Live-action Cinderella, Aladdin and Belle

A Guide to the Ups and Downs of the Disney Live-Action Remakes

The Disney live-action remakes make a lot of money. A lot. Interest in them has largely faded, as people are starting to get a bit jaded by the results, though these movies are far from all bad—plenty of them are great. Let’s take a look at the whole enterprise from start to finish and see where it went right and how it went wrong.

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101 Dalmatians (1996)

Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmatians
(Disney)

The very first Disney live-action remake! (There was a Disney-distributed live-action version of The Jungle Book released in 1994, but since Disney didn’t actually make it, it doesn’t really count.) 101 Dalmatians starred Glenn Close as the villainous Cruella De Vil, who wants to steal adorable Dalmatian puppies for nefarious ends. It was followed up with an original sequel, 102 Dalmatians, in 2000.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Mia Wasikowska and Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland
(Disney)

Mia Wasikowska played Alice in this live-action version of the classic story, but most of the marketing focused on Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter character. It was directed by Tim Burton and is arguably the most, well, Burton film ever made. Not everyone will love it, it got fairly mixed reviews, but like 101 Dalmatians it did do well enough to spawn a sequel.

Maleficent (2014)

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent in Maleficent
(Disney)

Maleficent isn’t strictly a remake, more of a retelling of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Angelina Jolie is clearly having the time of her life as the title character, the villain from Sleeping Beauty who may actually be not so much a villain after all. It was a big success and also got itself a sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.

Cinderella (2015)

Lily James as Cinderella in Cinderella
(Disney)

Arguably the film that truly kicked off the trend of Disney live-action remakes. Cinderella was a faithful take on the original with lots of charm and dazzling dresses, and a winning central performance from Lily James. It has more fans than you’ll find for some of the other remakes on this list, that’s for sure. And it’s so pretty!

The Jungle Book (2016)

Mowgli (Neel Sethi) and Baloo the bear in The Jungle Book
(Disney)

Another good film that came out before Disney live-action fatigue set in. Jon Favreau’s version of The Jungle Book tells the story of Mowgli (an excellent Neel Sethi), a young boy who’s been raised in the jungle among animals. When the tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba) threatens him, he must leave his animal family to face his own destiny.

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

The Beast and Beauty dancing in Beauty and the Beast (2017)
(Walt Disney Studios)

This was possibly the most-anticipated live-action remake of the bunch, because it had beloved actress Emma Watson step into the shoes of main character Belle. And yet when it actually came out, critics and audiences liked it but didn’t love it. It was the second-highest-grossing film of 2017, though, and more remakes were suddenly announced left, right and center.

Christopher Robin (2018)

Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) and Winnie-the-Pooh in Christopher Robin
(Disney)

Beloved bear Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends were brought to life in this charming story. Some folks don’t count this as a live-action remake as such, seeing as it’s an original story, but the way it gives us previously animated characters interacting with the “real” world it’s gotta count, right? Ewan McGregor plays Christopher Robin himself and it’s a delight seeing him interact with the talking toys.

Dumbo (2019)

Eva Green as Colette, and Dumbo the elephant in Dumbo (2019)
(Disney)

Disney released not one but FOUR live-action remakes in 2019, the first of which was Dumbo. To be honest, this Tim Burton version has very little in common with the original 1941 film (which is probably for the best) and so it’s arguably the most compelling live-action retelling of the 2019 lot. If you like cute baby animals, be prepared to cry.

Aladdin (2019)

Will Smith as the Genie and Mena Massoud as Aladdin in Aladdin (2019)
(Disney)

A live-action Aladdin film directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Will Smith as the Genie! What could go wrong? Well, nothing went wrong exactly, the film grossed a billion dollars, but people were starting to get sick of live-action Disney remakes around this point. Aladdin does have plenty to recommend it … but not much that the original animated film didn’t also have. Apart from “Speechless,” that is, which is an absolute banger of a song.

