You’ve probably noticed the influx of live-action remakes of classic animated tales gracing cinemas in recent years. This isn’t about to stop any time soon, since re-spinning a recognisable fantastical yarn with real people/CG animals always makes big money for the studio behind it (the rather sizeable box-office hauls of Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book and the Emma Watson-starring Beauty and the Beast are a case in point).
This process has become so popular that there are currently more of these live-action (or, in some cases, photo-real CG) remakes in production than Marvel Studios, DC Entertainment or Star Wars movies. That’s a lot of films. So as well as this summer’s Aladdin and The Lion King remakes, we also have a Maleficent sequel and a Mulan ‘reimagining’ on the way, as well as a new version of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs and lots more on the cards.
We’ll be keeping this list updated, so check back for the latest news on all the Disney remakes that are in development…
After the box-office disappointment of its Dumbo remake, Disney made a live-action comeback with Aladdin. Director Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels) might have seemed like a strange choice for a family musical, but he pulled off an impressive achievement – Aladdin opened strongly and has now grossed over $1 billion worldwide. Will Smith overcomes a pretty hefty Genie legacy (a character voiced so memorably by the late Robin Williams in the original movie) and some, erm, interesting CGI to make the loveable wish-granter his own, while the rest of the cast is rounded out by Jack Ryan‘s Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Power Rangers‘ Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine and The Mummy‘s Marwan Kenzari as the dastardly Jafar. Check out our review.
Release date: On Blu-ray, DVD and digital download from 23 September (pre-order from Amazon)
The Lion King
After bringing Disney critical and commercial success with his starry-voiced update of The Jungle Book, director Jon Favreau has made lightning strike twice with his remake of the studio’s highest-grossing traditionally animated tale – The Lion King 2019 is now Disney’s highest-grossing non-Marvel or Star Wars movie ever, taking over $1.3 billion worldwide. Featuring photorealistic CG animals and stunningly recreated savannah landscapes, the voice cast is another who’s who of cool Hollywood talent, including Donald Glover as Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa and John Oliver as Zazu, while the original’s James Earl Jones once again lends his iconic voice to King Mufasa. Even Elton John is on board to retool his classic soundtrack, with a new song from Beyoncé herself. Check out our review.
Release date: Out now
Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil
Angelina Jolie’s villain-justifying Sleeping Beauty adaptation, Maleficent, made megabucks at the box office back in 2014. Directed by Pirates Of The Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge co-helmer Joachim Rønning, this sequel to the live-action remake will see her returning for more evil-doing, if that subtitle is anything to go by. Original cast members Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton and Juno Temple are all returning, while Deadpool‘s Ed Skrein will be giving Jolie a run for her money as the new villain in town. The film was originally set for a Spring 2020 release, but has been pulled forward to later this year. A good sign, perhaps?
Release date: 18 October 2019
Lady And The Tramp
Charlie Bean (The LEGO Ninjago Movie) is directing this remake of the 1955 animation, which will screen exclusively on the studio’s new Disney+ streaming service. As before, it will focus on the romance between upper-middle-class cocker spaniel Lady (voiced by Tessa Thompson) and streetsmart stray mongrel Tramp (Justin Theroux). Real dogs (as opposed to CG creations – see above) have been used to portray the four-legged characters, with Ashley Jensen, Benedict Wong and Sam Elliott lending vocal support. This is set to be one of the first original films available when Disney+ launches later this year – there’s no news yet on a UK release.
Release date: TBC 2019
The remake of Disney’s 1998 take on the Chinese ‘Hua Mulan’ legend was filmed last year in locations around China and New Zealand. Whale Rider‘s Niki Caro is in the director’s chair, while the titular warrior is played by Liu Yifei (see above). She’s been seen in the likes of The Forbidden Kingdom, Ip Man 3 and Outcast, but the bulk of her work to date has been in Chinese cinema, and this is her first major English language lead role. She’s backed by a starry supporting cast, which includes action legends Donnie Yen and Jet Li, Memoirs of a Geisha‘s Gong Li and Jason Scott Lee (who, in a nice example of things coming full circle, played Mowgli in Disney’s first live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book in the early 90s). The film’s first teaser, meanwhile, teases a kickass Yifei and some epic battle scenes…
Release date: 27 March 2020
There are also a few other live-action remakes in development that haven’t announced release dates just yet. Details on these ones are a little scarce, but here’s everything we’ve heard about them so far…
The first one was a hit to the tune of more than $1 billion so it comes as no surprise that plans are afoot for a sequel.”People clearly loved the movie and watched it multiple times and we get lots of fan letters and people asking us to make Return [Of] Jafar, and I can just tell you that we’re in early stages right now, but we’re certainly talking about another movie,” Aladdin producer Dan Lin told SYFY Wire. It’s not going to be a straight reboot of Return Of Jafar however: “Like with Aladdin, it will not be a straight remake of any movie that’s been made before, so we’re looking at ‘where’s the best way to go with these characters.'” Given the slightly different take on Princess Jasmine in the first film there could be some interesting directions the sequel could go in.
