With live action films such as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book, and 101 Dalmatians already released and having been huge successes at the box office, and with live-action adaptations for Aladdin, Dumbo, Mulan, The Lion King (and others) already into the pre-production stages, I started wondering what other classic Disney animated feature films I would like to see adapted into live-action feature films. I know there are some fans who have been really critical of this trend by the execs at Disney, but the truth is that they are going to happen and we can either love them or leave them. I, for one, choose to give each film a chance on a film by film basis. For instance, while I love the Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast remakes, I don’t really care for the 101 Dalmatians or Alice in Wonderland adaptations.
With that in mind, and knowing that this trend is going to continue whether I want it to or not, I might as well throw in my suggestions for classic animated films to be adapted into live-action films. As such, some of these are my favorite animated classics from my youth, so this list is definitely suggestive, and you are free to agree and/or disagree with them as you see fit.
Honorable Mentions: Fantasia, Frozen, Lilo & Stitch, Peter Pan, Treasure Planet
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Original release: June 15, 2001
While Atlantis: The Lost Empire is not one of my favorite Disney animated classics, there is no denying that a live-action remake of this film wouldn’t be a visual marvel. Just imagine the visuals that would be presented on screen in a live-action version of this film. How crazy and wondrous would they seem? What kind of visual effects could the audience expect to see in a film of this kind? For no more reason than to gleam what could be possible could be possible, I would love to see a live-action version of Atlantis: The Last Empire.
Make Mine Music
Original release: August 15, 1946
I love the style of film that Make Mine Music presented for its time: a series of short stories told through the use of music of the time. Imagine what could be shown in a movie of that kind now using some of today’s popular songs to tell a series of stories for the audience to enjoy. And you can even twist it up a bit by somehow having the individual stories connect somehow, and you got yourself a kind of film that would appeal to a large portion of the moviegoing audience. The selection of songs is very key to making a new version of Make Mine Music a success as opposed to some kind of corny live-action dance film, but with the right creative team behind it, it could be an amazing gamble.
Original release: February 23, 1940
While there have been some adaptations of the Pinocchio tale over the years, no one has successfully recaptured the magic that the Disney animated classic presented to audiences so many years ago. So why not just have Disney take a stab at it and make a live-action version of the story and see what their team can do to make this film magical? There isn’t much they need to fix in regards to the story, maybe add some filler to expand the story a bit, but if they could stick close to the story that the animated classic presented, I think that if Disney were to remake Pinocchio as a live-action film, it could be a huge success and a nostalgic trip for fans into a new realm for the story.
Original release: January 29, 1959
Yeah, yeah, yeah… Disney made a Maleficent live-action film recently, but I want to see a live-action Sleeping Beauty film. Not a film with Maleficent as a misunderstood hero, but as the evil and malevolent villain that I learned to love all those years ago. With the classic story that the animated classic presented to viewers as the main focus and the climactic battle between Prince Phillip and Maleficent as the finale, audiences would be left in awe and wonder if they could be done right on film. So, come on, Disney – remake one of my favorite animated classics into a live-action film and show me that the House of Mouse can still produce the classics like no one else can.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Original release: December 21, 1937
I know that the story of Snow White has been retold several times in recent years, but I would love to see a Disney version of a live-action adaptation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Maybe pad it with a little more story or exposition to make it a full feature length film, but definitely keep the story as close to the animated version as possible. To be honest, even though I feel that the story in the animated classic hasn’t aged as well as those of Disney’s other animated classics, to change the story too much would be a disservice to a lot of the fans out there who grew up loving the story and the world it presented.
Original release: November 24, 2010
I know this is a pretty recent film compared to others on this list, but tell me that you wouldn’t want to see a live-action Tangled movie adaptation. The story of Tangled, a retelling of the classic Rapunzel fairy tale, was one of the most lively and entertaining films that my family and I have enjoyed together. It had an amazing cast of characters, it had some incredibly memorable songs, and the story that the people of Disney presented to the audience was simply beautiful. It is in every sense the very definition of a modern classic. And, to be honest, I would love to see the segment of the film where Rapunzel and Flynn sing “I See the Light” done in live-action because I can only imagine how beautiful that scene would look.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Original release: June 21, 1996
Out of all the films on this list, this is one that I wouldn’t mind redoing the story a bit… just to make it a bit darker. Perhaps the most serious story out of all the Disney films I have here, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is still one of my favorite Disney animated films because it was more mature than the rest and I loved it for that. I have always believed that children are more capable of understanding than people give them credit for and applauded Disney for taking that approach with this film – even if they added some light-hearted fun to it as well. But I think that a live-action version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame would benefit a bit more mature to call the attention of an older audience who appreciated the film when they first viewed it.
The Little Mermaid
Original release: November 17, 1989
For a long time, since I first saw The Little Mermaid in 1989 and all the way until 2013 when I saw Frozen, this was my all-time favorite Disney animated film. I was so in love with the characters, the music, the story – everything about the film. There was nothing about it that I didn’t love. And I have always wondered what this film would look like if it were adapted into a live-action film. I knew that the special effects technology didn’t quite exist 20/25 years ago to make this a plausible feat, nor did it really exist even 10 years ago to make it happen, but given the jumps in modern digital effects that have happened I think now would be a great time to make bring The Little Mermaid back to theaters with a (still ambitious) live-action retelling.
The Sword in the Stone
Original release: December 25, 1963
I am a sucker for any film that tells the story of the legendary King Arthur. One of my favorite films of all time is Excalibur for this reason exactly. So, it should be no surprise that I am a huge fan of Disney’s animated classic The Sword in the Stone because it features the tale of King Arthur – albeit with a rather Disney spin on the story. Still, despite the story being “Disney-fied” for the intended audience of the time, it is one of my favorite animated classics of the time and I would love to see this film receive a proper live-action adaptation. Especially given the use of magic by Merlin in the film and the situations that he and Arthur find themselves in. Just imagine that duel between Merlin and Madam Mim playing out using today’s special effects. I bet that would be something.
Original release: November 27, 2002
Treasure Planet is another Disney animated classic that, though I am not a huge fan of, I believe would be a great live-action film because of the setting and the story presented. This could almost be presented as a quasi-space opera kind of film and would probably be the best film to split into two films because there is so much you could do with it. Remembering the sheer scope of the story and everything that the characters went through, I really believe that a live-action Treasure Planet film would be worth the gamble and could pay off with huge profits for Disney if they had the bravery to do it. Maybe not to the grand scale that I am imagining, but it certainly would be a special effect filled blockbuster that could appeal to a wide moviegoing audience. Out of all the films I have listed, with the right gamble, I could see this as the live-action film adaption that would pay off the most.