Get ready to see your childhood favorites reimagined.
The old adage of what’s old is new again rings truer than ever these days, and that’s most evident with the Disney live-action remakes.
For the last few years, Disney has been rolling out remakes, sequels, and spinoffs of some of its most beloved animated films. Alice in Wonderland’s release in 2010 was popular enough to lead to Alice Through the Looking Glass, Maleficent (a live-action Sleeping Beauty film from Maleficent’s point of view), and remakes of Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast. As you might expect, there are lots more on the way.
These films are often under a microscope, as critics wonder if remaking the classics is even necessary. Some, especially 2017’s Beauty and the Beast, were critiqued for being too faithful to the originals. But despite that skepticism, the Disney live-action remakes have been incredibly successful. Beauty and the Beast was the second highest-grossing film of 2017, just behind The Last Jedi. Cinderella and Maleficent broke the top 10 in their respective years. The Jungle Book was the fifth highest-grossing film of 2016—and it won an Oscar for visual effects.
In the next few years, Disney is diving deep into its archives for more. Some of the films have release dates and productions teams, while others are still in the early planning phases. If these films continue their strong run, however, it’s likely Disney will keep (re)making its catalog long into the future.
Disney live-action remakes release schedule
1) Mary Poppins Returns | Dec. 19, 2018
After 54 years, Mary Poppins is back to help the Banks family once again. The sequel takes place around 25 years after the first film, and Mary will aid a grownup Michael Banks and his three children “after Michael has a personal loss.”
Directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago, Into the Woods), an all-star cast is bringing back the woman who’s “practically perfect in every way.” Emily Blunt will star as Mary Poppins herself with Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) as a lamplighter and Bert’s apprentice. Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, and Angela Lansbury will also star in the film. While Julie Andrews won’t make an appearance, original cast member Dick Van Dyke will have a cameo in the film.
2) Dumbo | March 29, 2019
Tim Burton will helm the Dumbo remake, which is loosely based on the original 1941 version of the film. This version will have more of a human element, as a former circus star and war veteran is tasked with taking care of a newborn elephant. Like the animated version, the elephant is mocked for the size of his ears until the humans around him find out that he can fly.
Our first look at the Dumbo trailer features plenty of the titular character—both on the ground and taking flight—after a young family discovers him in a pile of hay. We also catch brief glimpses of the circus where Dumbo will perform along with the characters played by Colin Farrell, Eva Green, Danny DeVito, and Michael Keaton.
3) Aladdin | May 24, 2019
With Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Sherlock Holmes) at the helm, the live-action version of Aladdin will be an adaptation of the 1992 animated classic. After thousands auditioned for roles in the film, Mena Massoud will play Aladdin, Naomi Scott will play Jasmine, and Marwan Kenzari will play Jafar. Rounding out the quartet is Will Smith, who will voice the Genie.
The Aladdin film has been among the most controversial of Disney’s remake lineup. Fans have long-standing fears that Disney would whitewash Aladdin after reports it couldn’t find an actor to play Aladdin. Those fears were realized when Disney admitted it “browned up” a handful of extras for crowd scenes. Reports that Ritchie invented a new character so he could cast a white man in the role didn’t sit well with fans either.
4) The Lion King | July 19, 2019
The Lion King remake is technically more of an animated remake than a live-action one (although it will almost certainly be categorized as the latter). If you want a preview of how that’ll turn out, look to The Jungle Book’s realistic, digitally animated animals voiced by humans. With Jungle Book director Jon Favreau helming the project, it’ll be in good hands.
What’s even more impressive about this film is the caliber of its cast. For the first time in one of Disney’s remakes, a film will see one of the original actors reprise his role: James Earl Jones will once again break our hearts as Mufasa. The rest of the cast includes Donald Glover, Beyoncé, John Oliver, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, John Kani, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Keegan-Michael Key, and Eric André, giving this Shakespearean affair all the star power it needs.
5) Mulan | March 27, 2020
Like with Aladdin, Mulan fans have harbored worries over what Disney could mess up when adapting the film to live-action. Whitewashing fears have existed almost since the beginning—especially since fans still see Asian characters being played by white actors in major motion pictures—with concern rising over a spec script where Mulan’s love interest would be a newly created white man. (Disney has since said it was rewriting that script and that a Chinese man would play the romantic lead.) On March 1, 2018, Disney announced it was bumped the release date back a year to March 2020.
Niki Caro (Whale Rider, The Zookeeper’s Wife) is set to direct with Chinese actress Liu Yifei (who’s also known as Crystal Liu) starring as Mulan.
