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The Ultimate Disney Live Action Remakes Film Guide: 2015-2019

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Disney Live Action Remakes:
1994-2014 | 2015-2019
Sleeping Beauty's Castle

During the five-year period 2015-2019, Walt Disney Pictures pursued remaking previously-animated films in live action with a vengeance. Many of these contained various degrees of computer animation, including computer-animated main characters seen in The Jungle Book and Dumbo. However, an 'animated film' is a very specific term and relates to how a film is made, not how it appears.

The Lion King remake featured only computer-generated characters. Despite this, it is still technically classed as a 'live action' film and not 'animation'. Since the controversy over whether the motion-capture film Happy Feet (2006) should be classed as an animation, and to exclude films such as Avatar (2010) from qualifying, 'animation' is defined by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as 'a motion picture in which movement and characters' performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique, a significant number of the major characters are animated, and animation figures in no less than 75 percent of the running time'. Like the animal characters in The Jungle Book and Dumbo, The Lion King was made by filming characters against a bluescreen rather than by utilising a frame-by-frame technique and so, though the characters are computer-generated, the film is classed as live action and not animation.

During this era three of the films made over a billion US dollars at the box office.

The Films

The summaries of the films below are concentrating on the live action remakes rather than the animated originals. Recurring characters and actors who appear in more than one live action remake are shown in Bold. Also mentioned is whether the films pass the Bechdel Test. This can be summarised as whether the film involves two or more female characters who have a conversation together that does not focus on men in general or a specific male character or man1. Also mentioned are the cases where the remake passes the Kevin Smith Reboot test of adding diversity.

Cinderella (1950 / 2015)

Film1950 Animated Original2015 Live Action Remake
DirectorsWilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske and Clyde GeronimiSir Kenneth Branagh
PlotCinderella's widowed father married a widow, Lady Tremaine, before his untimely death, leaving Cinderella in the care of her wicked stepmother and two ugly stepsisters. They force her to work as their slave. When a ball is held to determine who will marry the kingdom's prince, Cinderella is able to go to the ball through the help of her fairy godmother.
Length72 minutes101 minutes
SettingAn unnamed mediæval kingdom
Dramatis Personæ
  • Cinderella (Ilene Woods)
  • Fairy Godmother (Verna Felton)
  • Lady Tremaine, Cinderella's wicked stepmother (Eleanor Audley)
  • Jaq, a mouse (Jimmy MacDonald)
  • Octavius 'Gus', a mouse (Jimmy MacDonald)
  • Lucifer, a cat (June Foray)
  • Bruno, a dog (Jimmy MacDonald)
  • The King (Luis van Rooten)
  • The Grand Duke (Luis van Rooten)
  • Prince Charming (William Phipps)
  • Anastasia Tremaine, an ugly sister (Lucille Bliss)
  • Drizella Tremaine, an ugly sister (Rhoda Williams)
  • Lady Tremaine, Cinderella's stepmother (Cate Blanchett)
  • Cinderella aka Ella (Lily James, Child: Eloise Webb)
  • Prince Kit, heir to the kingdom (Richard Madden)
  • Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter)
  • Captain of the Guards (Nonso Anozie)
  • Grand Duke (Stellan Skarsgård)
  • Drisella Tremaine (Sophie McShera)
  • Anastasia Tremaine (Holliday Grainger)
  • King, Kit's dying father (Sir Derek Jacobi)
  • Ella's Father (Ben Chaplin)
  • Ella's Mother (Hayley Atwell)
  • Master Phineus (Rob Brydon)
SourceThe French fairy tale popularised by Charles Perrault, 1697
Songs:By Mack David, Jerry Livingston and Al Hoffman.
  • 'Cinderella'
  • 'A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes'
  • 'Oh, Sing Sweet Nightingale'
  • 'The Work Song' (Cinderelly Cinderelly)
  • 'Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo'
  • 'So This Is Love'
By Mack David, Jerry Livingston and Al Hoffman unless stated
  • 'A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes'
  • 'Oh, Sing Sweet Nightingale'
  • 'Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo'
  • 'Lavender's Blue' (trad)
  • 'It Was a Lover and His Lass' William Shakespeare, music Patrick Doyle
  • 'Strong' by Patrick Doyle, Kenneth Branagh and Tommy Danvers
  • Cinderella II: Dreams Come True (2002)
  • Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (2007)

A fairly straight-forward fairy tale remake that received both critical and commercial success, paving the way for Disney to remake more of their popular films. Among the locations used for the film were Windsor Castle, one of the Queen's royal residences. Shockingly, the glass slipper didn't actually fit Lily James and was a Swarovski crystal prop - the scene in which she puts her shoe on used computer-generated footwear. At least magic is used to explain why the shoe doesn't fit anyone else nor why Cinderella isn't recognised by her stepfamily.

While not a musical in the same way as the original, it features the traditional song 'Lavender's Blue', which inexplicably won Best Original Song for Disney hybrid (part animation, part live-action) film So Dear to My Heart (1948). One scene, in which Cinderella was seen swinging on a swing, was inspired by a painting by Jean-Honoré Fragonard; this painting had previously inspired a similar scene in British Cinderella musical The Slipper and the Rose (1976), which featured songs by the Sherman Brothers who had composed many Disney classics.

Cinderella had a $95 million production budget and made over $540 million at the box office.

