upcoming live action remake of Dumbo will be a decidedly darker take on the material, since it’ll be directed by Tim Burton, so we can expect the bleak and surreal twist that he brought to Alice in Wonderland in this movie. The writer Ehren Kruger also has a history of horror movies, like the Scream and The Ring franchises, so it would be odd for him to take on a family movie if there wasn’t a dark twinge up its sleeve. Colin Farrell will star as Holt, a circus act who returns from war and is appointed by the circus owner, who will be played by Danny DeVito (now better known as the deplorable Frank Reynolds), to look after a magical elephant with big ears and the ability to fly. Eva Green, Michael Keaton, and Alan Arkin will also star in the movie. The lead role was originally offered to Will Smith, but he ended up passing on it and choosing to play the Genie in Disney’s live action remake of Aladdin instead. Still, Colin Farrell is a great actor. Hopefully, this will be more of an In Bruges Farrell performance, rather than a phoned-in Total Recall Farrell performance.
5. The Little Mermaid
There was talk a few years ago of a dark and ambitious live action take on The Little Mermaid that was to be directed by Sofia Coppola and star Chloe Grace Moretz in the lead role for Universal Pictures. Coppola explained, “It wasn’t the Disney version – it was actually the original fairy tale, which is much darker. I thought it would be fun to do a fairy tale. I’ve always loved fairy tales, so I was curious about doing that. I would have liked to have done that [movie]. We couldn’t agree on some elements. When it’s smaller, you can have exactly what you have in mind. For me, it wasn’t a good fit. It became too big of a scale.” So, since that one was canned, Disney is working on its own live action remake of The Little Mermaid. The Disney version will be directed by Rob Marshall, who has worked with the studio previously on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Into the Woods. Alan Menken, who wrote the songs for the original movie, including “Under the Sea,” has been commissioned by Disney to collaborate with Lin Manuel Miranda, so we’ll be getting more modernized, Hamilton-flavored versions of the songs we know and love. Jane Goldman, who co-wrote the scripts for Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class, is currently writing this one.
According to initial reports from the earliest stages of the Mulan remake’s development, it revolves around a white merchant who falls in love with Mulan and gets swept up in the conflict in China against the Huns. However, this was later reported to just be a “jumping off point,” and it was confirmed that all of the main cast of the movie would be Chinese. Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, the writers of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Jurassic World, are currently working on a new version of the script. Niki Caro has been hired to direct, which will make her the third woman in history to direct a movie with a budget of over $100 million. An actress named Liu Yifei has been cast in the tite role, while Donnie Yen will play the role of Mulan’s mentor and Jet Li will play the Emperor of China. Gong Li will play the villainous role of a witch, Xana Tang will play Mulan’s sister, and Utkarsh Ambudkar will play a con artist. Suffice it to say, this movie will provide a bounty of opportunities for Chinese actors. The remake of Mulan has a release date set for March 27, 2020.
3. The Jungle Book 2
Okay, this is technically not a remake. It’s a sequel to a remake. There actually was a sequel to the original, but this one will not be a remake of that sequel. It’s just a sequel to the story of the 2016 remake of The Jungle Book. But that in itself makes this one of the most exciting upcoming movies, period. It should come as no surprise that Disney are interested in developing a sequel to their $966 million grossing monster hit. Jon Favreau is back to direct the sequel, screenwriter Justin Marks is back to provide a script for it, and Neel Sethi is back to play the role of Mowgli. Unfortunately, though, we’ll have to wait a while for this movie to come out. It was initially reported that the sequel would be shooting back to back with the live action remake of The Lion King, which Favreau is also directing, but they decided instead to put it off so that he could focus on that movie before turning his sights to the sequel. The projected release date of 2019 was scrapped. So, while a sequel to The Jungle Book is on its way, it could be a while.
Guy Ritchie is an odd choice to direct a remake of Aladdin. This is the guy who gave us Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch and RocknRolla. Those are darkly comic, very violent crime movies. This is a Disney princess story. With such an iconic and visionary director at the helm who has such an idiosyncratic voice, the producers promise that this will be “an ambitious and non-traditional” take on the story. Relative unknowns Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott have been cast in the lead roles of Aladdin and Jasmine, respectively, in a movie that will create some huge waves for racial minorities in big budget blockbusters. There is also some A-list brass on the cast, with Will Smith playing the Genie. The Men in Black star actually passed up the lead role in Dumbo to play the Genie in this movie. Plus, Billy Magnussen from Game Night will play one of Jasmine’s suitors and Nasim Pedrad from Saturday Night Live will play Jasmine’s handmaiden and best friend in a new role that will serve as the “comic relief” in the movie. The studio mentioned at one point that they were interested in telling the story non-linearly in the movie. Ritchie’s take on the movie has been described as “very muscular and action packed,” which certainly makes it sound awesome.
1. The Lion King
Of all the different Disney movies getting a live action remake with the new photorealistic shooting technology, The Lion King is probably the most exciting of the lot, because it’s the closest to the best one so far, The Jungle Book. Like that movie, it will be directed by Jon Favreau, and like that movie, it will also have a cast of A-list voice actors who are perfectly suited to their roles. Donald Glover, who is on a role with “This is America,” Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Atlanta, has been cast to play Simba, while the living goddess Beyoncé will play the role of Nala. James Earl Jones will reprise his role as Mufasa, since no one’s else voice can stack up to his and therefore no one else could play the role. The great Chiwetel Ejiofor will be playing Scar, while Billy Eichner will play Timon and Seth Rogen will play Pumbaa. John Oliver will assume Rowan Atkinson’s role of the cowardly toucan Zazu. Eric Andre and Keegan Michael Key are among the actors playing the hyenas. Based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Lion King is one of the greatest cinematic stories ever told, so it will be excited to see it reimagined.