With Aladdin and The Lion King making all the money, Disney is in no danger of stopping its live-action remakes anytime soon.
You’ve probably noticed the avalanche of live-action fairytale remakes gracing your local multiplex over the last decade. And guess what? That is not about to stop any time soon since re-spinning a recognizable, fantastical yarn with human actors instead of animated ones always makes big money for the Mouse House. This process has become so popular that there are currently almost as many of these live-action fairy tales in production than Marvel Studios, DC Entertainment, or Star Wars movies. That’s a lot of films. And with several just around the corner, we thought it was time to breakdown all of the release dates!
Maleficent 2 – October 19, 2019
Angelina Jolie will do the rare thing and appear in a sequel to one of her previous hits with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (a first since 2003’s Tomb Raider sequel). This follows up on her villain-justifying Sleeping Beauty adaptation from 2014. The film was written, like its predecessor, by longtime Disney stalwart, Linda Woolverton. The picture also returns Elle Fanning as Princess Aurora, likely with a bigger role given how her star has risen, as well as the fact she should be a queen these days after what happened to her father in the first movie. Joachim Rønning has taken over directorial duties, and Harris Dickinson has replaced Brenton Thwaites as Prince Phillip. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michelle Pfeiffer are also joining the fun.
Mulan – March 27, 2020
Here is one that has been moved several times, as it is. Originally slated for Nov. 2, 2018, it looks like it will have its final release date on March 27, 2020. We don’t expect it to move again by simple virtue that it actually now as a director and lead, and we imagine should come together gracefully at this point.
Disney first bought a live-action Mulan script from screenwriters Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek (that’s been subsequently rewritten by Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa), which is set to again bring the Chinese ‘Hua Mulan’ legend of a female warrior to the big screen. More intriguingly, the movie is also going to be directed by Whale Rider and The Zookeeper’s Wife‘s Niki Caro. The director also promised to ScreenCrush the movie would be a “muscular piece of girly martial arts extravaganza in China.” And it found its lead in Chinese cinema star Liu Yifei, who has been described as the “Fairy’s Sister” in her native land’s press due to her angelic features.
It should be noted that Martin and Hynek’s original script came under fire when an anonymous blog alleged that the film had a white character (a merchant) as Mulan’s love interest, who ends up fighting the villains for her as the hero in the third act. However, Disney has since announced that this script was a jumping off point, and all “primary characters,” including the love interest, will be Chinese.
John August (Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) has taken on the scriptwriting duties.
Cruella – December 23, 2020
Following in the footsteps of Angelina Jolie in Maleficent, Emma Stone is going to have her own fiendish turn, as she steps into the spotted fur coat with Cruella DeVille. Disney confirmed as much in April 2016 when it was revealed the Oscar winning Stone (The Favourite, La La Land) had nabbed the role of a character previously played in live-action by Glenn Close. However, given the title change from 101 Dalmations, it is highly likely that this will be a revisionist tale that pities the villainess and rewrites her transgressions as one of misguided heroism (again like Maleficent), as opposed to the puppy-stealing monster from the original animated film.
Aline Brosh McKenna of The Devil Wears Prada vintage is on scripting duties, along with Jez Butterworth, Kelly Marcel, and Steve Zissis. Mozart in the Jungle creator Alex Timbers is also purported to make his directorial debut on the project.
There are of course many other live-action fairy tales in development that haven’t announced release dates just yet. Details on these ones are a little scarce, but here’s everything we’ve heard about them so far.
The Little Mermaid
Disney is meanwhile definitely making a live-action remake of the film that kicked of the Disney Renaissance. Before the original The Little Mermaid, Walt Disney Animation Studios was still struggling to find its voice 20 years on from the death of Walt himself, and afterward, the animated fairy tales took on a decidedly grandiose, Broadway style that led to a rejuvenation of talent. This is the last of that era’s “classics” to be adapted into live-action.
Disney is eying the opportunity of going Under the Sea with Ariel, their copyrighted, auburn-haired mermaid. The film is to be directed by Rob Marshall, who helmed Into the Woods and Mary Poppins Returns for the studio (and Chicago further while back), who was tapped for the project by producer Marc Platt (Into the Woods, La La Land). Further the movie has made a bold choice in casting with Halle Bailey playing Ariel. This is the first time Disney has changed the ethnicity of one of its mermaids, tapping the star of Grown-ish. The film has also lined up Melissa McCarthy to play Ursula, the Sea-Witch, Javier Bardem to play King Triton, Ariel’s father, and Awkwafina to play Scuttle and Jacob Tremblay as Flunder. One Direction pop star, Harry Styles, was offered the role of Prince Eric but has turned it down.
Alan Menken, who co-wrote the songs and scored the original 1989 movie, is returning to write new songs alongside Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton and Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns fame. Howard Ashman, who co-wrote the original songs with Menken and was seen as that movie (and therefore the Disney Renaissance’s) driving creative force sadly passed away in 1991.
