Love them or hate them, it's no secret that Walt Disney's live-action remakes of their own classic animated features have been a gold mine for the company.
It's a format that has existed since they released 101 Dalmations in 1996, (it did well enough to warrant a sequel, 102 Dalmatians, in 2000, and even an upcoming prequel titled Cruella), but the studio only hit the jackpot with the 2010 release of Alice In Wonderland, which went on to gross over a billion US dollars at the box office.
Since then, they've dipped into their own archives regularly, with one live-action remake a year since 2014. Last year saw three such releases – Dumbo, Aladdin and The Lion King – with the latter two ending up amongst the year's Top 10 highest-grossing films.
With Mulan set to be released in Malaysian cinemas tomorrow, we take a look at the five of the best live-action remakes by Disney so far:
While the top 4 in this list was easy to fill, the No. 5 spot was a tad harder. We liked Tim Burton’s Dumbo, but it was a bit too dark and confusing. Cinderella was not a bad effort, but we struggled to remember anything else about it. And let’s not even mention the shot-for-shot remake of Aladdin, with its sad excuse of a villain.
In the end, we went for Beauty And The Beast, which may play like an extended version of the animated film, but managed to capture the charm of the original. Also because we have a soft spot for the songs, and we give Luke Wilson ten points for Gaston.
We do reckon Mulan could push poor Belle and co out of the Top 5 later on though.
Also read: 'Beauty And The Beast' remake stays true as it can be
Can this even be considered a live-action remake of Sleeping Beauty? Who cares? The fact that it told the story from the perspective of Maleficent instead of the infinitely more dull Aurora is already a plus point for the movie.
Angelina Jolie is at her menacing best as the titular ‘villain’, and the movie is testament to that old adage that it doesn’t matter which side you’re on – you’re always the hero in your own story. (Oh, and the less said about the sequel, the better.)
The movie itself was mindless fun, starring Johnny Depp in the prime of his weirdness and Helena Bonham-Carter as the quite literally big-headed Red Queen. It wasn't a direct remake of the original animated feature, which was another plus point.
But Tim Burton’s madcap adaptation gets the nod for third place here for setting the benchmark as a box-office juggernaut – scoring over a billion USD and thus setting Disney down the path of remaking their animated classics into live-action films.
Did somebody say box-office juggernaut? Well, The Lion King proved that the circle of life in the box-office really does exist. 25 years after the original animated feature became one of the highest grossing animated films of all time, its ‘live-action’ remake regained its crown atop Pride Rock in 2019, scoring over US$1.65bil at the box-office.
Yes, it’s almost a shot-for-shot remake of the animated movie. Yes, some of the voices are a little unnatural (and so is the way the animals ‘speak’). And yes, they cut out Scar’s song. But The Lion King is a technological marvel that sparked a conversation about whether it can even be considered ‘live-action’ when the whole thing is actually done in CGI.
Still, THAT opening song and Mufasa’s death scene still brings a tear to the eye every time.
Also read: 'The Lion King': A majestic but recycled circle of life
Are you surprised to see that the top two live-action remakes were both directed by Jon Favreau? The guy just seems to get what Disney wants (see Iron Man 1 and 2, and The Mandalorian S1, which he wrote).
But for all the technological wizardry and star-studded cast Lion King had, it is the more understated Jungle Book that is by far the superior remake, the main reason being that Favreau brought his own interpretation of the animated film to life, resulting in an exuberant journey through the jungle that resonates much more compared to the shot-by-shot remake that was The Lion King.
It didn’t have ALL our favourite songs, but the stellar cast (Idris Elba! Bill Murray! Scarlett Johansson!), the animation (which arguably paved the way for Favreau to do The Lion King), and the sharp writing sets this apart from the rest. You could say that it got all the bear necessities for a great live-action remake just right.
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