You can never go wrong with classic Disney animated films, but live-action adaptations often flop at the box office. That’s why most people think it’s better not to touch the perfection Disney has created with their animated performances, but sometimes live action will prove a worthwhile and faithful effort.
Live-action adaptations date back to the 1990s and early 2000s, with notables like 101 and 102 Dalmations and the best Peter Pan in live-action. However, here we are discussing a more modern and newer live-action film. You could have this movie in different sizes, but here’s the ranking.
The live-action adaptation of Mulan wasn’t the critical or audience success that one could imagine for a highly anticipated story. A brave female warrior who disobeys his family and joins the army disguised as a man to fight the Huns. The action sequences are well choreographed, the cinematography is excellent, and the new witch character Xianniang was a compelling addition.
Unfortunately, several factors contributed to the film’s lack of success at the box office. Aside from completely omitting the classic songs and musical aspects, it had to be streamed on Disney+ due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And there’s controversy over filming in Xinjiang, China, where there are horrific human rights violations against Uyghurs and Muslims.
9 Alice in Wonderland
Tim Burton is used to making films with Disney, and his first live-action project was Alice in Wonderland. It’s certainly not the best Tim Burton movie, but it’s an iconic take on a fantasy world and characters. It also featured actors Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen. Both are frequent collaborators of Burton, having starred together in Sweeney Todd.
The visual aesthetics and production design convey the perfect dark yet whimsical wonderland feel. The opening with Alice following the rabbit down the hole, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Depp’s Mad Hatter and Alice’s chemistry, the Red Queen’s signature brazen “Off with their heads!” The statements are all unforgettable parts of the film.
Critically and audience-wise, Tim Burton’s live-action adaptation Dumbo is worse than Alice in Wonderland, but still better than Alice’s sequel. The live-action debut of the flying big-eared elephant comes with an all-star cast of Danny DeVito, Colin Farrell, Eva Green, and Michael Keaton. Burton’s vision reframes the premise into a human and post-WWI setting.
Dumbo’s live-action design is still lovely, and the flight animations are great. It’s a story with a lot of heart and empathy, balanced with Tim Burton’s signature cinematography and flair. Colin Farrell is Holt Farrier, a widowed WWI veteran who works in a circus while raising children. You can always expect impeccable performances with the Tim Burton ensemble, but Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, and Nico Parker (who will play Sarah in The Last of Us Live Action) stand out.
7 lady and the tramp
2019 was a big year for new Disney adaptations with Aladdin, The Lion King and Dumbo. One thing that may have crossed your radar is the Disney+ release of Lady and the Tramp. The spaghetti sharing scene alone is one of the most iconic Disney animated films. And that cute moment was reproduced in a live-action version.
This is a far more faithful adaptation of the original film, with lifelike CGI dogs from the titular Lady and Tramp voiced by Westworld and Thor actress Tessa Thompson, and White House Plumbers and The Leftovers star Justin Theroux. Seeing the romantic stories and adventures of these characters recreated in live action is the gift of dog-loving family movie night.
In 2014, the story of Sleeping Beauty returned to the big screen with Angelina Jolie as the evil fairy Maleficent. The focus was not entirely on Princess Aurora, but on the perspective of Jolie’s misunderstood tragic villain Maleficent, whose green flames, costume and horns, Diaval the raven, and menacing presence in live action are well-executed components.
The scene where the newborn Aurora is cursed by Maleficent is an intriguing re-enactment, and the final battle with King Stefan, when Aurora releases her wings to help Maleficent, is a nice twist on the original. The dragon’s CGI is Game of Thrones quality, and the Moors inhabitants are phenomenal to look at, but the three fairy fairies are a bit terrifying.
When the live-action adaptation of Aladdin was announced, many were divided, especially considering the late Robin Williams’ iconic performance as Genie. Will Smith knew he had some big shoes to fill, and he successfully played the role by bringing his own unique spin on Genie, which ended up being a huge highlight of the film.
It’s an overall colorful and lively production that truly celebrates the original story and music, with gorgeous visuals and set pieces. Director Guy Ritchie is known for his wild crime stories surrounding thieves, which translates well into storytelling about the Disney character who is a thief.
Of all the Disney live-action films here, Cruella boasts the highest audience score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. While it may not be as critically acclaimed as The Jungle Book or Cinderella’s adaptation of the prequel to 101 Dalmatians, Emma Stone exceptionally portrays Cruella de Vil, an aspiring fashion designer.
The story is a much darker tale of the Dalmatian-hating villain’s origins, and it’s immediately obvious why. The antagonist, called the Baroness, has a Dalmation hound that chases Cruella and pushes her mother off a cliff when Cruella is a child. An aging Cruella works with her friends Jasper and Horace to plot revenge and design amazing costumes amidst her life of crime. Costume design is one of the most spectacular aspects of an Oscar-winning film.
Cinderella is simply one of Disney’s most timeless stories, having seen more realistic versions, such as 2004’s A Cinderella Story. An orphan girl living with her evil stepmother and her stepsisters who dreams of attending prom and finding Prince Charming with the help of her fairy godmother is a wonderful story captured seamlessly in the 2015 adaptation.
Symbolic elements such as the glass slipper, the dazzling pumpkin carriage, Cinderella’s blue dress, the ball, the sheet music, and the suspense of a magical effect that disappears as midnight approaches are awe-inspiring. Actress Lily James played the role of Cinderella, and King of the North Richard Madden played the equally admirable Prince Charming.
2 The beauty and the beast
Beauty and the Beast, released in 2017, is very faithful to the original animated film, like Cinderella. It’s one-on-one with story beats and musical numbers, and the costumes and casting of iconic characters are accurate. Josh Gad took on the role of LeFou, Emma Watson sang powerfully as Belle, and Luke Evans proved to be a great villain once again with Gaston.
From Dan Stevens’ Beast character to supporting anthropomorphic characters Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, the animations and visuals, all the VFX and set design, right down to the ending variations, give the film a stunningly beautiful and magical feel.
One jungle book
Jon Favreau continues to be a gift to Disney. He made his MCU directorial debut as Iron Man and spawned original Star Wars series like The Mandalorian, Ahsoka, and The Book of Boba Fett. And before 2019’s The Lion King, he directed the CG/live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book, which garnered a higher 94% critical acclaim on RT.
This reimagining of Mowgli’s story retains beloved songs like ‘The Bare Necessities’ and ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ while receiving thrilling new visuals and stunning CG animal character designs. Bill Murray as Baloo, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Christopher Walken as King Louie, Giancarlo Esposito as Akela and Idris Elba as antagonist Shere Khan feature talented voice acting here.
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