By Leonardo Sanchez | Staff Writer
The Walt Disney Company is responsible for some of the most beloved animated movies ever made. Films like “Alice in Wonderland,” “Cinderella” and “The Jungle Book” have all broken the generational barrier and won the hearts of children all across the world. But a recent trend in Hollywood now sees each of these classics remade in live-action, a move which has filled Disney’s pockets with more than $2.5 billion.
Now another timeless Disney classic is set for the live-action treatment. Last week, “The Lion King” followed the “circle of life” and joined a long list of movies getting versions for modern audiences. With the company’s recent mood for live-action adaptations, it was just a matter of time until Simba’s story was announced as their next project — it’s one their most popular hits, after all.
The studio is currently working on 20 re-tellings of animated movies, including sequels and complete reimaginings. All those projects, however, are in different stages of development. “The Lion King” has just been announced, it has already been put on the fast track to production, while some are still really broad ideas, with no names attached to them when it comes to directing, writing or cast. That’s the case of a project focused on Prince Charming’s story and a retelling of “Pinocchio,” a character who may now literally become a real boy — or at least be played by one for the first time.
Projects that are more likely to soon make it to the big screen include a live-action of “The Little Mermaid.” Although no release date or director have been announced, news broke in August that original composer Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man behind Broadway’s “Hamilton,” were joining forces to reimagine the movie’s iconic soundtrack.
Similarly, a new version of “Peter Pan” may be hitting theaters anytime soon. David Lowery, who has just directed “Pete’s Dragon,” released in August, will head to Neverland to helm the project, while Toby Halbrooks will pen the script.
In the case of “The Lion King,” the person responsible for the new version is none other than Jon Favreau, who directed the successful CGI (computer-generated imagery) reboot of “The Jungle Book,” which debuted in April and grossed more than $900 million worldwide.
This kind of film, however, is expensive. “The Jungle Book” ended up figuring in the list of most expensive movies ever made with its $175 million budget. The same amount helped bring “Maleficent’s” lavishing, dark costumes to life. Live-actions fairy tales may be a risky business, but so far for Disney, it’s also a profitable one.
The roots of this furor seems to date back to 2010. Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” is the one to be held responsible for unleashing Disney’s ambitious projects regarding live-actions. Its more than $1 billion international gross attracted attention to the potential of modern takes on fairy tales and not only Disney has been following this track.
However, not all reimaginings have turned out to be successful. While some films fail among critics, like “The Legend of Tarzan,” others end up box-office disappointments, like “Pan.”
Disney has another promising movie coming out in March 2017, “Beauty and the Beast.” The animated film from 1991 is pointed out by many critics and fans as one of the company’s best films. It was also the first of its genre to be nominated for and Academy Award for Best Picture.
With a star-studded cast led by Emma Watson as Belle, the live-action is incorporating the original, award-winning songs composed by Alan Menken and with lyrics by Howard Ashman. Bill Condon is helming the project and Stephen Chbosky wrote the screenplay.
Disney also confirmed on Tuesday that a new version for “Mulan” is being released in November 2018. The company will be launching a casting search for a Chinese actress to play the title role and no director is attached to the film so far. Until then, only time will tell how long this trend will continue.