With Maleficent, Disney reexamines one of its most iconic animated characters in the live-action realm, taking the familiar and turning it on its head. It's not the first time it's tackled a live-action redo of an iconic film -- the studio made updated versions of 101 Dalmatians and Alice in Wonderland in the past. Since there's no way Disney is going to stop returning to its animated well to find inspiration for its big tentpole films (Cinderella is in the works for next year), all we can do is help push the studio in the right direction.
Here are a few Disney classics that could actually use a live-action follow-up.
Have you watched Pinocchio recently? For a film that's become such an iconic part of the Disney landscape, it's pretty weird. Scratch that -- it's completely and totally bonkers, the kind of whimsical fantasy that feels more like a Terry Gilliam-in-his-prime experiment than a mainstream family movie. So let's forget about the turgid live-action version from the '90s and imagine a fresh take on the material that embraces the fact that this is a fantastical adventure about a living puppet and his cricket friend, kids who get transformed into donkeys and sold into slavery, and a giant, evil whale with an amazing name (Monstro!). Give a live-action take to a mad man in the Gore Verbinski mold and watch the next great baffling blockbuster get made.
The Sword in the Stone
Hollywood has a bad habit of botching King Arthur. Seriously. Heck, Disney is guilty of it, too. Its 2004 film King Arthur is a monstrosity. Still, we like to think it's learned a thing or two in the past decade about live-action fantasy filmmaking and the best way to approach the material is to draw from its animated film The Sword in the Stone, which melded Arthurian legend with classical Disney tropes (Silly comedy! Talking animals!).
In the right hands, this is the next Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. There are few fictional characters who lend themselves to a great movie franchise like King Arthur and his band of allies and enemies, and Disney is one of the few that has even approached getting it right in the past. It's time to try again. You're sitting on a gold mine, Disney. A gold mine!
The Jungle Book
Back in the early '90s, Disney produced a live-action version of The Jungle Book and the results were underwhelming to say the least. It should have taken a page from its 1967 animated version of Rudyard Kipling's book, which transformed a fairly straightforward jungle adventure into a breezy, cool and utterly weird musical. With several new versions of The Jungle Book in the works and all of them sounding like very serious productions, Disney needs to throw its hat into the ring and hire Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to write the all-singing, all-dancing, marijuana-fueled stoner version of this story.
Imagine the ultimate hang-out movie, except that instead of chubby comedians it's a kid raised in the jungle, his lazy bear buddy and their disapproving panther friend.
Beauty and the Beast
The fact that it's one of the untouchable jewels in Disney animation's crown suggests that Beauty and the Beast shouldn't be tampered with in the slightest, but it's inevitable. It's going to happen. Someone, someday is going to make a live-action retelling of this iconic story and all we can do is throw out a few suggestions on how to do it right and make a movie worth seeing.
First, keep the focus on the romance between Belle and the Beast -- this is a fantasy drama, not an action spectacle. Second, give the directing job to someone who truly loves monsters. Can you imagine Guillermo del Toro taking on this material? In the wrong hands, this is Twilight. In the right hands, it's the greatest love story of all time, complete with an awesome, brooding Beast monster who will win the hearts of every lady in the audience.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of the most left-field choices for a Disney movie. The original novel is long, brooding and depressing, a tragedy that will sap your spirits and leave you depressed for days. So why is the animated take so cheery and colorful, complete with a forced happy ending? There's a happy medium here. There are actually plenty of pulpy elements in Hugo's story, but to abandon the darkness of it is to miss the point. With the Pirates of the Caribbean movies getting away with some pretty dark and dreary stuff, the time has come for Disney to take another swing at this material and redeem itself. Sure, whatever the studio makes won't be Hugo's novel, but an adaptation that sticks a little closer to the text would certainly prove fascinating.
No film on this list is more ready-made for live action than Mulan, which is just the kind of female-centric action adventure that the modern cinematic landscape demands. While the animated version leans heavily on the fantastical, imagine a live-action movie that takes the concept of a young woman going to war disguised as a man completely seriously. As The Hunger Games and Frozen have proven, girl power is a huge box office draw. House that girl power in battle armor and put a sword in its hand and watch the bext big thing happen.
What other animated Disney movies do you want to see get a live-action follow-up?
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