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Five Films Disney SHOULD Remake in Live-Action

5 min read

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

The House of Mouse is a juggernaut of late, the unstoppable monster machine chewing up Intellectual Property like sweets at a party. Admittedly, there's some pretty decent criticism to be levelled at their fairly callous disregard for creativity, and none more than their penchant for taking beloved animated films and remaking them in live action. For the most part these have been successful at the box office, if not with critics. For every The Jungle Book, there's a The Lion King, and while new, inventive films should be encouraged, it's inevitable that they'll keep going through their back catalogues to remake — though there are some more deserving of the remake treatment than others. Given we know Snow White, Moana, Lilo & Stitch, Hercules, Bambi, The Sword and the Stone, Robin Hood, The Aristocats and The Hunchback of Notre Dame are all in various stages of production, we offer five films that we believe might benefit from the live-action treatment.

Treasure Planet (2002)

Treasure Planet is one of the films that came out during a tough time for animation, with the advent of CG animation, traditional hand drawn works were becoming less popular and failing at the Box Office, but in recent times this futuristic retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island has developed a cult following. The film follows Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a lowly kid with a single mother working in an Inn who longs for adventure and to find the fabled Treasure Planet. He joins a motley crew lead by alien Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson), and develops a surrogate father bond with the ship's cook the cyborg Long John Silver (Brian Murray).

Given the increase in visual effects, and how performance capture has improved over the past years bringing the aliens and robots to life and providing us with a swashbuckling science fiction adventure would be much easier. The story of a young man on an adventure is easy to market to family audiences. Plus John Goodman would make a killer John Silver.

Walt Disney Pictures

Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

Atlantis: The Lost Empire is underrated for a variety of reasons. It's got a steampunk sensibility, an ensemble cast, and it's art style is based on Mike “Hellboy” Mignola. The story follows an expedition to discover the ancient kingdom of Atlantis, lead by Milo J. Thatch (Michael J. Fox), a linguist and cartographer. The ensemble would allow for a great cast of characters. The trick would be making sure the Atlantean civilisation is treated with respect. Given how immensely popular the Avatar films are, and people enjoying the culture created for the Na'vi, the Atlantean civilisation could be a chance for linguists and people of various cultures to create something new and exciting.

In these post-Avengers days films with massive casts are nothing new, and the same ensemble sensibility could be applied to this, getting some of the best actors to fill out the colourful supporting cast. The real challenge is casting Milo and Atlantean Princess Kida (originally Cree Summer) — the chemistry has be just right so that audiences buy into the love story. 

Walt Disney Pictures

Brother Bear (2003)

Brother Bear has a very simple story at it's heart, that we should be kind to animals. The story revolves around First Nation tribal member Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix), who in post-Ice Age Alaska worships the Great Spirits who appear in the form of the Aurora. His natural disdain for bears is shown when his older brother sacrifices his life to protect Kenai and his brother Denahi from a grizzly. In revenge Kenai murders the bear, in return Kenai is turned into a grizzly bear by the spirits. Kenai then meets a young bear cub called Koda (Jeremy Suarez), and together the two set out to reunite Koda with the other bears and Kenai with the mountain where he can find the spirits.

Doing Brother Bear in live action would be a chance to explore First Nation cultures and give some much needed representation to them, it's also a chance to shine a light on the cruelty we impart onto animals. Doing the story justice will need performance capture so that the bears can behave like humans and the performances can ring true. Post-Planet of the Apes, Andy Serkis and his Imaginarium would be perfect for the job.

Walt Disney Pictures

Titan A.E. (2000)

What's that? You've never heard of Don Bluth and Gary Goldman's 2000 science fiction action film that featured the voice of Matt Damon? Well that's because it was a production and it tanked at the box office. But now that Disney owns everything Fox, and more importantly, love pumping out massive sci-fi action adventures, it's time to give this the live action treatment.

The film takes place in 3043, fifteen years after a hostile alien race called the Drej have attacked and destroyed Earth, leading mankind to evacuate including brilliant scientist Sam Tucker's young son Cale (Damon). Now Cale is jaded, and angry, and recruited by his dad's former military friend to find the Titan, a top secret project that caused the aliens to attack.

Titan A.E. is a fun science fiction film that suffered from poor marketing, but given science fiction is as popular as ever, and this is a fairly unknown property, Disney could turn this into a huge event film. The alien characters in the film can all be achieved via performance capture or make-up, in the same way the latest Star Wars films have done. Matt Damon could even cameo as Cale's genius father!

20th Century Fox

Anastasia (1997)

Ah yes, the age old “That's not a Disney film” flick that by default became a Disney film. Anastasia is another of the 20th Century Fox films that Disney now owns, and perhaps the best one they inherited. Bluth and Goldman's animated film takes the myth of the dowager princess Anastasia Romanov (Meg Ryan) and spins it into an epic musical fantasy. Anastasia is presented as having survived the 1916 revolution, but lives as an amnesiac orphan who is convinced to pass herself off as Anastasia by two con men, who take her to Paris to meet with her grandmother Dowager Empress Marie (Angela Lansbury). The catch? Rasputin has sold his soul for immortality and is in hot pursuit of the princess who he knows is the real deal.

Anastasia did inspire a 2016 stage musical (which has a pretty great soundtrack, give it a listen) but that opts to do away with the undead magic aspect and makes the villain a Bolshevik. Instead turning the film into a bigger, more expanded musical would be a better way to go. Get some more songs written — along with the absolute belters from the original — and create a romantic adventure with flashes of genuine horror. Most people who remember the film have very fond memories of it, and turning it into a big event film would make the most sense. It's not been canonised in the way that Disney princess films have and it has a much darker edge.

20th Century Fox