The Jungle Book (1967 / 2016)

Film1967 Animated Original2016 Live Action Remake
DirectorWolfgang ReithermanJon Favreau
PlotMowgli, an abandoned baby boy, is found in a basket in the jungle by Bagheera, a panther. He is raised by wolves in the jungle, but when he is older his life is threatened by Shere Khan the tiger, who hates all humans. Although Mowgli wishes to stay in the jungle, developing a close attachment with Baloo the carefree bear, Bagheera feels only by living in a village surrounded by people will he be safe from Shere Khan.
Length76 minutes102 minutes
SettingA jungle in late VictorianIndia.
Dramatis Personæ
  • Mowgli, an orphaned 'man cub' boy (Bruce Reitherman)
  • Baloo, a bear (Phil Harris)
  • Bagheera, a panther (Sebastian Cabot)
  • King Louie, an orangutan (Louis Prima)
  • Shere Khan, a Bengal Tiger (George Sanders)
  • Kaa, a python (Sterling Holloway)
  • Colonel Hathi, an elephant (J Pat O'Malley)
  • Akela, a wolf (John Abbott)
  • Mowgli, an orphaned 'man cub' boy (Neel Sethi)
  • Bagheera, a panther (Sir Ben Kingsley)
  • Baloo, a bear (Bill Murray)
  • Shere Khan, a Bengal Tiger (Idris Elba)
  • Raksha, Mowgli's wolf mother (Lupita Nyong'o)
  • Akela, Mowgli's wolf father (Giancarlo Esposito)
  • Kaa, a python (Scarlett Johansson)
  • King Louie, a Gigantopithecus (Christopher Walken)
  • Ikki, a porcupine (Garry Shandling)
SourceThe Jungle Book (1894) and The Second Jungle Book (1895) by Rudyard Kipling
Songs:All by the Sherman Brothers, except 'The Bare Necessities' by Terry Gilkyson.
  • 'Trust in Me'
  • 'Colonel Hathi's March'
  • 'The Bare Necessities'
  • 'I Wanna Be Like You'
  • 'That's What Friends Are For'
  • 'My Own Home'
All by the Sherman Brothers, except 'The Bare Necessities' by Terry Gilkyson.
  • 'Trust in Me'
  • 'The Bare Necessities'
  • 'I Wanna Be Like You'
RebootWhile a greater proportion of the cast aren't white, only Neel Sethi and Sir Ben Kingsley are of Indian descent (though born in New York and Yorkshire respectively). Kaa has become female for this film.
SequelThe Jungle Book 2(2003)Two previous live-action remakes:
  • The Jungle Book (1994)
  • The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story(1998)

This, the third of Disney's live-action adaptations of The Jungle Book, was An attempt to combine the magic of the animated original with more realistic animals, created using motion capture. Whether or not the film actually succeeds in this is debatable, containing as it does a Gigantopithecus, an otherwise extinct ape, as well as oversized animals that are at least a third bigger than in real life. Actor Neel Sethi learnt parkour free-running in order to run through the jungle.

King Louie was a character created for the 1967 animation, as orangutans are not native to India. However, Richard M Sherman wrote new lyrics for 'I Wanna Be Like You' to Reference Louie being a Gigantopithecus. Louis Prima, who originally played King Louie, had died in 1978. His widow Gia, who had a reputation for being overly litigious, had sued Disney in 1999. Disney settled out of court in 2001 and agreed never to impersonate Louis Prima's voice, which is why King Louie's voice and appearance is Radically different for this film.

In the film it takes several days for Mowgli to journey from his home to the village, and then virtually no time for him to make the return journey. One of King Louie's treasures is Aladdin's lamp, while the Jungle Book book seen in the closing credits is the book seen in the original Jungle Book's opening credits. Shere Khan's portrayal Was also inspired in part by Scar from The Lion King.

The film was a huge financial success, making $967 million dollars at the box office on a production budget of $175 million, and becoming the fifth-most successful film of the year, behind only Captain America: Civil War, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Finding Dory and Zootropolis (also known as Zootopia). It was briefly the most-successful remake of all time before being overtaken by Beauty and the Beast (2017).

Andy Serkis' Performance Capture studio The Imaginarium had begun an adaptation of The Jungle Book in 2012, only to be forced to postpone their release due to this live action remake,finally renaming it Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle and releasing it two years later.

Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)

FilmAlice in Wonderland (1951)Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)
DirectorsClyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske and Wilfred JacksonJames Bobin
PlotBored with life in Victorian England, Alice wishes she could live in a world of nonsense. Soon after, she follows a waistcoat-wearing white rabbit down a rabbit hole to Wonderland, a world where nothing makes sense.

In 1875 Captain Alice learns that Hamish, the man whose hand in marriage she declined, has managed to manoeuvre himself into control of the shipping business and will take away her home unless she sells him her ship, the Wonder. After going through a Looking Glass into the Wonderland named Underland she learns that the Mad Hatter is wasting away, and is convinced that his family had survived the attack of the Jabberwocky that took place during the Red Queen's rule. Only by stealing Time's Chronosphere time machine can Alice learn the truth about what happened to them. Will time be destroyed for all eternity? Who stole the tarts?

Length75 minutes108 minutes
SettingWonderland, a fantasy land found down a rabbit hole.
Dramatis Personæ
  • Alice (Kathryn Beaumont)
  • Mad Hatter (Ed Wynn)
  • Queen of Hearts (Verna Felton)
  • King of Hearts (Dink Trout)
  • Tweedledum and Tweedledee (J Pat O'Malley)
  • March Hare (Jerry Colonna)
  • Caterpillar (Richard Haydn)
  • Cheshire Cat (Sterling Holloway)
  • White Rabbit (Bill Thompson)
  • Pat the Dodo (Bill Thompson)
  • Dormouse (Jimmy MacDonald)
  • Captain Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska)
  • Tarrant Hightopp the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp)
  • Iracebeth, Red Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter)
  • Mirana, White Queen (Anne Hathaway)
  • Time (Sacha Baron Cohen)
  • Tweedledee & Tweedledum (Matt Lucas)
  • Absolem the Blue Butterfly (Alan Rickman)
  • Bayard (Timothy Spall)
  • Thackery Earwicket the March Hare (Paul Whitehouse)
  • Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry)
  • Mallymkun the Dormouse (Barbara Windsor)
  • Nivens McTwisp the White Rabbit(Michael Sheen)
  • Wilkins (Matt Vogel)
  • Helen Kingsleigh (Lindsay Duncan)
  • Hamish Ascot (Leo Bill)
  • Lady Ascot (Geraldine James)
  • Zanik Hightopp (Rhys Ifans)
SourceLewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871)
BechdelPass Pass

The film is virtually all an original story, with the Character of Time briefly mentioned in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland but never seen. Some filming took place at Gloucester's historic dockyard, featuring many ships from the early 20th Century. Alice is briefly seen in an asylum, possibly a reference to the 2000 Computer game Alice.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is dedicated to Alan Rickman, who died before it was released. It was his last Acting role. The Jabberwocky doesn't speak in this film, with Sir Christopher Lee having died in 2015, and the Dodo doesn't appear as Michael Gough had died in 2011 shortly after making Alice In Wonderland.

