Disney’s Unending Live-Action Adaptations Ranked, from ‘Pinocchio’ to ‘Mulan’ to ‘The Little Mermaid’
To quote one of the best sitcoms ever: “Did you just double-dip that chip?”
If George Constanza was a real person — and the opinions of “Seinfeld” characters had any bearing on major movie slates — Disney CEO Bob Iger would be forced to answer in the affirmative some 20 times over thanks to his company’s buffet of CGI-laden remakes, sequels, and spin-offs. The entertainment giant has spat out scads of these so-called “revivals” of its animated classics in recent years, with critics routinely pointing out the bottom line motivating the mostly mediocre trend.
More from IndieWire
Elizabeth Olsen's Advice for Actors New to Marvel: 'Just Give Them One' Movie
Holy Hulu! The 7 Juiciest Reveals from Bombshell Disney vs Comcast Report
And yet, no matter how poor the reception, the Disney live-action revisits just keep coming. In 2023, nearly every major animated Disney classic is accompanied by an overly expensive — wildly under-justified — successor sporting A-list actors and little else. Robert Zemeckis delivered a Tom Hanks-starring “Pinocchio” last year, which IndieWire’s Christian Zilko called “barely a real film.” Kate Erbland enjoyed Rob Marshall’s upcoming “The Little Mermaid” starring Halle Bailey much better, but argued it tried too hard to be part of our world. Up next, audiences will be asked to endure Disney rehashing “Bambi,” “Hercules,” “Snow White,” and even “Lilo and Stitch.”
There have been exceptions to the “Disney remakes are bad” rule: Kenneth Branagh’s “Cinderella” is an undeniably charming re-telling of the quintessential fairytale, while David Lowery’s “Pete’s Dragon” arguably surpasses the original. Plus, Craig Gillespie’s “Cruella” starring Emma Stone as the notorious dognapper is simply too entertaining to begrudge. Still, the rule is a rule for a reason. By and large, Disney remakes are exhausting regurgitations that tend to undermine the joy of Disney’s most historically significant films.
These contemporary remakes have been hugely successful at the box office, of course: a kind of tried-and-true cinematic daycare for parents looking to see something kid-friendly. There’s merit in that, to be sure. But less understandable is the introduction of straight-to-streaming remakes, presented right alongside the original film — with both exclusive to Disney+. Like George enjoying a crunchy snack, it’s a textbook example of giving the metaphoric chip that forbidden double-dip.
Broken down by pros and cons (with synopses omitted, since we know you know these movies), here are all 21 of Disney’s major live-action remakes and revivals ranked.
With editorial contributions by Kate Erbland.
Best of IndieWire
Where to Watch This Week's New Movies, from 'The Little Mermaid' to 'You Hurt My Feelings'
The 80 Best Comedies of the 21st Century, from 'Neighbors' and 'Frances Ha' to 'Jackass Forever' and 'Borat'
Sign up for Indiewire's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.