No matter how you feel about Disney's barrage of live-action remakes, it's a trend that isn't going away anytime soon. Several of the films have grossed over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office, and only one so far has actually been classifiable as a flop (more on that later). As long as that remains the case, we are going to continue to see more– in fact, one just came to Disney+ (Lady and the Tramp), and there have already been trailers for the next two (The Little Mermaid and Mulan).
Of course, a lot goes into remaking these epic spectacles, and it's not always good– there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes that Disney might not be too keen on audiences finding out about. Well, there are no secrets on the internet! And one final note: While there is some contention as to whether or not this year's The Lion King is truly a "live-action movie" as it was built almost entirely inside of computers, we're still counting it. Hakuna Matata and whatnot.
20 The Lion King: Internet Outrage Did Some Good For A Change
In the original The Lion King, there was a lot of controversy surrounding Scar's big musical number, "Be Prepared." Critics said that both the song itself and the accompanying visuals had deliberate Nazi undertones, which led to filmmakers wanting to cut the song entirely from the remake. However, once fans caught wind of this, the backlash was swift and loud, so much so that a truncated version was put into the movie to placate people.
19 Dumbo: The Ears Aren't The Only Things That Flopped
After Tim Burton helped kick off the modern run of Disney live-action remakes with his astoundingly successful take on Alice in Wonderland, he was asked back to try and repeat that magic with Dumbo. Audiences didn't bite, as the movie only took in about $350 million worldwide– falling far short of the estimated $500 it would've needed just to break even on production and marketing costs. It was a rare flop for modern Disney, not that they can't afford it.
18 Aladdin: Will Smith Can Thank A Lawsuit For His Role
Will Smith was wise to do his own thing with the take on Genie in the live-action Aladdin remake rather than try to imitate the manic energy of Robin Williams' iconic performance in the original. But audiences still missed that flavor of Genie, and they almost got it when Jim Carrey was originally selected for the role. Unfortunately, the Ace Ventura actor was part of a lawsuit that prevented him from committing the time needed to play the part, and he had to drop out.
17 Alice In Wonderland: It Was Almost Late For A Very Important Date
Filmmaker Tim Burton has always been known for having a keen eye for detail and for filling every frame of his movies with visual splendor. His live-action version of Alice in Wonderland was no different– in fact, his endless tinkering almost caused the movie to miss its original release. In an appearance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Red Queen actress Helena Bonham Carter claimed that Burton was still making alterations to the movie as little as two weeks before the movie was set to premiere.
16 Beauty And The Beast: Holding A Candle To Ewan McGregor's Stage Fright
It's hard to imagine not knowing what kind of goofiness you're signing up for when you agree to play a singing, dancing candlestick, but Ewen McGregor apparently wasn't fully prepared for just how silly it was going to be. The actor said that he felt so ridiculous doing the dance numbers for Lumière in his motion capture suit that he needed the entire set to be cleared of everyone but the main filming crew in order for him to feel comfortable enough to do his routines for Beauty and the Beast.
15 The Jungle Book: Animators Were Forced To Watch Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Imagine being an animator that gets a job on a massive Disney production. It has to be a dream come true for anyone in that line of work. Now, imagine that, as part of your job, you have to sit through Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Still stoked about the gig? That's exactly what Jungle Book director Jon Favreau made his animation team do in order to get the vibe he wanted for King Louie's domain. Woof.
14 Cinderella: The Battle Of The Bulge
Say what you will about double standards, but it's a fact that certain body parts are more acceptable in their "visibility" in a family movie than others. While low-cut, form-fitting dresses don't run afoul of Disney standards in terms of what they are okay with in their family films, apparently the tight clothing of male actors is a different story. This became an issue for actor Richard Madden in Cinderella, as Prince Charming's tight pants left too little to the imagination and led to additional steps being taken to hide his...bulge.
13 101 Dalmatians: Jeff Daniels Smelled Like Hot Dogs
A lot of people forget that Disney didn't only just start doing live-action remakes of their animated films in the last decade, or even this millennium. Way back in 1996, Glenn Close and Jeff Daniels starred in the hit adaptation of 101 Dalmatians, which also spawned a sequel. Working with real dogs provided its share of challenges, including getting them to lick the human actors on cue. To solve this problem, Daniels' face had to be rubbed with raw hot dogs in order to get the dogs to "kiss" him on command.
12 Beauty And The Beast: Disney Doesn't Always Know Best
Much has been made of the decision to strip the songs and musical numbers from Disney's upcoming Mulan live action remake, with the company saying they want the movie to be more realistic and less fantastical. In that case, it makes sense. In the case of Beauty and the Beast, not so much– but Disney's original plan for the live action remake was to not make it a musical! Fortunately, director Bill Condon shut all that nonsense down, telling Disney, "With all due respect, I think you're crazy. The songs are too good." He got his way, thankfully.
11 Alice Through The Looking Glass: The Real-Life Heartbreak Of The Red Queen
Helena Bonham Carter played the Red Queen in the two live-action Alice movies, using images generally associated with love– hearts, roses, the color red in general– and twisting them into a darker subtext. Ironically, while filming Alice Through The Looking Glass, Carter knew a little something about love being twisted into darkness, as she and filmmaker Tim Burton had just ended their 13-year relationship. Carter admitted to feeling "massive grief" over the break-up, which she no doubt channeled into the dark performance.
