The Obscure Disney Animated Films Worth Remaking

Jon Favreau's big-screen adaptation opened the flood gates for Disney to revisit their animated classic. 

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Director Jon Favreau’s live action remake of The Jungle Book, which made heavy use of CGI to create nearly every character and setting, has been a smashing financial success. In two weeks of release, the Disney film has earned over $500 million worldwide, and that number is still growing. It will likely win the box office again this weekend, and will only be dethroned by another Disney release, Captain America: Civil War, which hits theaters on May 6.

The film is just the latest live-action remake to make big money for Disney, which has minted money from its animated film catalog for the last half-decade. The trend began with Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, which made over $1 billion in 2010. Maleficent, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty starring Angelina Jolie, earned over $750 million in 2014; a year later, Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella topped $540 million. The company will continue the trend for a long time, with a sequel to Alice in Wonderland and a remake of ‘70s cult classic Pete’s Dragon out this summer. There are a lot more in development, too, including a Maleficent sequel, a Jungle Book sequel, a sequel of sorts to Mary Poppins with Emily Blunt, a Dumbo film by Tim Burton, and a Tinkerbell movie with Reese Witherspoon.

That’s a lot of remakes, but given the depth of Disney’s nearly century-old catalog, there are plenty of great movies still untouched. We’ve plumbed the company’s history to decide which films we’d love to see remade.

7. Silly Symphonies

There is a relatively untouched treasure trove of material from the series of 75 animated shorts that Disney created throughout the 1930s called the Silly Symphonies. With a focus on music and plots that function more as parables, they offer up a great opportunity to make a live action anthology. Then again, some of the more popular entries, like The Grasshopper and the Ants, about a colony of ants teaching a conceited grasshopper about the value of teamwork and hard work, or Mother Goose Goes Hollywood, a satirical reimagining of nursery rhymes, could be expanded to a feature-length film.

6. The Rescuers

Disney’s semi-forgotten 1977 movie The Rescuers ended up being the first of their animated films to get a sequel. A live action version of this totally idiosyncratic movie would adapt well to the format because its fantasy story revolves around a pair of mice that attempt to rescue a kidnapped girl in the southern bayou. It’d be the ideal way to tell an inherently dark morality tale, just like the throwback Disney movies used to do.

5. The Black Cauldron

This 1985 dark fantasy isn’t fondly remembered by many, mostly because it’s a fairly mediocre movie. But that means it’s the perfect property to remake, as it’s filled with opportunity for improvement and interpretation. Its rich sword and sorcery narrative could really pop with a big CGI-enhanced budget, and appeal to the various genres that it encompasses. The Harry Potter saga is over, and its fans will want to watch something similar after Fantastic Beasts is released. The Lord of the Rings movies are over, and The Hobbit trilogy was pretty atrocious, and though Warcraft seems like it’ll scratch the fantasy itch for some, it might alienate non-gamer types who would gladly flock to something like a live action Black Cauldron.

4. Mulan

If it wasn’t obvious before this winter (though it should have been), Star Wars: The Force Awakens proved that a big movie franchise can be led by a strong female protagonist. While the Disney princesses have been headlining movies for decades, let’s just say they haven’t always been the best examples of female empowerment out there. But one sticks out: Mulan, based on the story of the Chinese princess who disguises herself as a warrior to fight for her kingdom. She ushered in a new (and still very limited) era of Disney princesses who was both physically and mentally strong. The imaginative, Crouching Tiger-esque story could be made into a gorgeously realized live action version with a diverse cast and a kickass female lead. Plus Disney could mount a gigantic production with the help of Chinese investors. It’s a win-win for everybody.

3. Robin Hood

The folk tale story of Robin Hood has probably been told in every possible medium in every possible manner. But seriously, who would want a live action version of “Oo De Lally”? Disney’s 1973 cartoon is one of the unsung gems of their animated classics, one that nearly every kid of a certain age has seen but doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Throw a $100 million at an updated version of it with the right filmmakers and folk singers and its bound to be a crossover hit.

2. Lady and the Tramp

There has been no shortage of live action talking animal movies since Babe appeared in 1995, but The Jungle Book proved it could be made fresh again with the right technology. Making Lady and the Tramp into a live action movie with CGI dogs would be fascinating if the actors playing the lead characters acted used performance capture. It’s a technique used in huge sci-fi blockbusters, but it’d be fascinating to see Disney take the risk of using it for something like a canine musical-rom-com.

1. Fantasia

A live action, photo-real Fantasia would be incredible. It’d simultaneously scare the shit out of children everywhere and also be the trippiest movie Disney has released since, well, the original Fantasia. At the time of the original’s release, its use of classical music, sound, and visuals was cutting edge, and it’d be a great credit to the Disney brand if they continued that by revisiting one of their most experimental titles. There have been big-screen sequels, and the wizard Mickey is still a staple at the theme parks across the globe, but a true artistic statement like a Fantasia remake would be a knockout. You’d never look at brooms the same way again.

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