Since The New '10s, Walt Disney Pictures has been making Live-Action Adaptations, remakes, reimaginings, etc. akin to or directly based on films in the Disney Animated Canon. While they're not the first live-action adaptations Disney has made, the current crop can be credited to the success of two films which were conceived around the same time: Alice in Wonderland (2010) and perhaps more importantly, Maleficent (2014).
Unlike the later films, Alice in Wonderland was not a remake of their classic animated film of the same name but rather a sequel with a grown-up Alice, inspired by the book just like the animated film was, and filtered through the mind of Tim Burton. It was one of the biggest hits of the year.
In contrast, Maleficent was a live-action reimagining directly based on their classic animated film Sleeping Beauty. It was a Perspective Flip Alternate Universe take on the story. Maleficent isn't the evil fairy witch she is in the original, as instead she is a troubled, introverted fairy who was spurned into hating humans by a bad experience one year before Princess Aurora is born. Aurora, whose rather Flat Character was replaced with something more in-depth, grew up believing Maleficent was her Fairy Godmother, as much as Maleficent tried to become her enemy. The film's interesting new take on Sleeping Beauty's characters ended in it becoming, like Alice, one of the biggest hits of the year.
With these successes, it was unsurprising that Disney tried doing a Live-Action Adaptation again. Cinderella (2015) is a remake of Cinderella. Unlike Maleficent, it stays true-to-the-text for the most part and is still from the POV of Cinderella. However, the Cinderella remake adds new details and character elements to the story. It also used a few long-held fan ideas, such as how "Cinderella" is a nickname for "Ella" (or "Elizabeth"/Elisabeth/etc). The remake ended up selling well, and as a result Disney decided to create more remakes of various animated films of theirs.
Most of the films are Self-Adaptation reimaginings of the Disney Animated Canon originals. They might take inspiration from other adaptations, the original source, or even fan-ideas (for example, "Adam"note as the Beast's name was rarely officially used until the remake of Beauty and the Beast), however they overall take note from the original Disney animated films. Some elements that were scrapped in the original films development are known to be in the remakes. The remakes are not, however, shot-for-shot remakes of the original films. They are more historically accurate than the originals, which means slight differences in designs and other elements, and feature personality changes, name changes, Adaptation Expansion, and even completely new characters.
The Lion King (2019) is technically not a live-action remake due to the absence of onscreen humans like the original, but still has everything else in common with the current line, hence its inclusion in it. Christopher Robin is also technically not a remake, rather a sequel to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, but it is a live-action film with CGI based on an earlier Disney property that shares the same aesthetics as the others.
List of Disney live-action remakes:
Early live-action remakes (1994-2000)There were a few early films that prefigured the later trend of live-action remakes, but they are not part of the current series listed below.
- The Jungle Book (1994) — akin to The Jungle Book (1967), but with an adult Mowgli
- The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story (1998) — akin to The Jungle Book (1967), and Mowgli is a child again; Direct to Video
- 101 Dalmatians (1996) — based on 101 Dalmatians (1961)
- 102 Dalmatians (2000)
Later live-action remakes (2010-present)
- Alice in Wonderland (2010) — akin to Alice in Wonderland (1951), but more of a sequel to the book; still, it clearly inspired the trend
- Maleficent (2014) — based on Sleeping Beauty (1959)
- Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)
- Cinderella (2015) — based on Cinderella (1950)
- The Jungle Book (2016) — based on The Jungle Book (1967)
- Pete's Dragon (2016) — based on Pete's Dragon (1977)
- Beauty and the Beast (2017)note — based on Beauty and the Beast (1991)
- Christopher Robin (2018) — based on the Winnie-the-Pooh animated film series
- Dumbo (2019) — based on Dumbo (1941)
- Aladdin (2019) — based on Aladdin (1992)
- The Lion King (2019)note — based on The Lion King (1994)
- Lady and the Tramp (2019)note — based on Lady and the Tramp (1955)
- Mulan (2020)note — based on Mulan (1998)
Release dates confirmed
- Cruella (2021) — based on 101 Dalmatians (1961), a Start of Darkness/Prequel story starring Emma Stone as Cruella DeVil
- The Little Mermaid — based on The Little Mermaid (1989), starring Halle Bailey as Ariel
- Peter Pan & Wendy (TBA) — based on Peter Pan (1953)
- Untitled sequel to The Lion King (TBA)
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs — based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
- Rose Red
- Untitled sequel to The Jungle Book (2016)
- Untitled sequel to Aladdin (2019)
- The Sword in the Stone — based on The Sword in the Stone (1963)
- Lilo & Stitch — based on Lilo & Stitch (2002)
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame — based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
- Pinocchio — based on Pinocchio (1940)
- Hercules — based on Hercules (1997)
- The Chronicles of Prydain — based on the same book series that The Black Cauldron (1985) was originally adapted from
- Bambi — based on Bambi (1942)
Tropes common to these films:
- Adaptational Angst Upgrade: It's commonplace for characters' traumas to be enhanced or to add tragic backstories to relatively minor characters.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Notably concerning the villains. Angelina Jolie is sure an embellished Maleficent (especially in her youth), and Cate Blanchett in Cinderella (2015), Josh Gad in Beauty and the Beast (2017) or Marwan Kenzari in Aladdin are much more attractive (sometimes, younger) versions of Lady Tremaine, Lefou and Jafar.
- Adaptational Modesty: The Aladdin remake in particular.
- Jasmine doesn't wear her Bedlah Babe outfit and spends most of the film in longer dresses. The scene where Jafar forces her into a skimpy red number doesn't happen here. That being said, her outfits are still quite flattering to the cleavage.
- In the same film, the sexy girls who also wore Bedlah Babe outfits during "One Jump Ahead" are now replaced with school girls wearing long robes.