This film's box office was thought disappointing – it made almost $300 million on a budget of $170 million, which was considered a let-down following the $1 billion made by Alice in Wonderland.

Pete's Dragon (1977 / 2016)

Film1977 Animated Original2016 Live Action Remake
DirectorLive Action: Don Chaffey
Animation: Don Bluth
David Lowery
PlotA young boy named Pete flees from his abusive adopted family, in the company of an invisible dragon named Elliot2, to the fishing town of Passamaquoddy. Although most of the townsfolk dislike Pete, he is adopted by Nora and her father, Lampie, who keep the lighthouse. Also in town is the quack Doc Terminus, who would stop at nothing to own a profitable dragon, while the Gogans close in on Pete...In 1977 a five-year-old boy named Pete survives a car crash that claim the lives of his parents, and shortly afterwards meets a dragon. Six years later Pete, who is used to a feral existence, meets humans for the first time: a woman named Grace and her partner's daughter Natalie. After escaping from hospital he is taken back to Grace's house. His survival is considered impossible and his tales of a dragon initially dismissed except by Grace's father, who is renowned for telling tall tales, and by Natalie's uncle Gavin, who seeks to exploit the dragon.
Length124 minutes99 minutes
SettingEdwardian Passamaquoddy, MaineWoodland in Pacific Northwest in the 1970s/80s
Dramatis Personæ
  • Pete, an orphan (Sean Marshall)
  • Elliott, a dragon (Charlie Callas)
  • Dr Terminus, a quack (Jim Dale)
  • Nora, a lighthouse keeper's loving daughter (Helen Reddy)
  • Lampie, a lighthouse keeper (Mickey Rooney)
  • Hoagy (Red Buttons)
  • Lena Gogan (Shelley Winters)
  • Merle Gogan (Charles Tyner)
  • Grover and Willie Gogan (Gary Morgan and Jeff Conaway)
  • Pete Healy, an orphan abandoned in the woods when he was five who has befriended a dragon (11-year-old: Oakes Fegley, 5-year-old: Levi Alexander)
  • Elliott, a dragon (John Kassir)
  • Grace Meacham, a forest ranger (Bryce Dallas Howard)
  • Jack Magary, he's a widowed lumber mill owner and he's okay3, Natalie's father and Grace's boyfriend (Wes Bentley)
  • Gavin Magary, Jack's brother who co-owns the lumber mill and loves hunting (Karl Urban)
  • Natalie Magary, Jack's daughter who is the same age as Pete (Oona Laurence)
  • Mr Meacham, Grace's father who once saw a dragon (Robert Redford)
  • Sheriff Gene Dentler, local law enforcement (Isiah Whitlock Jr)
SourceInspired by a short story by Seton I Miller and SS Field
Songs:By Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn:
  • 'The Happiest Home in These Hills'
  • 'Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I Love You, Too)'
  • 'I Saw a Dragon'
  • 'It's Not Easy'
  • 'Passamaquoddy'
  • 'Candle on the Water'
  • 'There's Room for Everyone'
  • 'Every Little Piece'
  • 'Brazzle Dazzle Day'
  • 'Bill of Sale'

This is the only live action remake to date (2021) to be shorter than the original film and also the only one to be adapted from being a musical to a straight drama. Other than the title, the character names Pete and Elliott, and both films being slow and ponderous, the two films have nothing in common. In fact, the remake seems desperate to be a remake of The Jungle Book, particularly making the relationship between Pete and Elliott so like that of Mowgli and Baloo that you expect the two to start singing 'The Bare Necessities' at any moment.

This was Disney's least successful live action remake of the decade, making $140 million on a production budget of $65 million.

Beauty and the Beast (1991 / 2017)

Film1991 Animated Original2017 Live Action Remake
DirectorsGary Trousdale & Kirk WiseBill Condon
PlotA generic prince is transformed into a handsome Beast when he is unkind to a passing gypsy woman. She, rather unfairly, takes her vengeance out on his servants too, turning them into household items. Unless the Beast can learn to love before petals drop off a rose, the curse will never be broken. Meanwhile, a young woman called Belle struggles to find her way in the world.
Length91 minutes124 minutes
SettingOnce Upon a Time in Mediæval France
Dramatis Personæ
  • Belle (Paige O'Hara)
  • Beast aka Prince Adam (Robby Benson)
  • Gaston (Richard White)
  • Lumi=E8re, a candlestick (Jerry Orbach)
  • Cogsworth, a clock (David Ogden Stiers)
  • Mrs Potts, a teapot (Angela Lansbury)
  • Chip, a teacup (Bradley Michael Pierce)
  • Maurice, an inventor (Rex Averhart)
  • Lefou (Jesse Corti)
  • Philippe, a horse (Hal Smith)
  • Footstool, a dog transformed into a footstool
  • Belle, book-loving girl imprisoned by the Beast (Emma Watson)
  • Beast aka Prince Adam (Dan Stevens)
  • Gaston, narcissistic soldier (Luke Evans)
  • Lumi=E8re, a candlestick (Ewan McGregor)
  • Cogsworth, a clock (Sir Ian McKellen)
  • Mrs Potts, a teapot (Dame Emma Thompson)
  • Chip, a teacup (Nathan Mack)
  • Maurice, Belle's inventor father (Kevin Kline)
  • LeFou (Josh Gad)
  • Maestro Cadenza, harpsichord (Stanley Tucci)
  • Madame de Garderobe, wardrobe (Audra McDonald)
  • Plumette, feather duster (Gugu Mbatha-Raw)
  • Agathe, beggar (Hattie Morahan)
SourceLa Belle et la Bête (1740) by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, popularised by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont (1756)
Songs:By Alan Menken & Howard Ashman
  • 'Belle'
  • 'Beauty and the Beast'
  • 'Gaston'
  • 'Be Our Guest'
  • 'Something There'
  • 'The Mob Song'
By Alan Menken & Howard Ashman unless stated
  • 'Belle'
  • 'How Does a Moment Last Forever' - Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics Tim Rice
  • 'Gaston'
  • 'Be Our Guest'
  • 'Days in the Sun' - Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics Tim Rice
  • 'Something There'
  • 'Beauty and the Beast'
  • 'Evermore' - Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics Tim Rice
  • 'The Mob Song'
Bechdel PassPass
RebootThere are more female characters, including those played by multiracial actresses Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Audra McDonald, and multiracial relationships are shown. The camp character of LeFou was also reported to be gay, but only in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it way.
  • Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997)
  • Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World (1998)
None to date

