We have seen a slew of live-action remakes to classic animated Disney movies. And we’ve already done an article on a few animated films that need a remake, with a lot of them already getting greenlit. But you know what, you can have your Mulan’s and your Lilo and Stich's (actually, please don’t remake Lilo and Stitch). Those are popular animated movies. For this article, I’m going to talk about some of the less popular Disney animated movies that actually do deserve the live-action treatment.
Now, I’m well aware that you might have a soft spot in your heart for some of these movies, and I do, too. But a lot of these films have gotten overlooked over the years, and I think a new live-action version of them could give them a breath of new life. I mean, anything is possible if you wish upon a star, right?
Okay, honestly, out of all of the animated films on this list, Hercules has the best shot of being remade into a live-action movie. It’s the story of a boy named Hercules who is born from the gods Zeus and Hera (which is false, since in the real legend, Hera tried to kill Hercules on multiple occasions since Zeus cheated on Hera), and how he is trying to come into himself as a hero. Danny DeVito played the role of his trainer, Philoctetes, a satyr who sees Hercules as his one last hope to coaching a great one. Hades was the main villain and he was voiced by James Woods.
The movie is ideal for a live-action remake since it could be a big budget spectacle. Plus, Disney hasn’t really done the whole sword and sandal thing yet, and Hercules could be a great attempt at making a family friendly version of that. I envision it being a cross between John Carter and Prince of Persia, but like, a lot better than both of those movies.
Oliver & Company (1988)
They’ve already done 101 Dalmatians and Lady and the Tramp on Disney+. So when is Oliver & Company going to get some love? It’s basically the Charles Dickens story of Oliver Twist, but it’s set in New York and has musical numbers sung by Billy Joel, Huey Lewis, and Bette Midler. What more could you possibly want?
I see another live-action film with pets that can talk (and siiiiing!). But it would be much cooler, and Billy Joel could even make an appearance in the movie. I also see it being something that goes straight to Disney+ like Lady and the Tramp. Also, the music still holds up, so why not make it a musical like they did with the live-action version of The Lion King? Do it, baby.
The Aristocats (1970)
Okay, so yeah. I like movies with talking animals. Wanna fight about it? After my hypothetical Oliver & Company movie, I think Disney should tackle The Aristocats next. The story is weird. It’s about a family of aristocratic cats (get it? The Aristocats!) that get kidnapped (or is it catnapped?) and an alley cat named Thomas O’Malley helps them. It’s really a product of its time.
So let’s make it a product of our time. The film can still take place in Paris, and even in 1910, but modernize the hell out of it. Make it feel like a period piece with all the great iconic locations, but also make it feel like it was made in the 2020s. Because ev’rybody wants to be a cat, right? Just make sure to keep out the stereotypical Asian cat in this version. Because again, it’s a product of its time, and Disney should really make it a product of our time. It could work.
James and the Giant Peach (1996)
I’ll probably catch hell for this one (believe it or not, but I was actually going to include The Nightmare Before Christmas on this list before I realized that nobody would want that to be live-action) but I think the Roald Dahl story of a boy named James who leaves his domineering aunts by entering a giant peach and traveling with some bug companions like Ms. Spider, Mr. Grasshopper, and (shiver) Mr. Centipede, would be a big hit.
Now granted, I couldn’t even watch this movie since I have a deathly fear of centipedes, but I think most other people would enjoy a live-action movie with CG bugs going on an adventure to New York City. I know he’s probably too old for the role now, but I see Asa Butterfield playing James because… I don’t know why. I just picture him in the role. He seems to have a knack for playing weird but lovable young characters.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Did you know that Atlantis: The Lost Empire was Disney's first animated sci-fi film? It’s also one of the films that a lot of people tend to forget is even from Disney, since most of the people I talk to tend to think it was a Dreamworks movie. But it wasn’t! Inspired by Jules Vernes’ stories, Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a period piece in that it takes place in 1914, and it's about a young man’s quest to discover the lost city of Atlantis.
Michael J. Fox voiced that young man, and his is the voice that I always hear in my head when I think of this movie. But I think some other actor (Maybe Chris Pine?) could fill his shoes, and I’d love to see a whole team of famous actors aiding him on his journey. It could be a grand scale adventure story. Out of all the films on this list, this is the one that I’d like to see the most made into a live-action film.
Treasure Planet (2002)
The other obscure Disney movie that wasn’t even really that long ago, Treasure Planet was another sci-fi film, but this time, adapting Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I get a sense that since this came out one year following Atlantis: The Lost Empire, that Disney probably had a whole collection of sci-fi versions of older books that they wanted to roll out the gate. But because of the modest returns on both of these films, they put a halt on their plans.
The film is essentially Treasure Island set in space. Instead of a pirate ship washing up on shore, it’s a space ship. The main character, Jim Hawkins (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) rode a badass hoverboard with a sail on it, and I think that Treasure Planet would be such an amazing live-action adventure story that could rectify all the problems that John Carter gave the studio. Honestly, this and Atlantis are probably Disney's two most slept-on animated films, and I think the Mouse House needs to do them over again just to give them the audience that they deserve.
And that’s the list. What other Disney animated films do you think should get the live-action treatment? Sound off in the comments section below.
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.