We’re entering a new age for Walt Disney Studios with the advent of reinterpretations of classic animation beginning with 2015 release of Cinderella, the retelling of the 1950 classic animated film. Cinderella could have been a huge gamble but apparently according to IMDb, the world wide box office receipts say it was a fabulous success. Disney chose to mix young actors not widely known, like Lily James from Downton Abbey and Richard Madden from Game of Thrones, with a highly acclaimed director (Kenneth Branagh) and Oscar winning actor, Cate Blanchett.
Now, Disney has another winner with Beauty and the Beast. Disney has again gone with a acting/director formula mix that seems to match the young, talented and famous Emma Watson with young, talented and not-quite-as-famous Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey. Throw in some super famous and Oscar winning/nominated actors like Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Audra McDonald to the recipe for success. As of this writing, Beauty has already grossed over $300 million. Beauty is a musical in the traditional cinematic experience. Disney has proven that song and dance numbers in the movies will fill theater seats. With that in mind, Disney has three more live-action movies planned that will retell class animated features.
Lin-Manuel Miranda has signed on to write the music for The Little Mermaid. The 1989 animated feature was truly a favorite of my daughter, Anya. The songs from that movie are pure Disney magic. Many agree Mr. Miranda is a genius. The score to Hamilton is amazing. If I could ask him one question, it would be “how do you get actors to sing underwater?” Disney may have to increase the budget for CGI. If they could get the animals to talk in the live-action The Jungle Book, then I suppose getting an actor playing a mermaid to sing while submerged… well..let’s see how that plays out.
A casting call has gone out in search of multi-talented Middle Eastern actors for the live-action movie Aladdin. Guy Ritchie will be the director. This one is going to be difficult to write and shoot given the difference in the political climate when the animated version came out in 1992 and today. Wondering also if they will keep it as a musical or will they go for a more dramatic feel. If they choose musical, they are going to have to find someone to play the Genie that will honor the memory of Robin Williams.
Mulan is scheduled for release November 2018. I disliked the 1998 animated movie for several reasons. I never cared for Mushu, the sidekick. Eddie Murphy either hits right or wrong for me. It also may be that by now I’m weary of the ‘Disney princess talking sidekick’, especially when the sidekick is rather annoying. I didn’t care much for the animation. However, the story of Mulan is good and strong. Once again Disney goes with a brave and daring young maiden who bucks the tradition of looking for a husband and instead chooses a path filled with danger and heroism. I hope Mulan will be filmed in China, that they use Chinese actors, and that it will be grand and spectacular.
What are your thoughts for these new releases?