A Beauty and the Beast remake had been proposed several times and it had been greenlit to be made as a non-musical film to be titled simply Beast. Before the film went into production, the director argued that this story had the strongest Disney songs and it would be a waste to make a film that excluded them. Four new superfluous songs were written for the film to extend the runtime. Also lyrics that had been written by Howard Ashman but cut out of the song 'Gaston' in the animated version were reinstated.

Many of the characters appear based on, but renamed from, characters from the Beauty and the Beast animated sequels. This includes Maestro Cadenza replacing Forte, and Plumette is based on Fifi. Similarly The wardrobe is now named Madame Garderobe, potentially meaning 'Mrs Toilet'.

Making over $1,265 million dollars at the box office, this was the second-most successful film of the year behind only Star Wars: The Last Jedi. With a production budget of $160 million and marketing budget of a further $140 million, this film became the most expensive musical film ever made. It was also, briefly, the most successful remake of all time.

Christopher Robin (2018)

FilmThe Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)Christopher Robin (2018)
DirectorsWolfgang Reitherman and John Lounsbery Marc Forster
PlotDeep in the Hundred Acre Wood, where Christopher Robin plays, Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends enjoy their enchanted neighbourhood and have a series of adventures, usually involving a small smackerel or two of hunny.30 years after his childhood adventures, Christopher Robin has grown up, married, and has a daughter of his own, but due to the pressure of work neglects his family and has stopped believing in Pooh. Can Pooh help him believe in magic and reconnect with his family?
Length71 minutes100 minutes
SettingAshdown Forest, Sussex in the 1920sAshdown Forest and London in the 1950s
Dramatis Personæ
  • Christopher Robin (Bruce Reitherman, Jon Walmsley and Timothy Turner)
  • Winnie-the-Pooh, a bear (Sterling Holloway)
  • Piglet (John Fiedler)
  • Eeyore (Ralph Wright)
  • Rabbit (Junius Matthews)
  • Owl (Hal Smith)
  • Kanga (Barbara Luddy)
  • Roo (Clint Howard and Dori Whitaker)
  • Tigger (Paul Winchell)
  • Gopher (Howard Morris)
  • Narrator (Sebastian Cabot)
  • Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor)
  • Evelyn Robin, his wife (Hayley Atwell)
  • Maeline Robin (Bronte Carmichael)
  • Winnie-the-Pooh, a bear (Jim Cummings)
  • Tigger, a bouncy tiger (Jim Cummings)
  • Eeyore (Brad Garrett)
  • Piglet (Nick Mohammed)
  • Rabbit (Peter Capaldi)
  • Kanga (Sophie Okonedo)
  • Roo (Sara Sheen)
  • Owl (Toby Jones)
  • Giles Winslow, Christopher's boss (Mark Gatiss)
SourceAA Milne's books Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928)
Songs:All by the Sherman Brothers (Richard and Robert)
  • 'Winnie the Pooh'
  • 'Up, Down and Touch the Ground'
  • 'Rumbly in My Tumbly'
  • '(I'm Just A) Little Black Raincloud'
  • 'Mind Over Matter'
  • 'A Rather Blustery Day'
  • 'The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers'
  • 'Heffalumps and Woozles'
  • 'The Rain Rain Rain Came Down'
  • 'Hip Hip Pooh-Ray! '
Three by the Sherman Brothers and three new songs by Richard M Sherman
  • 'Winnie the Pooh'
  • 'Up, Down and Touch the Ground'
  • 'The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers'
  • 'Goodbye, Farewell' by Richard M Sherman
  • 'Busy Doing Nothing' by Richard M Sherman
  • 'Christopher Robin' by Richard M Sherman
  • Pooh's Grandest Adventure4(1997)
  • The Tigger Movie (2000)
  • A Very Merry Pooh Year (2002) - New Adventures compilation
  • Piglet's Big Movie (2003)
  • Springtime with Roo (2004)
  • Pooh's Heffalump Movie (2005)
  • Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie (2005)
  • 515Winnie the Pooh (2011)
RebootThere are some female characters with Christopher Robin portrayed as having a wife and daughter, and the voice cast includes a more multiracial mix.

Unlike other live-action remakes this is a sequel to the original film, which in itself was a compilation of three short films6. The Hundred Acre Wood scenes were largely filmed at Ashdown Forest, the real-life inspiration for the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. The look of the characters was also closely inspired by Ernest Shepard's original illustrations rather than the appearance popularised by earlier Disney films. A more realistic portrayal of the story of Christopher Robin Milne and how he was haunted by Winnie-the-Pooh all his life can be seen in Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017), a film released the year before.

Richard M Sherman wrote three new songs for this film, which was released six years after the death of his brother. He cameos as the pianist in the mid-credits sequence.

The film made $198 million on a production budget of $75 million. All films featuring Winnie-the-Pooh are banned in China, the country with the world's largest cinema audience, because Chinese president Xi Jinping has been nicknamed Winnie-the-Pooh.