The Little Mermaid
Disney is developing a remake of this 1989 watery favourite – the last of the Big Four films of the Disney Renaissance to get an update (after Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King). Original composer Alan Menken is returning to create new musical material alongside Moana songwriter and Mary Poppins Returns star Lin-Manuel Miranda. Musical veteran Rob Marshall (Chicago, Into The Woods, Mary Poppins Returns) is attached direct the film. Newcomer Halle Bailey has been cast as the new Ariel – the mermaid who wishes to walk on land – while Melissa McCarthy is reportedly in talks to play Ursula the sea witch.
One of Disney’s darkest animated tales, this Victor Hugo adap from 1996 is the latest toon classic to receive the live-action makeover treatment. Simply retitled Hunchback, the remake will follow the adventures of the eponymous bell-ringer, Quasimodo, who sets out to rescue kindly gypsy Esmeralda from the clutches of the twisted religious zealot (and his adoptive father), Claude Frollo.
Tony-winning playwright David Henry Hwang has been tapped to write the screenplay, while songwriters Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz – who earned an Oscar nomination for their work on the 1996 film – will be back to oversee the music. Disney regular Josh Gad (who appeared in the live-action Beauty And The Beast and voices snowman Olaf in the Frozen movies) is also on-board as a producer – there’s no word yet on whether he’ll be starring in the film, too.
Oscar-winner Emma Stone is set to star in a Cruella De Vil movie, which could give the dog-wearing villainess of 101 Dalmatians the sympathetic Maleficent treatment. Interestingly, the film is reportedly being pitched as an 80s-set origin story with a punk-rock vibe. Craig Gillespie (the man behind I, Tonya and 2011’s Fright Night remake) is currently in talks to direct the movie, which is likely to start filming in 2019.
A remake of 1940 animated classic Pinocchio is also in the works. Tom Hanks in early talks to star as woodworker Geppetto, the father figure to the eponymous living puppet who yearns to become “a real boy”. Hanks is no stranger to Disney: he’ll be returning as the voice of cowboy Woody in Toy Story 4. Paddington’s Paul King was due to direct this remake, but has unfortunately since dropped out.
Lilo and Stitch
A live-action/CGI hybrid remake of this “one girl and her weird blue alien friend” comedy from 2002 is in the works at Disney, under the guidance of producers Dan Lin and Jonathan Eirich, who are also behind the Aladdin remake (see above). Original co-director Dean DeBlois isn’t sold on the idea, though. “Lilo & Stitch…was such a singular, quirky vision,” he told Den Of Geek recently. “And it’s so personal; it’s not an age-old fairytale or a known legend. It’s such a specific story. So to remake it, particularly with a new group of people that weren’t part of that original team… Yeah, that seems like an odd one to me.”
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Two movies based on or around Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs are in development at Disney. The first, Rose Red, has been around for a while, and it’s a spin-off that follows the story of Snow White’s sister. The second is a straight live-action retelling of the Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs story. Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-Man, 500 Days Of Summer) is apparently the “top choice” to direct the latter, while Disney is also in “in talks” with screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson (The Girl On The Train) to write the script. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Academy Award-winning team that brought us La La Land and The Greatest Showman, are set to write new songs for the film.
The Sword In The Stone
This one could be a franchise-launcher if all goes well, since The Sword In The Stone was the first novel of T.H. White’s four-part The Once And Future King series. Bryan Cogman – one of Game Of Thrones’ writers and producers – has written the script, suggesting that this take could be darker and more grown-up than the 1963 animated classic. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later) is on directing duties for the film, which will premiere on – you guessed it – Disney+.