Media mogul Disney have been faced with both support and criticism for their recent endeavour to remake classic Disney animations as live action movies. Some argue that nothing beats an original, and that this is a cop-out for not making any new content. However, I believe this is a great move, as it allows people who grew up wit these films to take a visit back to their childhood, while inviting a new generation to fall in love with the Disney classics. And with Disney’s live action Mulan recently hitting Disney+ rather than cinemas, as well as a live action Hercules in the works, what better time to rank my top 5 favourite Disney live action remakes
Lily James really beautifully captures the innocence and love of Cinderella, her skills as an actress are matched perfectly with her stunning voice to create the flawless characterisation of one of the OG Princesses’. Her version of ‘A dream is a wish your heart makes’ is, well, dreamy, and the dress she wears for the ball is next-level stunning. However, there was nothing massively new or exciting that made this film stand out, hence why it only just makes the top 5.
4.) The Jungle Book
Credit to the filmmakers as this film was quite the cinematic beauty. The jungle backdrop was stunning, beautifully put together, and so realistic. The CGI animals were also beautiful, and looked much more appealing than the animals in the live-action Lion King. Jungle Book kept the animals more Disney, whereas Lion King made the animals look more realistic, which is nice in a way, but I personally prefer the rose-tinted view that comes with a Disney lens. Also, round of applause to young actor Neel Sethi who played ‘Mowgli’, for not only doing an excellent job at portraying the character, but also showed immense talent when you take into account he was the only human in the majority of the movie, meaning he had to work with props rather than other actors. That takes real skill, and at such a young age I find that immensely impressive. And who could forget ‘Bare necessities’, one of Disney’s most iconic songs. While this film doesn’t have the full array of music like the original, (still gutted I didn’t get a proper full rendition of ‘I wanna be like you’ by Christopher Walken), it is action packed from beginning to end.
Such a beautiful reimagining of such an iconic movie. I, much like others, was concerned about the reprise of the Genie role, as nothing and no one can top the late great Robin Williams. However, I did love Will Smith’s interpretation of the character. He really made it his own, and showed a different side to Genie I did enjoy. Plus, we got a little bit of the Genie’s life after Aladdin sets him free, which is always nice. Will Smith’s version of the iconic songs are really fun, especially ‘Arabian nights’, which is one of my faves. The new song that features is ‘Speechless’, a feminist power ballad sung by our own Princess Jasmine, AKA Naomi Scott. I love that Disney made Jasmine more of a feminist icon in this film, making her the sultan in the end rather than Aladdin, who just proudly rules at her side. While it did feel slightly like a tick-box moment, I still thoroughly enjoyed the song and its sentiment, giving young girls something to aspire to. Finally, a special shoutout to the incredible dance scenes in this movie, which honestly blew me away and added a whole new dimension to the film that I loved.
2.) Alice in Wonderland (& Alice Through the Looking Glass)
First off, Johnny Depp. That is all. No, but seriously, his portrayal of The Mad Hatter is perfect and flawless and has a depth that only an actor as skilled as Depp could bring. He really brings out the crazy side, and at points even makes it a bit more serious, which adds to a wider audience appeal. And it is yet another Disney film with a flawless cast list, Helena Bonham-Carter, Anne Hathaway, Alan Rickman, Micheal Sheen, Matt Lucas, Stephan Fry and Barbra Windsor, to start. With such a talented cast it was no surprise that such a stunning film came out. Mia Wasikowska does an incredible job at embodying Alice, in all her intelligence, creativity, and madness. Both films are such a credit to the original, and the look of Wonderland makes for such a magical ride, really taking you on a journey with its comedy, action, love and wit. This has always been one of my fave Disney tales. I would definitely recommend binging both films one after the other, because why not? We’re all mad here, anyway.
1.) Beauty and the Beast
In my opinion, the best remake Disney has ever done. This will forever and always be one of my favourite Disney films, and this live-action adaptation did the classic movie nothing but justice. Emma Watson is the perfect live-action Belle, a spot on embodiment of everything our female lead stands for: heroism, intelligence, feminism, beauty, grace, decorum, generosity, wholeheartedness and just all round brilliance. And if the impressive cast list wasn’t enough to prove my point (Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor, Josh Gad, Luke Evans, Dan Stevens and Sir Ian McKellen alongside Watson, to name a few), the next-to identical shot by shot with the original film to accompany the musical masterpiece that we call a soundtrack makes for the most enjoyable watch. It even gives viewers more of an in-depth backstory, with deeper references to the curse and its side effects on the local kingdom, as well as a snippet of Belle’s mother’s backstory. The new songs that feature are definitely strong additions to the film and its story. “Days in the sun” is a beautiful ballad, even showing a small part of Beast’s childhood, blaming his harsh actions and mistreatment of people on the actions of his father early on in life. “Evermore” is a beautiful love song sung by the Beast himself, Dan Stevens. And Celine Dion even took on the final ballad “How does a moment last forever?”, used during the credit scene, but also sung by Belle’s father briefly at the start of the film. It also features Disney’s first gay character LeFou (shocker), showing him briefly dancing with another male during the final ball scene. Although it is only a split second, it shows a positive move in the right direction for representation in Disney films. This has even led to a more prominent gay character being portrayed in upcoming film Jungle Cruise, which reportedly includes a scene where the character ‘McGregor’, played by comedian and actor Jack Whitehall, comes out to costar Dwayne Johnson’s character ‘Frank’. There is obviously still a way to go in terms of LGBTQ+ representation in films, but I’m glad Disney are finally taking steps towards the goal of equal representation in films. All in all, this film is a 10/10, and I could watch and listen and cry over and over again.
So that’s my top 5 Disney Remake Films but of course there’s so many more I could have added, so here are a few quick honourable mentions.
Peter Pan – My all time favourite Disney film (as well as its sequel, ‘Return to Neverland’), rightly so has a fair few remakes, so if you haven’t seen 2003 live action ‘Peter Pan’, 1991 Pan inspired sequel story ‘Hook’ (starring Robin Williams as Peter Pan), or the 2015 prequel story Pan (starring Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard), then I’d do that. Immediately. You’re missing out.
Maleficent and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – Quite honestly the best retelling of the classic fairytale, starring the stunning Angelina Jolie as the dark fairy herself, and the beautiful Elle Fanning as Aurora, it is truly a cinematic masterpiece and should be watched at all costs. You’ll never love a villain more.
In conclusion, if you haven’t already, buy Disney+ right now and watch all of the aforementioned films ASAP.