Walt Disney Pictures has found continued success with its live-action re-imaginings of its cherished animated fairy tales: the studio brought Alice in Wonderland to the big screen in 2010 with director Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, the billion dollar grosser encouraging the magic makers to take another look at their catalogue of beloved family tales.
Maleficent, a spin on Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of its misunderstood villainess as played by Angelina Jolie, conjured nearly $800 million in box office receipts in 2014, and Cinderella, starring Lilly James as the eponymous rags-to-riches princess, earned over half a billion worldwide in 2015.
A year later, The Jungle Book, directed by Iron Man's Jon Favreau, ended its run just shy of $1 billion worldwide in 2016, and Beauty and the Beast — starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens as the famous lovers — waltzed to $1.2 billion in 2017.
Disney has several upcoming live-action re-imaginings in various stages of development, including Mulan, The Lion King, Aladdin, Dumbo, The Little Mermaid, and Peter Pan, all poised to be the expected blockbusters, but with more than 70 years of hand-drawn and computer animated productions under its belt, there's a backlog of underrated animated Disney fables yearning for a second shot at the big screen.
One of Walt Disney's seminal works, Pinocchio was a technical animated marvel when it reached screens in 1940.
Pinocchio's cast of characters — the wooden puppet who fibs and longs to be a real boy, his pint-sized conscious Jiminy Cricket, playful cat Figaro, the magical Blue Fairy — are among Disney's most recognized faces, tied to the movie as much as they are to the word "Disney" itself.
The studio has a pending live-action take in early development: What's Eating Gilbert Grape and The Odd Life of Timothy Green screenwriter Peter Hedges was once attached to pen its script, as was Cinderella and Rogue One writer Chris Weitz.
Sam Mendes, director of American Beauty and Skyfall, was in talks to direct until he exited the project last November. Disney has had no issue enlisting big name talent to its live-action projects before, making it only a matter of time before the proper strings are pulled to properly adapt the animated classic into live-action.
If its anything like the magical Cinderella or The Jungle Book, Disney fans are in for a treat.prevnext
The criminally underrated Treasure Planet was produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios — Walt Disney Feature Animation at the time — and sailed into theaters over Thanksgiving weekend in 2002.
The latest animated production from Disney animation veterans Ron Clements and John Musker — co-directors of beloved animated Disney hits The Little Mermaid and Aladdin — Treasure Planet was an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's famous novel of the same name, but with a sci-fi twist.
It lacked the Broadway-esque musical flourishes Disney animation was known for at that point, featuring only a score by James Newton Howard and a pair of original songs by Goo Goo Dolls frontman John Rzeznik, and for whatever reason, the movie didn't land: it bombed with a mere $109 million gross worldwide.
Disney's distribution branch was forced to reduce its fourth-quarter earnings by nearly $50 million just days after the movie opened, and the flop has since been relegated to the oft-forgotten about era of Disney animation: just after the Disney Renaissance, where Disney flourished with films like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, but before the Disney Revival, where the studio now dominates with CG-animated hits like Frozen and Zootopia.
Treasure Planet was creative and imaginative, with its pirate ships in space and its Star Wars-inspired technology, and it would make for a worthy re-do in live-action — even if it's doubtful Disney would ever consider even thinking about revisiting such a monumental financial disaster.
One of the film's screenwriters, Terry Rossio, once said that it was a "humbling experience" to have worked on a movie that "[dragged] down the entire freakin' world economy," citing Disney's position as a member of the Dow Jones Industrials.prevnext
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Another little-mentioned and frequently overlooked Disney animated film is Atlantis: The Lost Empire, which opened a year before in the summer of 2001.
The steampunk-inspired film, starring Back to the Future's Michael J. Fox, performed only slightly better, bringing in $186 million. Disney's then-president of Animation said the studio "missed" with Atlantis, and the film has been mostly ignored aside from a straight-to-video sequel, Atlantis: Milo's Return, compiled from shorts originally meant to comprise a television series titled Team Atlantis. (The series was never completed.)
Atlantis adapted Hellboy creator Mike Mignola's unique style and the adventure movie was inspired in part by Jules Verne's A Journey to the Center of the Earth, making for a sort of animated Indiana Jones. No one really cared, and much like the lost empire itself, Atlantis has mostly been expelled from memory.
The film contains enough inspired design and characters to make for a romping live-action Indiana Jones-esque adventure beneath the sea — into a sprawling underwater society and its accompanying mythology — but asking for more Atlantis is about as much of a non-starter as breathing word of Treasure Planet.prevnext
The Black Cauldron
If The Incredible Hulk is the ignored step-child of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Black Cauldron is the black sheep of the Walt Disney Animation Studios canon.
The 1985 animated fantasy was darker than standard Disney fare to come before or since, and even your most ardent Disney die-hard isn't likely to have much to say about it: its largely a cult film, having grossed just over $21 million in the mid-80s, a result that threatened Walt Disney Feature Animation with bankruptcy.
Disney began bringing their most cherished animated classics to home video that same year — they began with Pinocchio, itself a box office bomb in its original release — but Black Cauldron wouldn't debut on VHS until 1998.
The Mouse House has since brought Cauldron to DVD, twice, but they've never bothered to give it a Blu-ray makeover — something Disney has done for almost all of the 56 Walt Disney Animation films released thus far.
Loosely based on Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain and set in the early Middle Ages, the film involves an evil king, magical cauldrons, a princess, faeries, and witches — the kind of things Hollywood bigwigs drool over in Young Adult adaptations today.
Disney was reported to be rebooting the book series in 2016, having acquired the movie rights to the fantasy series, but there's been little-to-no forward movement on the pending project. Done properly, it could be Disney's own Lord of the Rings.prevnext
Lilo & Stitch
Lilo & Stitch, from future How to Train Your Dragon directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, is arguably the most popular movie birthed out of the post-Renaissance pre-Revival era: the 2002 sci-fi comedy proved both a critical and commercial hit for Disney, hauling in $273 million worldwide.
Its blue-skinned fluffy alien, Stitch, has become one of Disney's most recurring characters in merchandise, and the movie inspired two direct-to-video sequels, a television series and TV movie, two anime series, several theme park attractions, and a slew of video games.
Nearly 20 years later, the movie — which plays like a tropical spin on Steven Spielberg's seminal E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial in the best way — is filled with heart, charm, and lovable characters, and is practically begging for a translation into live-action.
The more cynical among us could name it as an excuse to push more merchandise of Stitch, who would of course be created by CGI, but the less-cynical Lilo & Stitch fans would get to fall in love with a wide-eyed orphan and her alien "dog" all over again.
Disney is prepping Aladdin for May 2019, Mulan for December 2019, and The Lion King for July 2019.prev