There’s something to be said about adapting a familiar Disney story and translating it for modern audiences. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland uses modern tropes of Young Adult fiction to tell a story wrought with questionable storytelling aesthetics, and I often wondered if anybody was sure what type of movie they were trying to make. Maleficent follows suit as an awkward attempt at ripping off Frozen in its final act but also completely misunderstands the core concept of the titular character. I have no qualms with mixing the old and new as long as it’s the proper collection of ideas. Cinderella does just that. It isn’t shy about its central themes of kindness and love. It doesn’t strive for “edgy” storytelling where simplicity will do just fine. The movie sincerely wraps itself around the audience and blissfully reminds these darker retellings why they’ll be forgotten in a few years.
I fully intended for this to be a bit of a snarky takedown of these live action Disney adaptations, but after being completely won over by Cinderella I decided to rework this whole article. I’m not kidding. It’s that good. Go watch it. Once you’re done watching Kenneth Branagh’s retelling, here are a few other familiar Disney storylines that I’d love to see Disney adapt into into live action films .
Let’s get down to business! Mulan marks the curve into modern Disney territory, with Fa Mulan being in charge of her own destiny. Torn between what her family wants for her and the standards set upon her by society, Mulan bursts through the trappings of traditional gender roles while maintaining her femininity and saving all of China. My number one pick for Mulan was Jamie Chung, who is already playing her in Once Upon a Time. Basically this means the stars have aligned and this needs to happen yesterday. UPDATE: It has come to my attention that I gravely over-looked Brenda Song. Now cast Ming-Na Wen as her mother to bring it full circle.
The Princess and the Frog
The original Cinderella and Princess and the Frog are both good movies. I don’t know if they’re quite great movies. There are hints of greatness in them, with characters that are infinitely recognizable and beautiful imagery flowing off the screen. Now we can make them modern classics. An adaptation of The Princess and the Frog could not only expand upon the source material, it would also begin developing stories that don’t involve a white protagonist. I don’t know who I’d like to direct it (maybe Ava DuVernay?) but there’s an obvious choice for the princess: Lupita Nyong’o.
I try not to hate movies so I’m just going to reiterate how much I disliked Maleficent. The movie bended over backwards, sideways, and every which way to get us behind the titular witch as a protagonist. Angelina Jolie is wonderful in the role, so let’s just cast her as the villainous Maleficent again. She can drown the audience in an operatic villainy as we tell the true story of Sleeping Beauty. Much like the adaptation of Cinderella, we’ll expand upon the original idea by using it as an outline. Fill in more story beats and character background to make Princess Aurora a more proactive character, determining her own destiny in the final act. There’s no reason both she and Prince Phillip can’t fight Maleficent in her dragon form. Just get Kenneth Branagh back for this one and cast two young up and comers as the Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip.
Think Thor but with less studio mandates. We see the upcoming of Hercules from a child longing to become a hero, before he discovers the heroism comes from within. It’s not the size of his muscles, nor the length he can throw a discus, but the strength of his heart. The original Disney movie contains enough sheer spectacle to bring in a giant blockbuster crowd on its own. Cap it all off with the muses rendition of ‘A Star is Born’ and you’ve got a blockbuster that doubles as a crowd pleaser. Yes, bring Kenneth Branagh back for this one too.
Featured Image: Cinderella (2015), Walt Disney Pictures