With the announcement of the live-action remake of Hercules and early talks about a remake for Tarzan, Disney is pulling focus from its more successful animated films, giving their attention to their more underrated movies. While both of these movies are well made and regarded by fans as staples of their childhood, they are not held to the same regard as other Disney properties, specifically the princess based films.
This move on Disney’s part is brilliant, especially with many of the remakes of their more esteemed films falling flat in the eyes of critics, failing to capture the magic of the original films. This can be credited to the fact that these movies have a lot to live up to in the eyes of fans, critics and Disney; however, by remaking underrated movies, filmmakers have more room to improve the past films while still catering to the nostalgia of the properties, and Hercules and Tarzan are great starts, as is Lilo & Stitch.
Hercules‘s humor lends itself to improv, the action suits the new age of digital effects and the framing can elevate the musical numbers for live-action. Tarzan on the other hand is not a musical with only one diegetic song, so it’s perfectly suited for live-action, and with the advancements in CGI, as seen in The Lion King, this could be a visually stunning film. As for Lilo and Stitch, it is one of Disney’s more out of the box movies since it lacks the classic Disney musical numbers and focuses on contemporary characters, so a live-action film can continue to break away from the Disney formula.
While these movies are great starts for a new era of Disney live-action, the studio should go farther by pulling from more obscure titles. The films mentioned above, while not Disney’s most successful, are regarded by many as classics, so changing them too much could have fans wary; meanwhile, not changing them enough could lead to the same problems seen with Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. By turning to the obscure, filmmakers can have the creative freedom they need for a successful film.
One title that would be obscure enough to adapt successfully is Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Not only is it a film that Disney has ignored aside from a straight to video sequel, a live-action adaptation would also suit the script well with the larger than life set pieces benefiting from advanced effects, fight scenes being elevated with dynamic choreography and cinematography and the characters being brought to life with a killer cast .
It’s also one of Disney’s more original ideas since it’s not based on a pre-established fairy tale, so there is more room for change than with films tied to pre-established stories. Similarly, Treasure Planet, while based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, has room to expand with live-action since the animated film took a unique direction with the source material. This movie is also high-genre, and as fans have seen with Marvel and Star Wars, Disney has the resources to bring these worlds to life.
If Disney wants to go for fantasy instead, they can do The Sword in the Stone. While Disney has turned out plenty of romantic fairy tales, they have a smaller catalogue of fantasy-adventure films, and with this film being 57 years old, a new movie would feel fresher to contemporary audiences than the remakes of films that came out in recent memory, especially if Disney looks towards high-fantasy films like The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.
For a darker fantasy, they could also remake The Black Cauldron, catering to a viewers who enjoy both whimsy and terror, like those who’re fans of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. While the original movie is unclear about its target audience, a remake could be more specific and find a way to mix the dark elements with the playfulness of several of the characters.
With Disney making more live-action remakes, it’s refreshing to see them give attention to their underrated, obscure movies. Live-action remakes of their most popular titles, while financially successful, have felt hollow and repetitive at times; however, if they remake their less established IPs, they can find success because they allow for more creative freedom, can fix the flaws of their original films and have untapped potential since they defy the Disney formula in genre and story.
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With Disney continuing their remakes, they should turn their attention to their underrated and obscure titles.