The Lion King (2019)

Simba the lion cub in The Lion King (2019)
(Disney)

This was about the time where people started to throw their hands up and go, “No more, please, the novelty’s worn off.” The Lion King couldn’t even strictly be called a live-action remake, because the lions and other animals were all CGI. Yet that was what Disney marketed it as.

Well, despite everything, the not-really-live-action Lion King was a smash hit and now we’re getting a prequel, Mufusa: The Lion King, to be directed by Barry Jenkins and released on December 20, 2024.

Lady and the Tramp (2019)

Dogs Lady and Tramp in The Lady and the Tramp (2019)
(Disney)

Wait, Disney remade The Lady and the Tramp? Yes they did! But the fact that no one seems to remember it says a lot, right? It was released exclusively on Disney+ and seemingly everyone had had their fill of talking CGI animals by this point, because it received mixed reviews from critics and, well, have you watched it? No? See what I mean?!

Mulan (2020)

Liu Yufei as Mulan in Mulan (2020)
(Disney)

The COVID-19 pandemic got in the way of Mulan’s release and no one was very impressed when Disney decided to charge extra for it on Disney+. Add that to the controversial anti-protestor comments made by lead actress Liu Yifei, which lead to the hashtag #BoycottMulan, and you have a recipe for disaster.

The film was well-received by critics in America (although not in China) but … well, it’s just not a good look when your movie’s Wikipedia page has a “controversies” section this long.

Pinocchio (2022)

Geppetto (Tom Hanks) and the puppet Pinocchio in Pinocchio (2022)
(Disney)

A CGI/live-action Pinocchio was probably never going to be that good, right? But you might have been surprised at how bad it is if you’re one of the people who watched it on Disney+. It’s filled with bad jokes and pop culture references, Tom Hanks delivers a truly lackluster performance as Geppetto, and the whole thing feels hopelessly by-the-numbers.

It was bad for Disney (but good for everyone else!) that Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion version of Pinocchio came out the same year and was infinitely better.

Peter Pan and Wendy (2023)

Alexander Molony as Peter in Peter Pan and Wendy
(Disney)

Another remake of a Disney classic that doesn’t particularly add anything new to the story. Peter Pan and Wendy looks pretty and it’s not not fun, but considering we have so many good Peter Pan adaptations already, was it really necessary?

However, because the copyright to Peter Pan is owned by the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London, the hospital received a sizeable amount of royalties from this movie, so maybe it was worth it for that alone.

The Little Mermaid (2023)

Halle Bailey as Ariel in The Little Mermaid
(Disney)

The Little Mermaid is definitely one of the better live-action Disney remakes, and its lead actress Halle Bailey delivers an excellent performance as Ariel. Because Bailey was the first Black woman cast in the role of a previously white Disney princess, she received a ton of hate from right-wing trolls, and that was far more disappointing than any movie could ever be.

Snow White (2025)

First look at Disney's live-action Snow White, which features the titular princess and the Seven Dwarfs
(Disney)

A Marc Webb-helmed remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney’s first-ever animated full-length feature film. Snow White is set to release on March 21, 2025, and it will star Rachel Zegler as the title character.

Unfortunately, because Zegler is a Latina woman playing a traditionally white fictional character, and because she’s dared to express opinions about the Snow White fairytale, like Bailey before her she’s been subjected to a lot of bile from the tiresome “anti-woke” crowd.

Moana (2026)

The animated version of Moana
(Disney)

Wait, isn’t it a little early for a Moana live-action remake, seeing as how the animated movie only came out in 2016? Disney clearly doesn’t think so. They’re throwing a lot of money behind Moana right now, seeing as Moana 2 is set to release by the end of this year. Expect the remake on July 10th, 2026.

No one knows yet who will be playing the live-action version of Moana herself, but original actress Auliʻi Cravalho has already stated it won’t be her, and that she was, “truly honored to pass this baton to the next young woman of Pacific Island descent to honor our incredible Pacific peoples, cultures, and communities that helped inspire [Moana’s] story.”

