At this point, we’ve seen no real evidence to suggest that Disney won’t continue their remake reign of terror indefinitely. But in case they ever do decide to start exercising restraint (like when they reevaluated their “Star Wars” release strategy after a disappointing box office return from “Solo: A Star Wars Story”), there are some Disney properties that are more worthy of a remake than others.
“The Fox and the Hound” (1981)
dir. Richard Rich, Ted Berman, Art Stevens
Underneath the cloying sentimentality and sparkly princesses singing about their dreams, there’s a very real part of the Disney corporation that just wants to hurt us. Would they pass up the opportunity to take one of their most dark and depressing creations and render it even more horrifyingly realistic? It’s hard to say. But you can imagine them taking a certain amount of glee in bringing to life the heartbreakingly doomed friendship between Tod and Copper, a fox and hound who were born to be natural enemies despite their young companionship.
“The Princess and the Frog” (2009)
dir. John Musker, Ron Clements
The aesthetic of “The Princess and the Frog” alone makes it worthy of a live-action remake. The sumptuousness of 1920s New Orleans, the rugged beauty of the bayou, the dark and mysterious world of voodoo: it’s any production designer’s dream. The story of Tiana, a hard-working, ambitious African-American woman shows an agency that is sometimes missing from our Disney heroines, so it would be great to see it get a little bit more love.
dir. Byron Howard, Nathan Greno
Once all the older Disney films are remade, they’re going to have to start turning to some of their more recent fare, and “Tangled” will be right there waiting. It’s a charming, classic fairy tale with a focus on humans (always a plus for a Disney live-action film), and although it didn’t explode in popularity like “Frozen” it’s very well-regarded amongst fans. “Tangled” could easily follow the “Cinderella” model of Disney remake, where it expands upon the source material and delves more into the backgrounds of the main characters.
“The Sword in the Stone” (1963)
dir. Wolfgang Reitherman
Who isn’t a sucker for a good Arthurian legend? “The Sword in the Stone” came out during the era of Disney filmmaking that is often criticized for its lazy animation, which makes it a great candidate for a live-action remake. How often does Disney remake its films that have absolutely gorgeous animation, leaving one to wonder what they can actually improve on with live-action? A “The Sword in the Stone” remake would allow them to right past wrongs and, with an entirely charming narrative already in place, actually stand to outclass the original.
“Treasure Planet” (2002)
dir. Ron Clements, John Musker
What a cool idea! It’s just a shame no one went to go see it. There’s not really a great explanation for why it failed so badly — maybe they made a mistake, as screenwriter Terry Rossio has suggested, by having the main character be a teenager rather than a preteen, given that his arc seems more suited to a slightly younger character. Or maybe it was simply doomed to failure being released opposite “Harry Potter,” which was aimed squarely at the same audience but also happened to be a well-established global phenomenon. Let’s give “Treasure Planet” another chance.
“The Black Cauldron” (1985)
dir. Richard Rich, Ted Berman
“The Black Cauldron” never stood a chance. When it was released in 1985, it was the most expensive animated film ever made, and its failure at the box office almost brought down Disney’s entire animation department. At the time, it was beaten out at the box office by “The Care Bears Movie.” But where some may see a hopeless case, we see potential. “The Black Cauldron” has really solid bones. The film has an incredible score and amazing visuals waiting to be brought to life. And in the current post-“Game of Thrones” climate, fantasy has entered the mainstream zeitgeist in a big way. Now is the time to remake “The Black Cauldron” and have an audience receptive to it.
“Atlantis: The Lost Empire” (2001)
dir. Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
“Atlantis: The Lost Empire” has recently been going through something of a reevaluation in Disney discourse. When it first came out, it was widely regarded as a box office disappointment and a critical failure. But now that we can look back with a little bit of distance, “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” is being appreciated for its themes and efforts to do something different. While it would be great if everyone went back and watched the original animated film, the best way to introduce it to new audiences may well be a live-action remake.
dir. Ron Clements, John Musker
What “Hercules” lacks in widespread love and attention, it makes up for by being one of the most fun Disney films of the mid-90s. There’s a lovable hero, an awkward, clumsy young man struggling to find his place in the world who also happens to be the son of Zeus. There’s Meg, one of the most original Disney heroines in that she’s modeled more on the film noir femme fatale archetype than someone who wanders through the forest with her animal friends. We’ve also got the amazing interpretation of the Greek chorus as gospel. Oh, and Danny DeVito. What more could you possibly want?
“Meet the Robinsons” (2007)
dir. Stephen John Anderson
Justice for “Meet the Robinsons”! This underrated gem may not be one of the most beloved Disney properties, but in a way that works in its favor. Without impossible expectations to meet, a live-action version of “Meet the Robinsons” would have the creative freedom to capture the quirky spirit of the original and find new audiences who missed out on the animated version. It works as a sci-fi time-travel adventure, a buddy comedy, and a very Disney-esque examination of the true meaning of family.
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996)
dir. Kirk Wise
Even for a Disney movie, this one was dark. The heavy emotional content and the comic relief gargoyles were occasionally jarring in their dissonance. Plus “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” wasn’t as well-received as it deserved because it generally had no business being marketed squarely to the under-12 demographic. But that’s the beauty of the live-action remake — they’re generally built for nostalgic adult audiences that kids can also watch. Reimagining “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” with the incredible songs from the film and a license to get really bleak could result in the rare Disney remake that feels creatively separate from its animated counterpart. Word is that they’ve give the greenlight for this recently, but there’s no casting information as of yet. Only time will tell if it’ll make it out of development alive.