This weekend, Disney’s live-action retelling of Beauty and the Beast is expected to open to record-breaking numbers, which will make the studio very, very happy. That’s because, over the last few years, the Mouse House has, with movies like Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Maleficent, kick-started an incredibly lucrative and creatively successful initiative to bring live-action versions of its legendary animated stories and characters to the big screen. Beauty and the Beast is on track to become the biggest hit of them all, but Disney, which has live-action versions of The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin all in various stages of development, is just getting started. Here is your guide all the live-action adaptations of its animated classics that Disney as on the horizon.
One of the last people we’d expect to direct the live-action version of the deeply beloved 1992 classic is Guy Ritchie, who specializes in the bone-crunching, stylized machoism that turned Sherlock Holmes into a cocky action star and will soon do the same with King Arthur. Then again, Aladdin does have the distinction of being the only dude at the center of a Disney cartoon, so maybe Ritchie is the right choice after all. He got off to the right start when an open casting call hit the internet for Middle Eastern actors to play Aladdin and Princess Jasmine. With the movie beginning production this summer, expect those announcements in the next couple of months. But the bigger question looming over this movie is what to do about Genie, who is so closely associated with Robin Williams’ iconic vocal performance that it is nearly impossible to imagine the character sounding like anyone else.
Not a straight reimagining of 101 Dalmations, this story will take place in the same universe, and, in the same model of Maleficent, will try and imbue one of Disney’s most iconic villains with shades of humanity. And if there’s anyone who can make an aspiring puppy killer likable, that person would be Emma Stone, who has been attached to the project since last year. Given her new status as an Oscar winner, look for the Disney to try and get this project on the fast track.
How all-in has Disney gone with their live-action adaptations? Well, it not only is making this movie about a young circus elephant that is ridiculed and uses his ears to fly, but it's attracting top talent in the process. Tim Burton is directing the project, and at one point Will Smith was attached to star. After Smith dropped out, Chris Pine was in talks to replace him, but he dropped out too. Then, last week, it was announced that Burton regular Eva Green would be playing the female lead, a French trapeze artist.
The Lion King
Last year, Jon Favreau did such a remarkable job bringing Disney’s The Jungle Book to life by somehow making a movie starring talking animals seem real and not at all silly, despite the fact that those animals would occasionally break into song. Favreau pulled it off with the help of standard-setting CGI, a weapon he’ll once again employ when he brings Disney’s beloved The Lion King to the big screen. No release date has been set, but Favreau has already cast Donald Glover to voice Simba and James Earl Jones will reprise his original role and voice the pride's patriarch, Mustafa.
The Little Mermaid
This is not The Littler Mermaid that was at one point was going to be directed by Sofia Coppola with Chloë Grace Moretz attached to star. It is also not the version that got a brand-new trailer last week that left many scratching their heads. This is the official Disney version that will feature songs that will be written by Lin Manuel-Miranda and performed by a CGI lobster and, if she has her way, Lindsay Lohan.
In 1998, Mulan grossed an estimated $300 million worldwide, and did so featuring characters—including the title character, Disney’s first princess of Asian descent—that were Chinese. So when it was announced in 2015 that the studio would begin work on a live-action version, pundits began to wonder which actors would get cast in the film, knowing full well that when it comes to Asian representation on screen, Hollywood doesn’t have the greatest track record. But last October, Disney announced that not only would the movie be hitting theaters on November 2, 2018, but that it would, in fact, feature an all-Asian cast, launching a global search for a Chinese actress to play the lead role. So far, no one has been cast yet, but Whale Rider director Niki Caro, who just wrapped Anne of Green Gables for Netflix, is attached to direct.
The last time The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up showed up on the big screen, it was in Joe Wright’s massive misfire Pan, an ambitious prequel to J.M. Barrie’s classic tale, which failed on multiple levels. (The NBC live musical that came after is probably best not talked about.) So it’s auteur David Lowery to the rescue; he broke out with his meditative Sundance hit, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and then proved his blockbuster chops with Disney’s live-action version of Pete’s Dragon. While it didn’t slay at the box office, the movie was filled with wonder and heart and earning comparison to classic Steven Spielberg, who with Hook has made the best live-action version of Peter Pan so far.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
It might be hard for audiences to envision a live-action version of the saccharine and old-fashioned 1937 animated classic, particularly after Kristen Stewart’s dark and modern take on the fable, Snow White and the Huntsman, successfully reimagined the character for a new generation. Not much is known about this new version, but based on who is attached, it looks like Disney will not simply try and recreate the original. The script is being penned by Girl on the Train scribe, Erin Cressida Wilson, and the lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who most recently wrote the lyrics to that one movie called La La Land.
And speaking of Peter Pan, Tinkerbell is getting her own movie called Tink, and will as of now be played by Reese Witherspoon, in what people in the industry might refer to as ideal casting. Plot details are unknown, so it’s unclear if this will take place before the events of Peter Pan, like Maleficent, or if Witherspoon will be playing an older version of Disney’s iconic fairy.
Winnie the Pooh
Brooklyn, New York, filmmaker Alex Ross Perry has made a career out of making verbosely intellectual stories featuring idiosyncratic Brooklynites, so it only makes sense that Disney would tap him to write and direct the live-action version of Winnie the Pooh. Just kidding, it doesn’t make much sense at all until you find out that Perry was hired after pitching a version to the studio that would focus on a grown-up Christopher Robin.