In the lead-up to the release of the live-action The Little Mermaid, Consequence will be looking back at the Disney Renaissance and how it shaped our culture. Today, we begin with a ranking of all the live-action adaptations of Disney classics, now updated with the aforementioned The Little Mermaid.
The question every remake faces is this: Why? Why take a film that already existed, and retell the same story again? The reason is almost always an essential facet of whether or not the remake is actually worth watching, because when the answer is rooted in creative choices, it can (at the very least) be an engaging viewing experience. But when the reason is more business-minded, well…
Let’s be real: So many of Disney’s live-action remakes of animated films fail to live up to their inspirations, adding little creatively — despite the live-action versions often stretching the runtime an extra half-hour or more over what came prior. Seriously, every single live-action remake is longer than the film upon which it’s based or by which it’s inspired, except for one. And that film, perhaps not coincidentally, happens to be the top-ranked film on this list.
There have been bright spots over the years, thanks to a fresh angle, an innovative casting choice, or visual flair that pushes the original to a new plane. And there may be more bright spots on the horizon, with directors like Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins and Marcel the Shell’s Dean Fleischer Camp taking on a Lion King prequel and Lilo & Stitch, respectively. In the battle between art and commerce, Disney’s live-action adaptation obsession is definitely a front line. But when we’re lucky, the art manages to win out.
— Liz Shannon Miller
Senior Entertainment Editor
22. Pinocchio (2022)
Robert Zemekis’s descent into the uncanny valley has been one of 21st-century film’s most disappointing developments; he’s a great filmmaker when not obsessing over his mo-cap toys, which unfortunately hasn’t happened for a while. There are some interesting additions to the classic tale of a wooden puppet who wants to become a real boy, like the character of Fabiana (Kyanne Lamaya), a disabled puppeteer, but it’s still hard to look into Pinocchio’s blank animated eyes and not feel chilled. Even if Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning adaptation, released a few months later, hadn’t been so good, this would still be an unsettling dud. — L.S. Miller
21. Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)
The confection-colored blandness of Alice Through the Looking Glass somehow forgets to be sweet; it’s like a candy binge that skips past the sugar rush and goes straight to the stomachache. The action scenes never muster any stakes, and the starry cast ranges from at best underused (Helena Bonham Carter) to those who are sleepwalking straight to the bank (Johnny Depp). As for Alice herself, Mia Wasikowska dazzled as a teenage gymnast in HBO’s In Treatment, but as much as she stood out in an intimate therapist’s room, Disney’s overwrought Wonderland swallows her whole. The best Lewis Carroll adaptations evoke a children’s story dreamed up on LSD, but this one never marshaled more inspiration than a room full of suits dreaming of money. — Wren Graves