As if animated blockbusters such as “Frozen” and “Big Hero 6,” the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars weren’t enough, Disney has found yet another cash cow: turning its animated classics from yesteryear into live-action films for a new generation.
So far, this has been nothing but a winning formula from a commercial standpoint. And with Kenneth Branagh’s “Cinderella,” the process finally managed to yield a product as magical, perhaps, as the original.
It’s no surprise, then, that in recent weeks Disney has been dropping announcement after announcement about new live-action adaptations of other classic animated films.
Here’s a comprehensive list of everything announced so far and what we know about each one — which in some cases isn’t much.
“The Jungle Book” — The next Disney classic audiences can look forward to seeing on the big screen, “The Jungle Book” is based on the stories by Rudyard Kipling and is being handled by “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau. Having also directed “Elf” and “Zathura,” Favreau is no stranger to family-friendly entertainment with a sense of wide-eyed wonder.
Of course, this isn’t the first live-action “Jungle Book” Disney has done. There’s also the 1994 version directed by Stephen Sommers (“The Mummy”) and starring Jason Scott Lee and Cary Elwes.
Unlike that movie, though, the animals this time around will be able to talk, thanks to the magic of CGI, and Favreau has lined up quite the cast to bring Mowlgi’s companions to life. This includes a couple oddball (but potentially inspired) choices, such as Bill Murray as Baloo and Christopher Walken as King Louie. The film will feature Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Lupita Nyon’go as Raksha, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa and Idris Elba as Shere Khan. Meanwhile, Mowgli, the boy raised by animals in the jungles of central India, is being played by newcomer Neel Sethi.
Speaking with Screenrant, Favreau said that although the tone of his film will differ from the 1967 animated version, he hopes to channel some of the same spirit. “There’s a lot of great images and feelings that I remember from being a kid that I’d love to incorporate using today’s technology and storytelling techniques,” he said.
In typical Hollywood fashion, a competing version of Kipling’s Mowgli stories is also in the works at Warner Bros., with motion-capture wizard Andy Serkis (Gollum from “The Lord of the Rings”) directing and co-starring alongside a similarly loaded cast of names such as Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch and Cate Blanchett. Warner Bros.’ version, titled “Jungle Book: Origins,” is slated to hit theaters more than a year after Disney’s, though, giving Favreau and Co. a huge leg up.
Release date: April 15, 2016
“Beauty and the Beast” — With the recent additions of Ian McKellan as Cogsworth and Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, the last major roles have now been filled in what is probably the most highly anticipated of all of Disney’s live-action reimaginings — this despite the fact that, not too long ago, the thought of a “Beauty and the Beast” remake would have struck many as borderline sacrilegious.
A lot of the excitement no doubt has to do with the pitch-perfect casting of Emma Watson — a real-life bookworm who just graduated last year with a degree in English literature from Brown University — as Belle.
Interestingly, “Beauty and the Beast,” which is being helmed by “Twilight: Breaking Dawn — Parts 1 and 2” director Bill Condon, looks like it’s going to hew more closely to the animated source material than any of Disney’s previous live-action adaptations, including “Cinderella,” which took a fairly straightforward approach to retelling the classic fairy tale. Unlike that film or “Maleficent” or “Alice in Wonderland,” “Beauty and the Beast” will follow in the footsteps of the 1991 original as a musical and will even feature the same iconic songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.
What isn’t clear yet, however, is how exactly the filmmakers plan to do the Beast, played by “Downton Abbey” alum Dan Stevens — whether they’ll use practical effects (e.g. makeup, prosthetics, etc.) or motion-capture (a la Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk in “The Avengers”).
The rest of the star-studded cast includes Luke Evans as Gaston, Josh Gad as Le Fou, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts and Kevin Kline as “crazy old Maurice.” Pitch perfect.
Release date: March 17, 2017
“Dumbo” — In what seems like an odd mix, Disney announced (per the Hollywood Reporter) in March that “Alice in Wonderland” director Tim Burton will bring the studio’s 1941 classic about a circus elephant with oversized ears to life on the big screen with a script by “Transformers” writer Ehren Kruger.
Not a whole lot is known about Burton’s plans for “Dumbo” at this point, but like Favreau’s “Jungle Book,” it is expected to use a mix of CGI and live action — i.e. no actual flying elephants.
Given its setting in a circus, Burton at least shouldn’t have any trouble finding sufficiently quirky roles for his go-to collaborators Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.
Release date: N/A
“Mulan” — Among the spate of Disney announcements to come out in the last few weeks was news of a live-action “Mulan.” According to the Hollywood Reporter, the new version of Disney’s 1998 animated feature will be based on a script by a pair of relative unknowns, Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin.
Especially with the recent push at the studio level for movies featuring strong female protagonists — Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel being two high-profile examples — “Mulan” seems like a natural choice to turn into a live-action epic. In fact, this is actually the second time Disney has had a non-animated “Mulan” film in the works. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” star Zhang Ziyi was set to play the legendary heroine for the House of Mouse circa 2005. Obviously, that project didn’t quite come together.
At 36, Ziyi is almost definitely too old for the role now, leading some to wonder if it might not go to an actress who has previous experience with it, namely Jamie Cheung, who recently played the character on ABC’s “Once Upon a Time.”
Release date: N/A
“Winnie the Pooh” — Disney’s last trip to the Hundred Acre Wood in 2011 didn’t exactly light up the box office, earning just north of $33 million on a $30 million budget, according to Box Office Mojo. Nevertheless, Winnie the Pooh remains one of the studio’s most beloved characters, so it isn’t a complete shocker that he would be on the docket for the live-action treatment.
As of right now, the only information is that Sundance darling Alex Ross Perry, whose film “Listen Up Philip” premiered at the 2014 film festival, has been tapped to direct based on a script said to focus on an adult Christopher Robin returning to the Hundred Acre Wood.
Release date: N/A
“Pinocchio” — Of all the live-action adaptations announced at Disney, “Pinocchio” is the only one that doesn’t have a director officially lined up yet.
In fact, other than the announcement that there is a live-action Pinocchio movie on the way (per Variety), the only other thing that’s really known at this point is that it’s being written by Peter Hedges, who wrote “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” and Disney’s 2012 family film “The Odd Life of Timothy Green.”
Release date: N/A
“Cruella” — This one may or may not wind up happening, but back in 2013, it was announced that “The Devil Wears Prada” scribe Aline Brosh McKenna was writing on a movie that would do for “101 Dalmatians” what “Maleficent” did for “Sleeping Beauty.” Glenn Close, who played Cruella de Vil in Disney’s 1996 live-action “101 Dalmatians,” was even on board as a producer.
Since then, however, there hasn’t been any real movement, although an Entertainment Weekly story as recent as January said the project is still in development. Wait and see.
Release date: N/A
“Nottingham & Hood” — While not an adaptation of the 1973 “Robin Hood” starring anthropomorphic animals, this could be the closest Disney will ever come.
Based on a script by first-timer Brandon Barker, “Nottingham & Hood” is being described as a “Pirates of the Caribbean”-style adventure comedy that could launch a new franchise.
Of course, with three other Robin Hood projects currently being developed at three rival studios (Lionsgate, Warner Bros. and Sony), Disney’s will have to be pretty great to stand out from the crowd.
Release date: N/A
“Pete’s Dragon” — The original “Pete’s Dragon” featured a combination of live action and animation, so it doesn’t quite count, but that’s still enough to get the upcoming remake a brief mention.
The new version, directed by another Sundance alum, David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”), is set for release next year and stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, Robert Redford and Karl Urban.Release date: Aug. 12, 2016