Dumbo (1941 / 2019)

Film1941 Animated Original2019 Live Action Remake
DirectorBen SharpsteenTim Burton
PlotMany of the animals who live in a circus train, including Mrs Jumbo, an elephant, receive babies delivered to them by stork. She has a son whom she names Jumbo Junior, but the other elephants cruelly nickname him 'Dumbo' because of his extremely large ears. After defending Jumbo Junior from an extremely aggressive child, Mrs Jumbo is locked away. Jumbo Junior fails to provide a successful climax to a circus stunt and as punishment is relegated to being a clown. He has only one friend in the world, Timothy Mouse, before a group of crows persuade him he can use his giant ears to fly.

Holt Farrier has returned from the Great War, where he lost his arm, back to the circus where he previously worked. His wife has died of Spanish Flu and he now has to raise his two children alone while working in the lowest job in the circus, the elephant handler. One of the elephants has a baby with big ears who is nicknamed Dumbo. When an abusive elephant handler mistreats Dumbo his mother naturally defends her son, killing the handler, which results in her being taken away. Soon after, Holt's children discover Dumbo can fly. After an act as a firefighting clown goes wrong, Dumbo flies around the circus.

This inspires Vandevere, owner of a New York amusement park named Dreamland, to buy Medici's circus, wanting Dumbo to fly with his trapeze artist Colette riding on his back. He secretly is keeping Dumbo's mother in the park but instead of trying to breed more flying elephants, decides to kill the goose that laid the golden egg or, in other words, kill Dumbo's mother. Can the circus performers save Dumbo from life in a freakshow and his mother from death?

Length61 minutes108 minutes
SettingFlorida in the late 1930s/early 1940s1919 United States of America
Dramatis Personæ
  • Jumbo Junior, aka 'Dumbo', an elephant
  • Timothy Q Mouse, a mouse (Edward Brophy)
  • Mrs Jumbo, an elephant (Verna Felton)
  • Elephant Matriarch (Verna Felton)
  • Mr Stork (Sterling Holloway)
  • Jim Crow (Cliff Edwards)
  • The Ringmaster (Herman Bing)
  • Casey Junior, a locomotive (Margaret Wright)
  • Clown (Billy Bletcher)
  • Narrator (John McLeish)
  • Holt Farrier, amputee First World War veteran and circus performer (Colin Farrell)
  • VA Vandevere, Disneyesque entrepreneur (Michael Keaton)
  • Max Medici, ringmaster of the Medici Brothers' Circus (Danny DeVito)
  • Colette Marchant, trapeze artist for Vandevere (Eva Green)
  • Milly Farrier, Holt's science-loving daughter (Nico Parker)
  • Joe Farrier, Holt's other child (Finley Hobbins)
  • J Griffin Remington, Vandevere's investor (Alan Arkin)
  • Pramesh Singh, Medici Circus' snake charmer (Roshan Seth)
  • Rongo the Strongo, Medici Circus' strongman (DeObia Oparei)
  • Ivan the Wonderful, Medici Circus' illusionist (Miguel Munoz Segura)
  • Miss Atlantis, Medici Circus' fake mermaid (Sharon Roomey)
  • Neil Skellig, Vandevere's henchman (Joseph Gatt)
  • Rufus, man who inexplicably abuses elephants (Phil Zimmerman)
SourceDumbo the Flying Elephant by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl (1939)
Songs:Music by Frank Churchill and Oliver Wallace, Lyrics by Ned Washington
  • 'Baby Mine'
  • 'Casey Junior'
  • 'Look Out for Mr Stork'
  • 'Song of the Roustabouts'
  • 'The Clown Song (We're Gonna Hit the Big Boss for a Raise)'
  • 'Pink Elephants on Parade'
  • 'When I See an Elephant Fly'
Music by Frank Churchill and Oliver Wallace, Lyrics by Ned Washington
  • 'Baby Mine'
  • 'Pink Elephants on Parade'
RebootThe Farriers are a biracial family and additional female characters include Milly, Collette and Miss Atlantis. The racist stereotyped crows and faceless roustabouts have been completely removed7.

In the remake the animals cannot talk and Timothy Q Mouse only appears as a cameo. Locomotive Casey Jnr8 cannot talk either, but has the number 41 in reference to the year the original film was made. The ringmaster Medici hums the 'Casey Jnr' song. Other cameos include a stork sitting on the roof of the carriage when elephant Mrs Jumbo is in labour, and the Dreamland colosseum has a show involving pink bubbles making elephant shapes like the 'Pink Elephants on Parade' song. This film is more about what happens to Dumbo after becoming famous, with the Dreamland theme park being closely inspired by a darker Disneyland.

Dumbo was a box office disappointment, only making $355 million on a $170 million production budget. Twice as long as its predecessor, it lacked the original's heart but at least avoids its most dated sections.

Aladdin (1992 / 2019)