Lilo and Stitch (TBA)

Lilo, Stitch and Nani in the animated Lilo and Stitch
(Disney)

We don’t know what the release date is for Lilo and Stitch, but we know some of the cast members. Chris Sanders, the original Stitch, will be returning to voice him. Young newcomer Maia Kealoha will play Lilo, Sydney Agudong will play Nani, Kaipo Dudoit will play David, Billy Magnussen will play Pleakley, Zach Galifianakis will play Jumba, and Courtney B. Vance will play Cobra Bubbles. However, Disney has been criticized for colorism in their casting of Nani in particular.

Robin Hood (TBA)

Robin the fox in the animated version of Robin Hood
(Disney)

Back in 2020, The Hollywood Reporter announced that a live-action/CGI hybrid Robin Hood was on its way, with Carlos Lopez Estrada set to direct and Kari Granlund (writer of the Lady and the Tramp remake) to write the screenplay. But we haven’t heard much about it in the years since—no cast, no release date, nothing. And no one has yet answered the biggest question of all: Will Robin still be hot?

Bambi (TBA)

Bambi the fawn and Thumper the rabbit in the animated Bambi
(Disney)

Also in 2020, we got an announcement that Disney was planning to remake Bambi, again as a live-action/CGI hybrid. Screenwriters Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Lindsey Beer were assigned to write the script. But it’s been a while, so will it see the light of day, or is it as dead as Bambi’s mom? (Sorry.)

The Sword in the Stone (TBA)

Young King Arthur pulling the sword out of the stone in The Sword in the Stone
(Disney)

The Sword in the Stone is actually a pretty good candidate for a live-action remake, but of course it’s too early to tell if it will be good or not. Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman is apparently going to be writing the script, indicating that this might be a darker take on the King Arthur legend than the original animated movie. But will there be dragons?


Hercules

An animated Hercules is wearing his complete armor while talking to an animated Meg who is wearing a loose toga-style dress.
(Disney)

Another live-action remake announced in 2020! This one is set to be produced by the MCU’s Joe and Anthony Russo, written by Dave Callaham, and directed by none other than Aladdin helmer Guy Ritchie. No cast has been announced yet, but Danny DeVito definitely wants to return as Phil.

The Aristocats

Three adorable kittens in the animated The Aristocats
(Disney)

Another planned live-action/CGI hybrid film, this one was announced in 2022. Will Gluck and Keith Bunin are the writers, with Gluck also serving as producer, and according to the DisInsider, Questlove will be directing. Let’s face it, though, this one has the potential to go horribly wrong. We all remember the last live-action/CGI cat-themed movie, right?

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Esmerelda with a tambourine looking fine AF in The Hunchback of Notre Dame
(Disney)

Back in 2019, it was announced that a live-action Hunchback of Notre Dame was in development. Tony award winning playwright David Henry Hwang was set to write the script, Josh Gad would be producing, original songwriters Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz would be returning… and then nothing happened. The project is now seemingly stuck in development hell now. But considering the dark, difficult themes of the original, maybe that’s for the best.

The Princess and the Frog

Tiana wishing on a star in the animated The Princess and the Frog
(Disney)

Is one of Disney’s most beloved films going to get a live-action remake? Well, possibly? There’s no cast, director, writer, or producer attached at the moment, but according to DisInsider it is indeed happening. However, Dr Facilier voice actor Keith David responded to the news with “I’m not sure if this is true,” so make of that what you will.

(featured image: Disney)


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Sarah Barrett
Sarah Barrett (she/her) is a freelance writer with The Mary Sue who has been working in journalism since 2014. She loves to write about movies, even the bad ones. (Especially the bad ones.) The Raimi Spider-Man trilogy and the Star Wars prequels changed her life in many interesting ways. She lives in one of the very, very few good parts of England.