Hardly a week goes by without Disney announcing a live-action adaptation of something. Some of them make a sort of sense, and the others are complete lunacy. As we have done before, it’s time to figure out just how many of these things are on the way—and how doomed we are.
Yes, I know I just did this four months ago. But since I last mentioned those six live-action Disney adaptations in the works—specifically, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book, Gruella, Dumbo, Winnie the Pooh and Mulan—eight more have been announced. You can’t even be angry anymore, because it’s just exhausting.
Night on Bald Mountain
Directed By: Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless are supposedly on board to write.
What Else We Know: Every one of these is announced as being either similar in tone to Maleficent or the live-action Cinderella. As this is a live-action version of a fully terrifying short, the “live-action take will be similar to what Disney did with Maleficent.”
Thoughts: If you don’t have 12 minutes to re-watch “Night on Bald Mountain” from Fantasia, remember that the short is about the giant god of evil—Chernobog by name, Satan by appearance. His power causes the forces of darkness to rise and dance, only for him to toss them into the fiery pits of Hell. It is the source of many a nightmare.
There are exactly two ways for this to go, and either one will be magical.
Option one: The live-action adaptation preserves the horrifying quality of the wordless, musical version. It’s two hours of beautiful and terrifying images, a true adaptation of the original.
Option two: It goes fully Maleficent and we learn all about the tragic backstory of Chernobog, the king of hell. So we’re sympathetic to him once he starts chucking live, screaming beings into fiery death.
Given that Sazama and Sharpless wrote Dracula Untold, I’m betting we’re going to get option two. Which won’t be good, but might be hilarious.
Odds: 2:1 that it’s a hilarious misfire.
Starring: The hope is that Angelina Jolie will reprise the title role.
What Else We Know: Linda Woolverton, who wrote the first one and has a billion Disney writing credits, is writing the script.
Thoughts: There were good parts and bad parts to Maleficent, and the sequel will likely be equally mixed. The biggest stumbling block to Maleficent is that there’s nowhere familiar for this to go. Maleficent was both prequel and reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, so there’s no story left to re-tell. A sequel is also a Sleeping Beauty sequel, and my bet is for a very bland story where Maleficent and Aurora save the kingdom from some kind of invasion.
Odds: 3:1 that it makes us sleep for 100 years.
Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard as Grace, Wes Bentley as Jack, Robert Redford as Grace’s father, Karl Urban as Gavin, Oona Laurence as Natalie, Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Sheriff Dentler, Craig Hall as Adult Pete, and Oakes Fegley as Pete
Directed By: David Lowery
What Else We Know: Lowery wrote the screenplay with Toby Halbrooks, which has a release date of August 12, 2016. D23 also revealed that the new movie is in no way a musical (say goodbye to “Candle on the Water”) and ditches the classic dragon for a big, furry version. While the bones of the story—orphaned kid, imaginary friend who is a real dragon, finding a new family—are the same, nothing else has been kept.
Thoughts: I know, technically the original was a live-action film, too. But what you think of when you envision it is the 2D animated dragon plopped into the live-action film. Get ready to see that replaced with a big ol’ CGI dragon.
Hmmm, the 1977 movie is a perfect gem of a film. Since the new version is losing the songs and the mix of 3D and 2D that made the original so much fun, it’s really Pete’s Dragon in Name Only. Pete’s Dragon isn’t nearly as famous as the other names on this list. At least with the others, cashing in on the famous names by attaching them to films that have nothing in common with the original makes business sense.
Oh, and did we mention the lack of songs and the furry (?!) dragon?
Odds: 8:1 that this will be one you never let go.
The Sword in the Stone
What Else We Know: Bryan Cogman is writing and Brigham Taylor is producing.
Thoughts: Yes! Just what was missing from the world: more movies based on King Arthur. And ones based on The Once and Future King? COLOR ME SURPRISED. Will it be a coming of age story of an under-appreciated orphan plucked from obscurity to have a bearded wise man train him? WILL IT?