Film1992 Animated Original2019 Live Action Remake
DirectorsRon Clements & John MuskerGuy Ritchie
PlotIn the land of Agrabah, a power-hungry Grand Vizier, Jafar, seeks a magic lamp which has the power to grant wishes. The only one capable of getting the lamp is a street urchin and diamond-in-the-rough named Aladdin, who meets and falls in love with a beautiful princess.
Length87 minutes123 minutes
SettingFictional Arabian country of Agrabah
Dramatis Personæ
  • Genie (Robin Williams)
  • Aladdin (Scott Weinger)
  • Jasmine (Linda Larkin & Lea Salonga)
  • Jafar (Jonathan Freeman)
  • Sultan (Douglas Seale)
  • Abu, a monkey (Frank Welker)
  • Iago, a parrot (Gilbert Gottfried)
  • Razoul (Jim Cummings)
  • Magic Carpet
  • Genie (Will Smith)
  • Aladdin (Mena Massoud)
  • Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott)
  • Jafar (Marwan Kenzari)
  • Sultan (Navid Negahban)
  • Dalia, Jasmine's handmaiden (Nasim Pedrad)
  • Abu, a monkey (Frank Welker)
  • Iago, a parrot (Alan Tudyk)
  • Hakim, Head of the Palace Guards (Numan Acar)
  • Magic Carpet
  • Prince Anders, prospective suitor for Jasmine (Billy Magnussen)
SourceIncluded in Les Mille et Une Nuits, aka Arabian Nights, translated into French by Antoine Galland in 1710
Songs:Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Howard Ashman unless stated:
  • 'Arabian Nights'
  • 'One Jump Ahead' Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Tim Rice
  • 'Friend Like Me'
  • 'A Whole New World' Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Tim Rice
  • 'Prince Ali'
Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Howard Ashman unless stated:
  • 'Arabian Nights'
  • 'One Jump Ahead' Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Tim Rice
  • 'Friend Like Me'
  • 'A Whole New World' Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Tim Rice
  • 'Prince Ali'
  • 'Speechless' Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Reboot The remake features a handmaiden character and the cast are far more diverse than the original voice cast.

The filmmakers were well aware that without casting a diverse cast they would be accused of 'whitewashing'. Naomi Scott, an actress of English and Ugandan-Indian descent was criticised for not being of Middle Eastern origin.

There are various cameos and nods to earlier films, as well as references to Will Smith's The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. One of the best is that the magic carpet makes a sandcastle in the desert that is identical to the Disney Logo while later one of Princess Jasmine's maps shows the lands of Disneyland.

The first time the phrase 'diamond-in-the-rough' is used in a Disney film is in Mary Poppins and is used to describe Bert, as played by Dick van Dyke9. Frank Welker reprises his minor roles as the voice of Rajah the tiger, Abu the monkey and the Cave of Wonders - the first time in a live-action adaptation that an actor played the same role as in the original animation. It would not be until the following film that a main role was reprised.

The film made over a billion dollars at the box office, briefly becoming Disney's second-most successful remake to date before the release of The Lion King. It was the ninth-most successful film of the year.

The Lion King (1994/2019)

Film1994 Animated Original2019 Live Action Remake
DirectorsRoger Allers & Rob Minkoff Jon Favreau
PlotThe birth of lion cub Simba means that Scar is no longer first in line to the throne of the Pride Lands after his older brother, King Mufasa. Through an alliance with hyenas, Scar successfully gains the kingdom, but Simba survives. Simba, blaming himself for his father's death, lives a life of no worries, before one Day returning to reclaim his inheritance.
Length85 minutes113 minutes
SettingAfrican Pride Lands
Dramatis Personæ
  • Scar, a lion (Jeremy Irons)
  • Simba, a lion (Matthew Broderick, Joseph Williams, Jonathan Taylor Thomas & Jason Weaver)
  • Mufasa, a lion (James Earl Jones)
  • Zazu, a hornbill (Rowan Atkinson)
  • Timon, a meerkat (Nathan Lane)
  • Pumbaa, a warthog (Ernie Sabella)
  • Nala, a lioness (Moira Kelly)
  • Rafiki, a mandrill/baboon (Robert Guillaume)
  • Sarabi, a lioness (Madge Sinclair)
  • Shenzi, Banzai & Ed, hyenas (Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, Jim Cummings)
  • Simba, a lion (Adult: Donald Glover, Child: JD McCrary)
  • Scar, a lion (Chiwetel Ejiofor)
  • Mufasa, a lion (James Earl Jones)
  • Zazu, a hornbill (John Oliver)
  • Timon, a meerkat (Billy Eichner)
  • Pumbaa, a warthog (Seth Rogen)
  • Nala, a lioness (Adult: Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Child: Shahadi Wright Joseph)
  • Rafiki, a mandrill (John Kani)
  • Sarabi, a lioness and Simba's mother (Alfre Woodward)
  • Shenzi, Kamari & Azizi, hyenas (Florence Kasuma, Keegan-Michael Key, Eric Andre)
InspirationHamlet (c. 1599) by William Shakespeare
Songs:Written by Tim Rice and Elton John:
  • 'Nants Ingonyama' by Lebo M and Hans Zimmer
  • 'Circle of Life'
  • 'I Just Can't Wait to be King'
  • 'Be Prepared'
  • 'Hakuna Matata'
  • 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight'
Written by Tim Rice and Elton John unless stated:
  • 'Nants Ingonyama' by Lebo M and Hans Zimmer
  • 'Circle of Life (2019)'
  • 'I Just Can't Wait to be King'
  • 'Be Prepared (2019)'
  • 'Hakuna Matata (2019)'
  • 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight (2019)'
  • 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' by Luigi Creatore, Hugo Peretti, George David Weiss and Solomon Linda
  • 'Never Too Late'
  • 'He Lives in You' by Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin and Lebo M.
  • 'Spirit' by Ilya Salmanzadeh, Labrinth and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter
  • The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (1998)
  • The Lion King III: Hakuna Matata10 (2004)

Following the success of The Jungle Book, both commercially and in recreating the characters, a remake of The Lion King was commissioned. Though every character would be computer-generated, they do not count as being animated as they move through the use of mo-cap rather than a frame-by-frame animation technique. The backgrounds were based on high-definition photographs taken in Africa, while the actors were filmed in a Hollywood studio and their movements replicated on the computer-generated animals. Had this been allowed to be classed as an animation it would have been the most successful animated film of all time. Instead Disney define it as 'photorealistic computer animation'. On release it was the seventh highest-grossing film (unadjusted for inflation)11 and second-most successful film of the year.