Why not? The first remake was great right? (Actually, no it wasn’t.) But it did certainly make over $1 billion worldwide. So Disney is exploring the possibility of a sequel that reunites Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Jasmine, and Will Smith as not-Robin Williams’ Genie. Will it be a straight remake of the direct to video 1994 movie, Aladdin: Return of Jafar? It’s possible but unlikely given that film is itself not exactly a classic, but it could be a loose inspiration for an original sequel (as could the Aladdin TV series that came afterward.)
Lilo & Stitch
A live-action/CGI hybrid remake of this “one girl and her weird blue alien friend” comedy from 2002 is in the works at Disney, under the guidance of producers Dan Lin and Jonathan Eirich, who were also behind the Aladdin remake.
At long last, we might just get that Enchanted sequel, which seemed like such a sure-thing all the way back in 2007! This would be a follow-up to Disney’s delightful self-satirical farce about animated fairy tale characters making the jump to the big screen. It is the movie that made Amy Adams a star, and she has patiently championed for another turn as Giselle, the princess-to-be who opted instead to become a presumably great stepmother in 21st century New York.
Adam Shankman (Hairspray) is now directing, and there have been multiple screenplay drafts by Jessie Nelson, J. David Stem, and David N. Weiss. Yet, not much else is yet known about the project, although it’s rumored to include James Marsden as Adams’ formerly animated suitor, Prince Edward, and Patrick Dempsey as Robert Philip, the man Giselle ended up marrying in the magical land of… Manhattan.
The Jungle Book 2
Speaking of Favreau, he is slated to also return to Disney for The Jungle Book 2. Indeed, that movie, which also has screenwriter Justin Marks hired to reprise his work, would continue the story of Mowgli and all the lovable characters from the 2016 film. However, as The Lion King appears on the outside to be the priority for Disney, it makes this film’s prospects a bit ambiguous since Neel Sethi can presumably only play Mowgli for so long.
Two movies based on or around Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs are now in development at Disney. The first, Rose Red, has been around for a while, and it’s a spin-off that follows the story of Snow White’s sister. The second is a straight live action retelling of the Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs story from what we can tell. Erin Cressida Wilson (who wrote the script to The Girl on the Train) is working on the latter, but no director has been attached to either.
Either way, Disney seems to be quietly trying to make amends for blowing a sure-thing with Mirror, Mirror a high-concept reimagining of the Snow White tale that only took sparingly from the original 1937 Disney movie while feeding into more of Tarsem Singh’s passions than that of those who wanted a nostalgia-filled remake. That movie, despite opening first, was overshadowed by Universal’s Lord of the Rings-ified Snow White and the Huntsman in 2012. But then that too underperformed in 2012 when Universal attempted a sequel without actually having Snow White in it.
Oz The Great And Powerful 2
Oz The Great And Powerful was a decent success for Disney in 2013 when global box office all accounted for. Hence, there’s still work on a sequel at the moment (although little has been heard for some time), with screenwriter Mitchell Kapner and producer Joe Roth both returning. Sam Raimi doesn’t look likely to join them. The plot, if the film is ever made, will apparently not feature Dorothy Gale. Instead, it will tell another story in the period before her arrival in Oz.
Pinocchio (Not Disney)
Robert Downey Jr. is producing and starring in a live-action Pinocchio, heralding from Warner Bros. and his own company, Team Downey. He’ll play Geppetto, and some reports have suggested that he might even provide the voice for a CGI Pinocchio, too. The film has had various incarnations as a screenplay over the years, including with drafts turned in by Jane Goldman (Kingsmen: The Secret Service), Bryan Fuller (Hannibal), and Michael Mitnick (The Giver).
Previously Ron Howard has been attached to direct, and Paul Thomas Anderson passed on the job afterward. It is currently unclear if this movie is still in production or has been shelved for good.
Pinocchio (Disney, This Time)
But just so you know, yes, Disney has their own adaptation of Pinocchio in production, albeit who knows when we will see it. This one currently only has a screenwriter attached, Pete Hedges, best known for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, About a Boy, and Dan in Real Life.
Given the decent success of Cinderella, it’s not too surprising that Disney is looking at ways to tell other stories in that film’s world. Thus when Matt Fogel wrote a comedic script about Prince Charming and his underachieving brother, Disney bought the piece and has put it into production. It is unclear yet whether Richard Madden will actually play this verison of PRince Charming, or if we’re in for a whole new prince with dazzling white teeth.
The Sword in the Stone
This one could be a franchise-launcher if all goes well since The Sword in the Stone was the first novel of T.H. White’s four-part The Once and Future King series. The film comes from Disney, and marks another of their live-action dusting-offs of beloved animated films. Bryan Cogman – one of Game of Thrones’ writers and producers – is working on a script, suggesting that this take could be a little darker and more grown up than the 1963 classic.
No word has been heard on this one for a while, though…
Dinsey’s Tinker Bell
Not content with their animated straight-to-DVD Tinker Bell series, Disney is also producing a live action cinematic spectacular for the Peter Pan’s fairy pal. It’s called Tink Bell, and Reese Witherspoon is attached to star. Victoria Strouse – who’s recently worked on Finding Dory – is scripting it after previous drafts by Marti Noxon and Elizabeth Shaprio.
We’ll update this article with more information on these movies as we hear it.