This weekend marked the premiere of Disney’s highly anticipated live reimagining of The Lion King. Despite debuting to mixed reviews, this live-action film made box office history. With $531 million made worldwide in 10 days of release, it became the 9th highest-grossing opening ever. Yet, with three Disney live-action remakes in 2019 alone, and announcements of additional animated classics being reimagined on the silver screen, is it time for new, original ideas? Aura 32 has ranked the top 5 Disney live-action remakes and how they compare to their original animations.
#5: The Lion King (2019)
If it ain’t broken, don’t reimagine it. Debuting as an animation in 1994, a large part of The Lion King’s allure is its revolutionary concept which focused solely on animals and incredible music by Sir Elton John. While the new film’s animation is nothing short of impressive, featuring high definition renderings of lions and landscapes, the new musical versions do not pack the same punch.
Unfortunately, critiques that The Lion King (2019) lacks heart and loses its original emotion prove to be true. The re-recorded songs feel monotone and simply echo through the theater without adding depth. It is also questionable whether this reimagining can be considered a “live-action” film as no human actors are present. All in all, upon exiting this 2019 showing, the main emotion evoked was wanting to immediately re-watch the original film and relive its unmatched transcendent quality.
#4: Beauty and the Beast (2017)
In terms of bringing an illustrated character to life, Emma Watson does so perfectly as Belle. With book smarts, beauty, and a sincere yet strong personality, Watson shined as this Disney princess protagonist. Once again, Beauty and the Beast (2017) receives a lower ranking due to its musical quality. New songs differentiated the live-action remake from the original; yet, the production quality of the new score did not match the beloved 1991 melodies. Beauty and the Beast (2017) did a great job of combining live-action human elements with spectacular realistic animations, making this a film worth seeing.
#3: Aladdin (2019)
Aladdin (2019) strikes a perfect balance of staying true to the original while adding progressive elements. Both the 2019 and 1992 versions of this Disney film capture the Genie’s larger than life personality and the lively energy of Aladdin running through the streets of Agrabah. Where Aladdin (2019) really shines is in its elevation of Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). Already head-strong and powerful compared to the other timid Disney princesses, Scott adds bravery and determination to this beloved character. Read Aura 32’s full review of this live-action reimagining, a step in the right direction for character development within these Disney remakes.
#2: The Jungle Book (2016)
The Jungle Book’s stunning visuals, that bring the viewer directly into the depths of an eerie jungle, far surpass its original animation (1967). With a human boy, Mowgli (Neel Sethi), anchoring the otherwise hyper-realistic animations, The Jungle Book (2016) achieves what The Lion King (2019) is missing: actors to make the film truly live-action. This added element of realism makes the stakes higher in the 2016 edition, as viewers watch Mowgli navigate a highly believable environment with twists and turns at every corner. With haunting voices (Scarlett Johansson as the villainous snake, Kaa) and a delightful rendition of “The Bear Necessities” (Bill Murray as Mowgli’s beloved bear sidekick, Baloo), The Jungle Book (2016) caters to a contemporary audience as the new film has favorable factors for everyone.
#1: Cinderella (2015)
Cinderella (2015) certainly had surprise on its side. Disney’s first musical live-action debut was in a league of its own. As a result, every live-action element came with an added amount of magic and wonder. For Cinderella (2015), it was the feeling of seeing something brand new that gives this film the top ranking. Lily James shared this amazement in her portrayal of the title character. Cinderella (1950) never stood out as one of my favorite Disney films due to the Princess’ dull personality. However, between her dazzling blue ballgown (who wouldn’t want to try it on?) and the air of originality regarding the live-action concept, Cinderella (2015) presented a stellar start to this new era and has yet to be beaten.
Disney’s remakes surely won’t stop here after the unprecedented success of The Lion King (2019). Fans will be happy to hear that live-action versions of The Little Mermaid and Mulan are already in the works. In addition, recent Disney releases show that they are striving towards progressive standards. Aladdin follows the development of a strong female heroine. It was also recently announced that African-American actress Halle Bailey will star as Ariel in The Little Mermaid. This teaches audiences that Princesses are both tough and from all different backgrounds. Despite these new elements, the constant retelling of classic tales yearns for new stories to be written and explored. Overall, Disney has found success in this new cinematic shift; but sooner or later, will their magic wear off?