Donnie Yen (Ip Man, Rogue One) will play Commander Tung, a new character created for the live-action film and Mulan’s mentor.
The Hollywood Reporter has also revealed that Chinese superstar Jet Li is in talks to play the emperor in the movie. Popular Chinese actress Gong Li will play a powerful “witch” character—a change from the Hun warrior Shan Yu who served as the villain in the animated original film.
Disney announced on Aug. 13 that Mulan is now in production and revealed the first look of Liu Yifei as the titular character.
6) Maleficent 2 | May 29, 2020 (updated)
On May 29, 2018, Disney announced that Maleficent 2 was officially in production. Stars Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning are both slated to return as Maleficent and Aurora, respectively, with Michelle Pfeiffer playing Queen Ingrith. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ed Skrein, and Harris Dickinson (who will play Prince Phillip) are also joining the cast. Joachim Rønning will direct.
Disney also released the synopsis, which teases a further exploration of the first film’s most important relationship: “This new fantasy-adventure continues to explore the complex relationship between the horned fairy and the soon-to-be Queen as they form new alliances and face new adversaries in their struggle to protect the moors and the magical creatures that reside within.”
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Disney live-action remakes with no release date
Several other sequels and Disney live-action are in the works with no release dates attached to them. Some of them have cast stars while others have only a director. Some are unlikely to appear anytime soon—if ever. We’ve included them below in alphabetical order for posterity.
1) Captain Nemo
Hollywood has been trying to remake Disney’s 1954 film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for years without any luck. Now James Mangold (Logan) has been tapped to direct the latest attempt at a remake, titled Captain Nemo after the novel’s famous and mysterious captain.
Although two live-action films based on the animated classic 101 Dalmatians already exist, Cruella is being framed—in a similar vein to Maleficent—as an origin story for Cruella de Vil. Emma Stone will play the titular character with Mozart in the Jungle co-creator Alex Timbers set to direct. No other cast members have been announced, but the film will reportedly go into production later this year and take place during the late ’70s.
Although Disney is already filming a live-action remake of Aladdin, it also planned to make a prequel that would reveal how the Genie ended up in his lamp.
4) James and the Giant Peach
Walt Disney Pictures produced the 1996 stop-motion animation film based on Roald Dahl’s classic book. And although the original version had some elements of live-action, a remake was revealed in 2016 with Sam Mendes (Skyfall) attached to direct. Mendes later dropped out to direct Disney’s live-action adaptation of Pinocchio. (He has since left that project as well.)
5) The Jungle Book 2
Disney announced a Jungle Book sequel before the first movie was released with Favreau returning as director. Although Favreau had planned to work on both the Jungle Book sequel and The Lion King, the project has been pushed back so that Favreau can fully focus on The Lion King first.
6) Lady and the Tramp
Charlie Bean (The Lego Ninjago Movie) will direct a remake of the 1955 animated film Lady and the Tramp that will be a mix of live-action and CGI. With a script written by Andrew Bujalski, the film will debut on Disney’s streaming service that is set to launch in 2019.
7) The Little Mermaid
Disney’s remake of The Little Mermaid is just one of three movies in the works in recent years. This version doesn’t have a cast yet but Marshall—who directed Mary Poppins Returns—is the top choice as director and Lin Manuel Miranda has signed on to write lyrics for the movie. The original film’s composer, Alan Menken, will also work on the film.
8) Peter Pan
Peter Pan has been brought to life in multiple adaptations over the decades, but the 1953 animated version remains the most famous. The Disney remake was first announced in 2016 with Pete’s Dragon director David Lowery directing and working on a script. Lowery told Den of Geek in a recent interview that “a draft-and-a-half” had been written for a Peter Pan movie. While he has mentioned the 2018 and 2019 in regards to his film, there’s been no confirmed release date or start of production.
10) Snow White and Rose Red
Disney announced a live-action remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 2016 with Erin Cressida Wilson (The Girl on the Train) set to write the script. A second and unrelated Snow White live-action movie focusing on Snow White’s sister Rose Red—who appears in the original Grimm Brothers story—was also revealed in 2016.
11) The Sword in the Stone
Disney announced in 2015 that Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman would write the script for a live-action remake of the 1963 film. It featured King Arthur as a young boy who ends up under the tutelage of the wizard Merlin and eventually removes a sword that reveals him to be the rightful king of England.
Reese Witherspoon was revealed to be playing Tinker Bell in a live-action movie starring the famous fairy from Peter Pan in 2015. Early imaginings of the film compared it to Maleficent in the sense that it would tell “the story you don’t know” about Tinker Bell.