Simba was a fresh lion cub when he realized he’d one day have to take over the Pride Lands in “The Lion King.” We, on the other hand, just now realized that we’ll likely continue forking over money for years to come just to watch live-action versions of cartoons we loved growing up.
Yes, my friends, we’re here to talk Disney and their recent spree of remakes. Quite a few of these movies, tasked with taking cartoon characters and turning them into real people or real-enough animals, have come out. This year alone, there’s been “Aladdin,” “Dumbo” and, as of this week, “The Lion King,” with “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” and “Lady and the Tramp” slated for the coming months. Also on deck for a theater near you: “Mulan,” for which Disney recently dropped a teaser trailer, and “The Little Mermaid,” starring singer and actress Halle Bailey. Considering all the fish, we’ll see how that one fares in the translation from animation.
The key to a great live-action remake is to drum up nostalgia and add in something new. Most do just that, but just in case you’re short for time, we’ve ranked a few of Disney’s dives into animation turned live action.
1. “101 Dalmatians” (1996)
Did this movie come out before the current spate of live-action remakes became a thing? Yes, but it remains the greatest example of what a Disney live-action remake can be. Glenn Close as Cruella? Sign me up every time. It got its own sequel, “102 Dalmatians,” in 2000. Disney’s even queued up a new take, “Cruella,” for 2020, starring Emma Stone.
2. “The Lion King” (2019)
Yes, staring into a warthog’s glassy black eyes while he sings about farting is a bit strange, but with a stacked cast and beautiful visuals, this ranks high on our list. You’ll come for Beyoncé and stay for Billy Eichner’s fresh take on Timon. The music is just as fun as you remember and worth experiencing on the big screen.
3. “Beauty and the Beast” (2017)
If you can get past the image of Emma Watson in a ball gown dancing with a CGI man-animal, then this movie is fine. The songs are nice, Josh Gad pulls his weight as LeFou and the musical townspeople are a wonder to watch.
4. “Aladdin” (2019)
Listen, outdoing Robin Williams as Genie in the 1992 animated “Aladdin” is hard to do. But Will Smith makes for a nice stand-in, and the movie is visually stunning, with bright colors and elaborate decor. This particular love story is forever a treasure.
5. “The Jungle Book” (2016)
So nice, they remade it twice. You can’t go wrong with a movie set in the jungle! There’s a 1994 live-action version with real, non-talking animals, but Disney showed its CGI chops just a few years ago, with Bill Murray voicing Baloo the bear.
6. “Dumbo” (2019)
Critics said “Dumbo” was cute enough, but lacked any kind of wow factor.
7. “Cinderella” (2015)
We feel pretty meh about this movie. “Cinderella” didn’t need another live-action take when we already have the 1997 version, which starred Brandy, Whitney freaking Houston and Whoopi Goldberg. Go watch that!
Not ranked, but of note for the completists among us: “Alice in Wonderland” (2010) and its sequel, “Alice Through the Looking Glass” (2016); the first “Maleficent” (2014), a re-imagining of “Sleeping Beauty”; and “Christopher Robin” (2018), which brought Winnie the Pooh to life alongside a human Ewan McGregor.
Here, too, are a few animated movies from the Disney vault that we’d love to see the studio take a live-action stab at:
“The Emperor’s New Groove”: This could be so fun! Give me Jane Fonda as Yzma.
“Hercules”: I beg of you, remake this one. Wouldn’t Michael B. Jordan as Hercules kind of rule?
“Atlantis: The Lost Empire”: Zoë Kravitz as Princess Kida, please.
One last note: Please never do a live-action remake of “A Goofy Movie.” The cartoon was already terrifying enough. Thank you.