Disney made a great deal of fuss about how realistic the animals in this film were. However, that is only true for a limited value of 'realistic'. What is quickly apparent is that the animals do not have realistic bottoms or genitalia, so how they excrete and urinate is unknown12. Similarly, while Rafiki is now much more a definite mandrill rather than the mandrill/baboon combination of the original, he lacks the coloured bottom of a real male mandrill, which comes from West Africa and not the East African Serengeti where the film is actually set. The lion roars are actually those of tigers, Zazu is a mixture of numerous different types of hornbill, and an Indian rhino from The Jungle Book appears at the start. The disadvantage of the realism is that it limits the range of visible emotions the characters can express. It also affects some of the musical numbers. For instance, in the original version of 'I Just Can't Wait to be King', the climax has a vast pyramid of animals with Simba at the top. In this one, as the aim was to be more realistic, they don't have a pyramid of animals and just have some animals running about instead, which isn't the same.

Despite this, many of the scenes in the remake appear as almost shot-for-shot copies of the original film, particularly the opening sequence, because Favreau felt that it was too iconic to be changed.

The Lion King (1994) remains to date the most successful soundtrack album of all time, with three Oscar-nominated songs, winning with 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight' and also winning the Best Score Oscar. The remake doesn't live up to the same high standard, with the remixed 'Be Prepared (2019)' particularly shredded. As well as tweaking the classics, a couple of new songs were added too. The majestic 'He Lives in You' had been written for the 'Lion King' Broadway show and had previously appeared in The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride. Elton John and Tim Rice co-wrote a new song for the end credits, 'Never Too Late', while Beyoncé's song 'Spirit' is superfluously shoehorned in (reaching the dizzying depths of 98 on the US 'Billboard Hot 100' and 59 on the UK Official Singles Chart, it is by far her least successful single13). The song 'Hakuna Matata' makes a big fuss of how in this version they actually sing the word 'farted', while 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight?' is sung during the afternoon.

For the first time ever with Disney's live action remakes a main actor from the original film reprises the same role they played in the original, in this case James Earl Jones as Mufasa. To reflect 21st-Century values the remake's characters were predominantly played by Black American actors. John Kani is South African. Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays Scar, is British, making it the second time that Jon Favreau has cast a Black British actor as the baddy in a live-action Disney remake following The Jungle Book.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)

FilmSleeping Beauty (1959)Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)
DirectorsClyde Geronimi, Eric Larson, Wolfgang Reitherman and Les ClarkJoachim Rønning
PlotWhen Princess Aurora is born, evil Maleficent curses her. Aurora is initially doomed to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die before dusk on her 16th birthday, although the curse is changed so that, instead of dying, she will sleep until awakened by her true love's kiss. Aurora is brought up by her three fairy godmothers as a peasant and renamed 'Briar Rose' to keep her hidden from the curse14. On her 16th birthday, just as she encounters her true love, Aurora is discovered by Maleficent.

Five years after King Stefan's death, Prince Phillip proposes to Queen Aurora, the ruler of the Moors. Both Aurora and Maleficent are invited to meet Phillip's parents, King John and Queen Ingrith, but the meeting ends in disaster as Maleficent loses her temper and King John is apparently cursed.

Queen Ingrith plans to kill her husband and frame Maleficent. She tries to have her killed, but Maleficent is rescued by another of her kind, one of the few surviving Dark Fey who live in an underground home. Ingrith hopes to use Phillip and Aurora's wedding as a way to ambush and wipe out the faerie Moor Folk and provoke a war that will result in humans ruling supreme. Can Aurora prevent her people from being wiped out and be reunited with Maleficent, her adopted mother? Who will Phillip believe, his mother or fiancée?

Length72 minutes114 minutes
SettingUnnamed mediæval kingdom Mediæval kingdom of Ulstead adjacent to enchanted realm the Moors, also an underground world
Dramatis Personæ
  • Maleficent (Eleanor Audley)
  • Princess Aurora 'Briar Rose' (Mary Costa)
  • Flora (Verna Felton)
  • Fauna (Barbara Jo Allen)
  • Merryweather (Barbara Luddy)
  • Prince Phillip (Bill Shirley)
  • King Stefan, father of Aurora (Taylor Holmes)
  • King Hubert, father of Phillip (Bill Thompson)
  • Owl (Dallas McKennon)
  • Samson, a horse
  • Narrator (Marvin Miller)
  • Maleficent, Dark Fey descended from a phœnix (Angelina Jolie)
  • Aurora, Queen of the Moors (Elle Fanning)
  • Queen Ingrith, Phillip's scheming mother (Michelle Pfeiffer)
  • Conall, Dark Fey who saves Maleficent's life and believes in peace (Chiwetel Ejiofor)
  • Diaval, raven-turned-human and Maleficent's servant (Sam Riley)
  • Prince Phillip, Aurora's fiancé (Harris Dickinson)
  • King John, ruler of Ulstead and Phillip's father (Robert Lindsay)
  • Lickspittle, pixie scientist (Warwick Davies)
  • Gerda, Queen Ingrith's organ-playing henchwoman (Jenn Murray)
  • Percival, Ulstead's Commander of the Royal Guard (David Gyasi)
  • Knotgrass, red fairy (Imelda Staunton)
  • Thistlewit, green fairy (Juno Temple)
  • Flittle, blue fairy (Lesley Manville)
SourceThe Beauty sleeping in the Wood by Charles Perrault (1697), The Sleeping Beauty ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Ivan Vsevolozhsky (1890).
Sequel ToNoneMaleficent (2014)

A box office disappointment that didn't really feel connected to the previous Maleficent film. It turns out that there was another kingdom adjacent to the Moors all along, ruled by an expansionist, ambitious queen. After the previous film's emphasis on uniting the Moors with the kingdom that Aurora had been born to be princess of, it seems the human kingdom was simply left to the inhabitants to self-govern without any useful attempt at unification. After all, if peace and harmony had occurred then this film, based on prejudice and suspicion, would be without a plot.

The subtitle 'Mistress of Evil' is deceptive as Maleficent isn't particularly evil. Grumpy, annoyed and disappointed - vengeful even - but never actually evil. Queen Ingrith is the only truly evil character in the film. Brenton Thwaites was unable to reprise his role as Prince Phillip due to playing Dick Grayson aka Nightwing15 in television series Titans (2018+).

