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Maleficent, released in 2014, can be seen as the first in a seemingly unending march of Disney remakes
Like some sort of pirate of the Caribbean, Disney has been plundering its animation vaults in search of treasures to buff up and resell. This year alone has seen the release of a live-action Dumbo (with computer-generated elephants), a live-action Aladdin (with a computer-generated parrot) and now The Lion King , with computer-generated everything. October brings Maleficent: Mistress of Evil , a sequel to the live-action re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty , starring Angelina Jolie.
Maleficent , released in 2014, can be seen as the first in a seemingly unending march of Disney remakes, although there was Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in 2010, and a live-action Jungle Book and 101 Dalmatians in the ’90s. But this now feels like a strategy, with a clockwork timeline. A year after Maleficent came Cinderella ; a year after that, The Jungle Book; and 12 months later, Beauty and the Beast.
In the months and years to come, everything old will be new again. There are currently three more Disney remakes with firm release dates. First up, Lady and the Tramp, based on the 1955 animated tale and featuring the voices of Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux. The plan is to have it debut on Disney+, the studio’s new streaming service, in November. The problematically racist Siamese Cat Song will need to be rewritten, though director Charlie Bean will mess with the spaghetti-smooch scene at his peril.
Next is Mulan , a live-action remake of the 1998 animated movie, featuring Chinese-American singer and actor Liu Yifei in the title role as a princess who takes the place of her father in the Imperial Army. With a teaser trailer already out, this one is set to open March 27, 2020.
Cruella , based on 1961’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians, has a release date and some casting choices but little else. It opens in theatres on Dec. 23, 2020. Emma Stone is said to be taking over the role of the dog-hating Cruella, though whether Disney will change her from “evil” to “misunderstood” à la Maleficent remains to be seen.
Further out, things get a little less clear. A live-action remake of 1989’s The Little Mermaid is expected to begin production next year, and it was recently announced that 19-year-old singer/actress Halle Bailey has been cast in the role of Ariel, alongside rumours that Melissa McCarthy will play Ursula the sea-witch, with Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, and Awkwafina as Scuttle. No word on Sebastian the crab, said to be a favourite of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who will be writing new songs for the movie.
We can also look forward to a remake of 1963’s The Sword in the Stone on Disney+ with a screenplay by Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman. A new Peter Pan is in the works (the original came out in 1953), as is a Tinkerbell spinoff written by Victoria Strouse ( Finding Dory ) with Reese Witherspoon starring as the flying fairy.
Even further out, writer Peter Hedges and director Paul King ( Paddington ) are said to be working on a live-action Pinocchio , not to be confused with the on-again/off-again version from Guillermo del Toro. And while 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs may seem too narratively slight for a remake, Disney is eyeing Prince Charming and White’s sister, Rose Red, for possible spinoffs.
Also rumoured – The Hunchback of Notre Dame , starring Josh Gad, and a Lilo and Stitch remake. There’s even talk of a live-action movie based on the spooky “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence from 1940’s Fantasia , which would mean 2010’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice with Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel won’t be the last word on the subject.
Disney’s plundering leaves very few titles untouched, but there remain a few without immediate remake plans. No word on 1942’s Bambi , though it could easily get the Lion King treatment, with photorealistic deer and rabbits. (Not saying it should, mind you.) Song of the South , from the same era, would need more than a little CGI to erase its problematic racial themes. And Victory Through Air Power , a bit of wartime propaganda, may remain forever stalled in 1943.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019