Following the success of recent Live -Action remakes such as Beauty and the Beast and The Jungle Book, Disney is now interested in remaking more of their classic animated films. From a financial perspective, it makes sense since both Alice in Wonderland and Beauty and the Beast made a billion dollars and they offer a low-risk investment. Many are excited about the remake of The Lion King by Jon Favreau, however, many are worried about the upcoming Aladdin remake and most of that worrisome attitude comes from director Guy Ritchie.
Guy Ritchie may not have been the right fit for a film like Aladdin, a film with revolving around Indian/Middle Eastern culture. He certainly has his own style but does it fit for Aladdin? Many say it doesn’t, but we’ll just have to wait till it’s released. But this got me thinking about directors who would be great at doing live-action remakes and they are:
Jordan Vogt-Roberts: Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Atlantis: The Lost Empire was released in 2001 to a mixed critical reception and underperformed at the box office. Disney has since ignored it, but in recent years, it has grown a cult following thanks to it likable and diverse characters, being a fun adventure film and containing beautiful animation (supervised by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola) that has great live-action potential. A live-action remake can help enhance/expand on the original story.
Vogt-Roberts gained mainstream attention after directing the 2017 blockbuster Kong: Skull Island, about a group of soldiers and scientists going to a hidden island in pursuit of knowledge. Though the film garnered positive reviews it did earn criticisms for having a mostly weak plot and forgettable characters with a few exceptions which even Vogt-Roberts would admit. He could have what it takes to turn this cult classic into a fun adventure and kind of act like a redo of Kong where he gets to fix some of the errors prior, such as boring characters since most of the original characters are established and have a clear personality.
Guillermo del Toro: The Black Cauldron
The Black Cauldron was very loosely based on the third book of the Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander and set a lot of firsts for Disney’s animation department. It was their first film to receive a PG rating, the first to not be a musical and the first film in which they used computer animation. The film had a rocky production for over a decade and was hampered by delays, rewrites, censorship editing and being the most expensive animated film at the time and when it was released on the summer of 1985, it was a failure, earning mix reviews and bombed at the box office.
The film did eventually earn a cult following for it’s darker and more adult tone compared to other Disney films and it did set groundworks for the success that Disney would later enjoy due to it advancements in technology. In 2016, Variety reported that Disney was eyeing to adapt the entire Chronicles of Prydain series into a Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter style franchise including the Black Cauldron. So far, the project has no confirmed director or writer attached it but it shows that Disney does see potential in this franchise and who better to handle a fantastical franchise than the fantastical director, Guillermo del Toro.
Del Toro has a great understanding of cinematic language in the fantasy genre. The story is rich with creatures/monsters that del Toro excels in. Currently, he’s taking a well-deserved break from directing, but when he comes back this could be the perfect opportunity for him.
Karyn Kusama: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
During World War II, the US Government asked the Disney Studio to make war propaganda films for the public to rally support for the war effort. This has given us the first and only Donald Duck short to ever win an Oscar in Der Fuehrer’s Face which was about Donald Duck having a nightmare that he was living in Nazi Germany. Yeah, Disney doesn’t really want to acknowledge it. But due to the productions of these shorts, Disney was forced to halt all productions on feature-length films and thus, they decided to produce a collection of shorts that are combined for a theatrical release called “Package Films.” The most famous of these is The Three Caballeros and they continued until 1949 with The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, which the short, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is in. It’s not a full-length film but it’s still pretty famous and recognizable for Disney films. It’s more cartoonish but still faithful adaptation of Washington Irving’s classic story even with the dark aspects like the ambiguous ending and how Ichabod is not a good person.
It’s preferable if a director has a horror background to handle this film and Karyn Kusama is the person for the job. Known for Jennifer’s Body, The Invitation, & XX, she does a fantastic job of building tension and suspense that pays off in a thrilling way. I can imagine this film in a similar style to The Witch, delving into the character of Ichabod, showcasing how bad of a person our protagonist is.
Jennifer Yuh Nelson: Mulan
I know that Disney is already developing a live-action Mulan with McFarland U.S.A director Niki Caro and starring Liu Yifei. But I want someone who already has a grasp on the culture and Nelson’ work on the Kung Fu Panda films shows that she does. Jennifer Yuh Nelson started her career as a director by directing episodes of the critically acclaimed series Todd McFarlane’s Spawn at HBO and then joined Dreamworks where she wrote Sinbad and the first Kung Fu Panda and then was promoted to the director’s chair for Kung Fu Panda 2. When the film earned critical acclaim, she returned for the sequel which it too earned critical acclaim for its animation and the action. She is now breaching the world of live-action with young-adult science fiction thriller, The Darkest Mind. I understand that Nelson is South Korean and that Mulan is Chinese, but I am choosing her based on her previous work, which made me believe she’d be the best choice.
Taika Waititi: Treasure Planet
Treasure Planet was the passion project of The Little Mermaid and Aladdin directors John Musker and Ron Clements. They spent years, pitching the idea to Disney and then they agreed to greenlight the project if they would direct Hercules first which they did. This is an adaptation that’s wholly unique and there hasn’t been that much stories like this. A science-fiction take on Treasure Island but not only that, it takes place in a world that combines both science fiction technology and colonial technology which is why old-fashioned ships are sailing across space. The film was released to positive reviews for its gorgeous animation and emotional story but like The Black Cauldron, the movie bombed at the box office earning $110 million against a $140 million budget making it one of the biggest flops in movie history. The reason has been attributed to poor marketing and tough competition against Harry Potter and theChambers of Secrets and James Bond’s Die Another Day coming out around the same time. But like Atlantis and The Black Cauldron, it has since gained a cult following in recent years.
After a string of indie success like What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, New Zealand director, and actor Taika Waititi went over to Marvel to direct Thor: Ragnarok which brought new life into one of the weakest characters in the MCU. His mix of comedy and action garnered the film critical acclaim being added alongside Toy Story 3 and Logan as the third installment film being the best. Taika proved that he can direct a big-budgeted blockbuster with a lot of special effects and motion capture which is mandatory if you wanna adapt this but he’ll be able to keep the film’s sense of adventure, comedy, and heart, which are things he excels at.
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Graphics courtesy of Marie Garduño/ @MarieGarduo