10 Dumbo: Colin Ferrel's &@$%ing Potty Mouth
In real life, Irish actor Colin Ferrell seems to struggle to put more than four or five words together without dropping an F-bomb or other vulgarity. So what happens when he really has to watch his mouth on screen, as he did when he starred in the live-action– and PG-rated– Dumbo remake? He just waited until director Tim Burton said "cut" to let the curses fly. In fact, a swear jar was put on set to try to discourage Ferrell's profanities, which wasn't all that successful... although, on the plus side, the very full swear jar was donated to charity.
9 The Lion King: Pharrell Williams Wasn't "Happy" With Seth Rogen
Back in the day, Disney movies usually had actors doing the speaking parts and professional singers handling the songs. That process has largely been abandoned, much to the chagrin of Seth Rogen, who had to do his own acting and singing as Pumbaa in the live-action Lion King remake. He said things only got worse when superstar producer Pharrell Williams was brought in to be his vocal coach, as it made Rogen that much more nervous and, in turn, had Williams "banging his head against a wall" out of frustration with Rogen's lackluster singing.
8 Beauty And The Beast: Feeling Bored As Belle
Making movies isn't as exciting as it sounds– there's just a lot of time spent passively "reacting" to things for long stretches of time. This is exacerbated by computer effects, requiring actors to fake reactions to things that aren't there at the time. Emma Watson encountered this during Beauty and the Beast, especially the "Be Our Guest" number which was created almost entirely inside computers. Watson had little to do but sit in a chair for long periods of time, and she was having trouble hiding her boredom– so much so that cast and crew had to crack jokes to keep her entertained.
7 Cinderella: Truly Shatterproof Slippers
As magical as a pair of glass slippers might sound, they aren't exactly feasible in real life– thinking about the disaster that would result from a pair of glass shoes shattering under a woman's feet is horrifying. So it might not come as a huge surprise– even though it is still a little disappointing– that the glass slippers seen in the live-action Cinderella were created using CGI effects. There probably isn't a reputable insurance company out there that would've signed off on letting someone dance around on shoes made of actual glass in a movie.
6 Aladdin: You Can't Just Wish For The Perfect Cast
In terms of casting the live-action Aladdin remake, all anyone could talk about or speculate on was who was going to play the Genie. But finding the perfect magical blue-skinned sorcerer wasn't the only casting trouble Disney had with Aladdin. In fact, finding the right people to play the movie's main leads proved so difficult that the entire production had to be delayed in order to allow for more time to find the new versions of Aladdin and Jasmine.
5 The Lion King: One Does Not Simply Get Beyonce To Show Up For A Cast Photo
The announcement of the cast list for The Lion King live action remake probably made the biggest splash with the reveal of Beyoncé as Nala, since modern-era Beyoncé is largely associated with her music rather than acting roles. She also just doesn't seem like the type to be part of a big, family-like ensemble– and there might be some truth to that as it was eventually revealed that she wasn't present for the movie's big cast reveal photoshoot and had to be digitally inserted into it after the fact.
4 The Jungle Book: This Is Why Animators Hate Fur
People were initially surprised when director Jon Favreau stepped away from the MCU to instead direct a live action adaptation of The Jungle Book, but it kind of makes sense when you consider that, like with superhero movies, Favreau was going to be directing a lot of "actors" that were entirely digital. One such performer, bear bud Baloo, was quite the special effects showpiece all his own: For every second that you see him on screen in the movie, it took five hours of rendering time to achieve it, thanks in large part to the complexities of his fur.
3 Beauty And The Beast: Emma Watson Suffers (A Snowball) For Her Art
Computers can do almost anything these days in regard to movies, especially when it comes to making things easier on the actors. Considering all of the computer effects magic that was already being used in Beauty and the Beast, it probably wouldn't have been that hard to squeeze in a fake snowball effect for the scene where Belle has to take one to the face. But Emma Watson, ever the professional, was not only willing to get hit in the kisser with a real snowball, she did over a dozen takes in order to get the shot just right.
2 The Lion King: "The 'Meh' Heard Around The World"
We hear what audiences and critics think of live action Disney remakes, but what do the people who made the original movies think? In the case of The Lion King, a few of the original's animators weren't shy in sharing their displeasure with the new version. Original Pumbaa animator Tony Bancroft tweeted that he "hated" the movie, calling it "bland and lifeless" and saying it was the "'meh' heard around the world." Another member of the original animation team actually took things personally, saying it "kind of hurts" that Disney would've even made the remake at all.
1 They Were The Final Movies For Several Actors
Of all the things that the Disney live action remakes have in common, there is one shared thread that is especially unfortunate: being someone's final film. Michael Gough, a frequent Tim Burton collaborator best known for his role as Alfred in three Batman films, voiced Dodo Bird in Alice in Wonderland as his final role. Sequel Alice Through The Looking Glass ended up being the final released movie featuring legendary actor Alan Rickman. And comedian Gary Shandling played Ikki the porcupine in The Jungle Book before his untimely passing just one month before the movie's premiere.
Sources: theatlantic.com, disney.com, insider.com, etonline.com