Full disclosure: The Sword in the Stone is my favorite animated Disney movie. And it pretty much only works because it is a cartoon. That’s what makes it fun, rather than just another chosen one narrative. It’s absurd: a squirrel falls in love with Arthur, Merlin wears a Hawaiian shirt, Achimedes the owl hates everyone and everythin ... it’s gleefully fun. Mad Madam Mim and Merlin’s fight is both scary and funny in animated form—there’s a 100% chance it’ll be a 20-minute-long CGI action scene in the new movie. Blargh. Argh. All the fun stuff is going to be lost in favor of Disney trying to cash in on Hollywood’s grim and gritty, sword and sorcery kick. KILL IT WITH FIRE.
Odds: KILL IT WITH FIRE
Starring: Reese Witherspoon
What Else We Know: This was originally in development back in 2012, with McG directing and Elizabeth Banks starring. That one had a script by Marti Nixon (Friday Night Lights). The news that Witherspoon would star also came with the information that this Tink is completely different form that Tink, with a new script from Victoria Strouse (Finding Dory).
Thoughts: From these changes alone, it’s pretty safe to assume that we’re going the “heartwarming origin story” route. With a lot of pining for Peter Pan thrown in for good measure. Whether or not this sounds good depends heavily on whether Tinkerbell is a character you’re dying to see more of. Disney’s turned her into a star, despite the fact that her defining characteristic in the original is gross jealousy leading to her being captured and almost killed. Also, in the movie, she never talks.
Well, that’s definitely going to change.
Odds: 3:1 that no one claps and she dies from lack of belief.
What Else We Know: Script is being penned by Peter Hedges
Thoughts: This one is pretty thoroughly screwed. Pinocchio’s last live-action debut was one of the worst reviewed films of the decade. And Warner Bros. already has one in production that stars Robert Downey Jr. and has Paul Thomas Anderson writing and possibly directing. There is no way the Disney version can fight on both fronts.
Odds: 1:1 that it is crushed by Iron Man’s repulsor blasts.
What Else We Know: It’s the story of how the genie in Aladdin ended up in the lamp, written by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (Freddy vs. Jason).
Thoughts: Here’s a project that makes me want to slam my face into a wall. Disney’s already tried this. And recently. Remember Once Upon a Time in Wonderland? No? WELL THEN.
And, not to be a dick, but the reason the genie in Aladdin worked so well was because of Robin Williams. He is not available anymore. The amount of interest in a genie story without him is approximately nil. And, in the absolute worst case scenario, we get a script that tries to ape Williams’ ad-libbing style and a star doing his best Williams impression. This is literally the only time that completely ignoring the original is actually the better bet.
Christ, that’s depressing in a completely different way.
Odds: 2:1 that we’ve already had a friend like him.
What Else We Know: Buckle in, because Disney’s Prince Charming is the one that is the worst on paper. Which is saying something. Here we go: Matt Fogel has written a script from the perspective of Prince Charming’s non-famous brother who “never lived up to his family name.”
Thoughts: Why yes, the thing we were missing from the Disney princess genre was the story from the point of view of a male character. We hear endlessly about the way that Disney properties are merchandised—princesses for girls, superheroes for boys. But, of course, Black Widow can’t break out of The Avengers for her own movie but a prince we’ve never even heard of gets his own movie. The fact that Prince Charming is about a character who can’t escape his box is too ironic to stomach.
And, and, the cookie-cutter plot of this disaster. From just the description we have, I bet you can plot every beat of this movie. Poor second-rate Charming, being held up to the impossible standard of his older brother. His brother and Cinderella go down in fairy tale history, and no one even knows he exists. Except for his parents, who complain that he’s a failure, and his brother, who is good but oblivious to his brother’s pain. Plucky comic relief abounds. Probably played by Josh Gad.
Death is too good for everyone involved with this.
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