In 2010, Disney launched a project with the goal of bringing their animated films to life. Starting with Alice in Wonderland, Disney has since put out several other live-action remakes, with a whole lineup planned until 2020. In anticipation of Christopher Robin, which is being released on August 3rd, here’s a look at Disney’s past, present, and future live-action re-imaginations:
ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway
Director: Tim Burton
Running Time: 108mins
Although an ambitious start to Disney’s live-action project, Alice in Wonderland is the most mediocre film of the bunch so far. It is apparent that Burton tried to drive the film in a direction previous adaptations hadn’t gone before. Though the visuals are gorgeous (much like any other Burton film), the story lacks the depth that made the original 1951 film so engaging.
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Juno Temple, Sharlto Copley
Director: Robert Stromberg
Running Time: 97mins
Of the original Disney princess films, the original Sleeping Beauty, made in 1959, is considered one of the best. The challenge for Disney was to tell this widely known story in an interesting way, without simply re-hashing every detail of the original. So, Disney decided to focus more on the villain, Maleficent, rather than place the focus on Aurora herself.
Although Angelina Jolie is perfect playing the part of Maleficent, it feels like there’s a piece missing. Perhaps they dedicated too much time to Maleficent and not enough on the original story. Maleficent was a necessary testing stage for Disney’s live action project, and gave the studio much needed insight for their future.
Starring: Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Running Time: 105mins
The 2015 remake of Cinderella is still, to this day, Disney’s best live-action remake. The reason for that is simple: it had a reason to exist. After the efforts on their prior two remakes, Disney finally understood how they should translate these stories to real life. Instead of taking a completely different route than the original (like they did in Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent), Cinderella tells, for the most part, the exact same story.
Yet, Branagh uses this as a chance to develop on a lot of the details lacking in the original Cinderella film: he explores the character of the Prince, gives Cinderella more of a backstory, and dedicates more time to developing the relationship between Ella and her stepmother. Not only are all the performances and characters improved upon, but the set design, costumes and effects are all top-notch.
The Jungle Book (2016)
Starring: Neil Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba
Director: Jon Favreu
Running Time: 106mins
The Jungle Book marked a new chapter for Disney’s re-makes. Being a movie centred predominantly around animals, Disney set out to make a world consisting of almost entirely CGI. The difficulty with this is that few films are able to pull this off, and have the film look visually appealing. Many films using this much CGI fall into the trap of having visuals that look bland and unrealistic, putting viewers off.
Thanks to the directorial genius of Jon Favreau, Disney was able to pull it off. The world created for The Jungle Book is one of the most impressive CGI feats ever achieved. Where the film falls short is that, despite the chance to make many of the characters more interesting, it elects to impress with its visuals. The story is basically a direct re-hash of the 1967 original.
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline
Director: Bill Condon
Running Time: 129mins
Unlike past live action re-imaginings, Beauty and the Beast is a musical through and through. Bill Condon, who had previously made Dreamgirls in 2006, comes to Disney to adapt what is, perhaps, the most popular of the Disney princess films. With Emma Watson as Belle, Condon crafts an extravagant, albeit familiar remake of Beauty and the Beast.
Eight years into the project, Disney isn’t showing any signs that they’ll be slowing down production of their live action re-imaginings any time soon. The next two releases on Disney’s plate are Christopher Robin and Dumbo. Christopher Robin is set to release this Friday, August 3rd, 2018, while Dumbo is planned to release on March 29th, 2019.
Aside from these releases, Disney has a whole slate of films planned up to 2020. Later in 2019, Disney plans to release a re-imagining of Aladdin, as well as The Lion King. In 2020, they have announced the release of Mulan as well as Maleficent 2.
For the most part, Disney’s live action remakes have been a huge success. When they started, no one was sure how this project would play out. But over the years, thanks to the talents of directors such as Tim Burton, Kenneth Branagh, and Jon Favreu, Disney has shown, and continues to show, that they’re every bit as interested in quality as they are in selling tickets.