When Disney isn’t busy pumping out “Star Wars” spin-offs or Marvel superhero sequels and origin stories, the studio seems bound and determined to recycle every one of its animated classics into a live-action or heavily CGI version. Back in 1994, the House of Mouse did its first live-action redo based on 1967’s “The Jungle Book.” Directed by Stephen Sommers, it took in an OK $42 million at the box office. It was a step in a new direction from the old days when the studio would do anniversary revivals of their treasured animated features by re-releasing them on the big screen.
That tradition ended when they got more bang out of their remake buck with 1996’s live-action “101 Dalmatians,” based on the 1961 cartoon feature. The big draw was Glenn Close as the malevolent puppy-snatcher Cruella de Vil. The doggy romance hit the spot, grossing $320.7 million worldwide — although its sequel, “102 Dalmatians,” could only bark up $183.6 million globally.
But the studio revisited its strategy with a pumped-up 2010 version of 1951’s “Alice in Wonderland” with an all-star cast featuring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen. Critics were lukewarm but moviegoers gladly fell down the rabbit hole to the tune of $1,025,467,110 in ticket sales worldwide.
That blockbuster success put the remake engine into live-action overdrive, as the studio released the 2014 “Sleeping Beauty”-inspired origin story “Maleficent,” 2015’s “Cinderella,” 2016’s “The Jungle Book” redux, the 2016 sequel “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” 2017’s “Beauty and the Beast” and 2018’s “Christopher Robin,” based on the “Winnie the Pooh” franchise. In total, the 11 films have taken in more than $5 billion thanks to moviegoers from around the world.
This year , however, there will an overflow of familiar tales spiffed up for a new generation, one that didn’t begin well when Tim Burton‘s “Dumbo,” based on the 1941 circus tale about a baby elephant who can fly. Opening on March 29, it hasn’t quite achieve take-off with a global gross so far of $222 million. Not to worry, however, since four more ‘toons transformed into live-action family fare will arrive this year: “Aladdin” with Will Smith as the genie (May 24, see trailer above), “The Lion King” (July 19) with the voices of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Beyonce and James Earl Jones; the sequel “Malelificent: Mistress of Evil” (October 18) with Angelina Jolie; and “Lady and the Tramp,” which will stream on Disney+ (November 12).
That’s not all. Next year brings “Mulan” on March 27. Also in the pipeline: “Cruella,” “Pinocchio,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Lilo & Stitch” and “The Little Mermaid.”
Disney certainly knows how to squeeze fresh juice from their cherished all-ages-friendly properties. But does such reliance on the old feel like cheating in a way while it diminishes the original? Or do you like seeing the Magic Kingdom’s greatest hits in repackaged form? Take our poll below and tell us what you think of how Disney keeps raiding its vault instead of offering new stories? And let us know if you like any of the updated 21st-century models more than the animated golden oldies in the comments section.