- Adaptation Expansion: The cartoons ranged from 64 to 90 minutes, so the movies add in some more material to pad the runtime to 2 hours.
- Adaptation Name Change: At least one character per adaptation has their name edited.
- Adaptational Nice Guy: Bad or neutral guys often do a HeelFace Turn, or turn out to be good from the start. The title character in Maleficent turned out to be the real heroine, but also Lefou turned his back on Gaston at the end of Beauty and the Beast. The Ringmaster aka Max Medici also Took a Level in Kindness, as V. A. Vandevere turned out to be even worse in Dumbo.
- Adaptational Villainy: In contrast to the above, this happens to Aurora's father in Maleficent and the Duke in Cinderella (2015).
- Affirmative Action Girl:
- Cinderella physically shows Ella's mother as a character before her death and inserts a romantic rival for Ella - the Princess Chelina, whom he is supposed to marry. It also expands the role of the Fairy Godmother into the Narrator All Along.
- Aladdin gives Jasmine a lady in waiting called Dalia, who acts as a love interest for the Genie.
- Dumbo gives the elephant a human girl as a friend.
- Ascended Extra: One human character tend to get more screentime in many of the remakes. There was the ringmaster in Dumbo, Aurora and Diaval (a renamed Diablo) in Maleficent, and the Enchantress in Beauty and the Beast (2017).
- Canon Foreigner: Several new characters were added, such as the Captain in Cinderella and Prince Anders in Aladdin.
- Costume Porn: The live action media allow to do more sophisticated costumes (in terms of material and pattern), especially for females characters. In contrast with the two or three outfits they had in the original, most of the time, they have an Unlimited Wardrobe in the remakes. Jasmine in particular has some more splendid finery compared to her animated counterpart.
- Darker and Edgier: Because of the different medium, the films tend to make the original films more down to earth, to varying degrees and mainly from an aesthetic viewpoint. They also have darker colours and feature some darker themes than their animated counterparts.
- Death by Adaptation: The King in Cinderella, and both Aurora's parents in Maleficent.
- Demoted to Extra: Animals sidekicks tends to fall under this, as they lost their voice with the change of medium.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- Maleficent helped kick off the trend of live-action remakes but it's not a remake. It's a Perspective Flip and is loose with its canon (most noticeable in Maleficent's character change and how the majority of the story is completely different from Sleeping Beauty's) to the point of Alternate Continuity. Although, Cruella indicates that more films will take the Perspective Flip approach, so the weirdness might not apply anymore.
- Even before Maleficent, there was Alice in Wonderland (2010), which isn't a remake either, but a sequel, and supposedly a sequel to the original book (although like Maleficent, it plays fast and loose with its canon), not the Disney version.
- Oz the Great and Powerful is often considered a precursor to the trend of remakes, even frequently being lumped in with them despite it actually being a lawyer-friendly prequel to MGM's The Wizard of Oz. This is likely because Oz takes close inspiration from Alice in its visual style and narrative, as well as being a modernized expansion of a classic literary story where (much like the Disney remakes) general audiences are more familiar with a classic film adaptation than the original work.note
- 1996's 101 Dalmatians is very different from the live-action remakes that followed. In contrast to the current Darker and Edgier approach, it goes in the complete opposite direction and plays the story for broad slapstick. It has often been said that the live-action 101 Dalmatians is, ironically, more cartoonish than the actual cartoon version, despite the fact that the dogs don't talk.
- Cinderella (2015) was also quite a loose remake that merely used the same names as Disney's characters and used Adaptation Expansion to tell a different version of a familiar story. Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King were more direct remakes of the animated versions.
- Gender Flip: The Jungle Book (2016) gives one to Kaa, who is now voiced by a female. Cinderella also mildly makes one of the mice Jacq into Jacqueline.
- Live-Action Adaptation: These movies are live-action remakes (or reinterpretations) of animated films.
- Lost in Imitation: The films naturally stick closer to the animated versions Disney made of fairy tales and novels than they do to said fairy tales and novels. Cinderella's ball gown likewise is coloured blue, like it is in the Disney Princess merchandise, rather than the white from the original film.
- Named by the Adaptation: Characters who weren't named in the animated originals, such as the Beast and Cinderella's Prince Charming, are given names in the remakes.
- Perspective Flip: The Maleficent films and Cruella tell stories based on the Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians worlds respectively, but from the perspective of the villains.
- Politically Correct History: Several of the instance of Race Lift described below result in curiosities such as locations having a noticeable POC population during a time where there was none (Beauty and the Beast (2017)) or depicting relationships between people of different racial backgrounds when they were highly improbable (Lady and the Tramp (2019)).
- Race Lift:
- Plumette and Madame de Garderobe in Beauty and the Beast (2017) are played by black actresses, while town inhabitants are more ethnically diverse.
- In Aladdin, the Arab Prince Achmed became the European Prince Anders. And while the Genie appeared as white when he was masquerading as an human (with visibly lighter skin tone than the Arab citizens of Agrabah), he is played by Will Smith in the remake.
- In Lady and the Tramp, the white Darling became bi-racial as played by Kiersey Clemons.
- The Little Mermaid: Ariel, who looked like a European woman originally, is set to be played by an African-American actress.
- Scenery Porn: A lot of efforts are usually put into the look of the settings, which are filled with impressive details.
- Alice in Wonderland (2010) is all about Alice donning armor to slay the Jabberwocky.
- Maleficent turns Maleficent into a front line general who fights her enemies personally, as opposed to the original where she used her magic from afar before she turned into a dragon.
- Beauty and the Beast (2017) has Belle already trying to escape the castle the moment she's locked in her room, and preparing to fight Gaston in the climax.