Lady and the Tramp (1955/2019)

FilmAnimated Original2019 Live Action Remake
DirectorsHamilton Luske, Clyde Geronimi and Wilfred JacksonCharlie Bean
PlotA young dog named Lady is owned by fairly well-off humans she knows only by the names their spouses affectionately call them: Jim Dear and Darling. Lady's life turns upside down shortly after meeting Tramp, a stray dog, when Darling has a baby. Tramp tells Lady that when a baby moves in, the dog is moved out and her fears seem to be coming true when her owners go away on holiday, leaving her to be looked after by cat-loving and dog-hating Aunt Sarah. Will Lady end up on the streets or will the Tramp finally find a family?
Length75 minutes100 minutes
SettingA mid-sized rat-infested American town between Christmas 1909 and Christmas 1910
Dramatis Personæ
  • Lady, an English Cocker Spaniel (Barbara Luddy)
  • Tramp, a mongrel (Larry Roberts)
  • Jock, a Scottish Terrier (Bill Thompson)
  • Trusty, a Bloodhound (Bill Baucom)
  • Peg, a Maltese (Peggy Lee)
  • Si and Am, Siamese Cats (Peggy Lee)
  • Darling (Peggy Lee)
  • Jim Dear (Lee Millar)
  • Aunt Sarah (Verna Felton)
  • Tony, Restaurant owner (George Givot)
  • Joe, Restaurant employee (Bill Thompson)
  • Lady, an English Cocker Spaniel (Tessa Thompson)
  • Tramp, a mongrel (Justin Theroux)
  • Jacqueline aka Jock, a Scottish Terrier (Ashley Jensen)
  • Trusty, a Bloodhound (Sam Elliot)
  • Peg, a Lhasa Apso (Janelle Monáe)
  • Darling (Kiersey Clemons)
  • Jim Dear (Thomas Mann)
  • Aunt Sarah (Yvette Nicole Brown)
  • Dog Catcher (Adrian Martnez)
  • Tony, Restaurant owner (F Murray Abraham)
  • Joe, Restaurant employee (Arturo Castro)
InspirationHappy Dan, the Whistling Dog by Ward Greene, a short story published in Cosmopolitan in 1924
Songs:Written by Sonny Burke and Peggy Lee:
  • 'Peace on Earth'
  • 'What Is a Baby?'
  • 'La La Lu'
  • 'The Siamese Cat Song'
  • 'He's a Tramp'
  • 'Bella Notte (This Is the Night)'
Written by Sonny Burke and Peggy Lee unless stated:
  • 'Peace on Earth'
  • 'La La Lu'
  • 'What A Shame' by Nate Wonder and Roman GianArthur Irvin
  • 'He's a Tramp (2019)'
  • 'Bella Notte (This Is the Night)'
Bechdel Fail Pass
SequelsLady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure (2001)None
Reboot The male dog character Jock has now become Jacqueline (although they used a male dog to film). Darling and Aunt Sarah are now African American characters, with black actresses voicing Lady and Peg. The cats are no longer Siamese to avoid the racist stereotyping present in the previous film and the Tramp is no longer portrayed as a womanising dog but more of a loner, with the lyrics to 'He's a Tramp' altered.

This film was made with real dogs, with effects used to give the impression of talking. Filming took place in Savannah in Georgia. It was the first Disney live action remake to be released directly to the Disney+ streaming service. The Siamese cats are Devon Rex cats instead, and other differences to improve the diversity have been made, but with those exceptions the film is very similar to the original. The main differences are that the dogcatcher has a much larger role, as does the rat. While the spaghetti-eating scene is an almost exact recreation, the rat that plans to carry off the baby is hilariously unbelievable. Tramp is also a much more sympathetic character who gains a backstory and loses his womanising past. The film doesn't end with Lady having puppies, but instead has Tramp adopted into the family on Christmas Day, exactly a year after Lady had been.

Disney films have often led to animals being bought as toys and gifts to people who are unable to properly look after them. This film begins with Lady given as a Christmas present despite the widespread Dogs Trust slogan that a dog is for life, not just for Christmas. The film's end credits do contain the message:

Every dog deserves a loving home. If you're ready for the commitment of pet ownership, please consider visiting your local animal rescue to find the right pet for you.
1"Or, in the case of The Jungle Book, man-cub.2According to Pete, Elliot has the head of a camel, the neck of a crocodile and the ears of a cow and is both a fish and a mammal.3To quote from Monty Python's 'Lumberjack Song'.4Also known as Pooh's Grand Adventure and The Search for Christopher Robin.5The official 51st Disney Classic.6Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966), Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968) and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974).7In early 2021 Disney decided to prevent Dumbo, among other films, from being viewed by children under seven years of age on their Disney Plus online platform. On adult accounts they issued the statement: 'This programme includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.'8The Disney character of Casey is a baseball player who appears in Make Mine Music and is based on the poem 'Casey at the Bat' (1888) by Ernest Thayer. A sequel short, Casey Bats Again (1954), features Casey's nine daughters. Yet in Dumbo, Casey Jr is a train. That's one complicated family tree.9In Dykensian Ozzy-Cockney 'English' this phrase is pronounced 'dire mound in da wuff'.10Also known as The Lion King 1½.11Behind Avengers: Endgame (2019), Avatar (2009), Titanic (1997), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Jurassic World (2015).12Prudish Disney Pictures are going through a particularly bottom-obsessed phase at the moment, inexplicably (and badly) censoring Darryl Hannah's bottom in the version of Splash (1984) uploaded on Disney+.13In comparison Elton John's 1994 release of 'Can You Feel The Love Tonight' reached 4 and 14 respectively in the same charts, and 'Circle of Life' 18 and 11.14In the 16 years they spend with her, it never seems to occur to any of them to show her a picture of a spinning wheel and warn her that, as she's been cursed, if she ever sees or touches one she will suffer a hideous, unspeakable fate.15In the Batman stories the first Robin, tired of always being called 'boy wonder', changes his name to Nightwing when he becomes an adult.

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