Why develop a new property when you can leverage off of an existing one? Such is Hollywood’s motto, and to some extent, its livelihood. Disney has long cashed in on well-accepted brands by converting animated films into live-action ones, and is currently developing new versions of both Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast.
But I have some original ideas to offer. Dive into this Disney In Depth, which delivers three fresh reimaginings and remakes of Disney animated classics.
Idea 1: Frollo
One of Disney’s nastiest and most disturbing villains, who has a fanbase all of his own, could headline a movie. What compelled this judge to lock Quasimodo in the bell tower and what drew his obsession to gypsy Esmeralda? Find out all this and more in this dramatic adventure, taking a page from Angelina Jolie’s forthcoming Maleficent, which reveals the baddie’s back-story. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is among Disney’s best musicals, and for a time the company was considering adapting this into a live-action TV movie for The Wonderful World of Disney. While that never panned out, good ideas never die, and without a doubt translating Notre Dame into a live-action musical is a solid one. Focusing on the tale from Frollo’s point-of-view would be even better.
Now, who would be perfectly cast as Frollo? I think Ralph Fiennes would serve as a fine choice, as he could exude tyrannical trouble. Ryan Gosling would make a dashing Phoebus, whereas the lovely Rose Byrne would seem suitable for Esmeralda. As every all-star cast should contain an unknown, the Quasimodo character could make a star out of the actor who portrays him. As for Clopin, the comedic gypsy who serves as the film’s narrator, why not just book Neil Patrick Harris, everyone’s favorite host, for the job and call it a day? Below is a clip from Hunchback.
Idea 2: Expedition Atlantis
Few people caught Atlantis: The Lost Empire, the 2001 adventure flick, in theatres. It defied the traditional animated musical that viewers were accustomed to seeing from Disney. But this spectacular and epic feature contained many elements that could make for a transfixing entertainment experience? Remember the excitement that overwhelmed your soul when the Leviathan monster invaded the submarine? A computer-generated version of that creature in a live-action setting could make for a dazzling set-piece. Even more so, the Atlantis setting could be realized in a world echoing Avatar.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s appeal and acting range could be translated into the Milo Thatch character, as voiced by Michael J. Fox in the animated film. Hire Tommy Lee Jones as the commanding Rourke, Dwayne Johnson as charismatic Doctor Sweet, Michelle Williams as seductive Helga Sinclair, and an up-and-coming actress as Kida, and your cast is set. Though Atlantis may be remembered – or more appropriately, forgotten – as one of Disney’s more overlooked animated entries, certainly the studio could position this grand scale storyline as a tentpole summer feature. Look at how exciting Atlantis was by checking out its driving trailer.
Idea 3: Flippin’
Everyone loves Ariel, the red-headed mermaid who is responsible for reviving Disney animation. It would only make sense for a live-action The Little Mermaid to take place, assuming the film would not receive the rather-quick fate of the Broadway stage show. Flippin’ could allow Ariel to seem like more of a proactive protagonist, radiating the spirited teen angst that made Rapunzel a star in Tangled.
Julianne Hough could bring a dynamic energy to Ariel, should the movie take a more musical direction, whereas Carey Mulligan might lend a sophisticated sensibility to the mermaid. No matter the actress, Flippin’ would work through utilizing the strengths of the original film’s music and its imaginative imagery – only in a live-action, computer-generated underwater universe. The actor who might play Prince Eric could be an unknown, whereas Tinsel-Town titans could portray the adult supporting cast. Imagine Phillip Seymour Hoffman as an impressive, well-studied King Triton. Michelle Pfeiffer’s face could be motion-captured onto the body of Ursula, providing the sea witch with a caustic magnetism. Even Sebastian, in 3-D form, could come into the scene, with the voice of Don Cheadle. Yes, this would be a hit worth clapping your fins for. Here’s the reissue trailer for Little Mermaid.
What do you think of my ideas? More importantly, how would you take an existing Disney animated film and convert it into live-action? Who would you cast and why? Share your thoughts.
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of upcoming editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom. Have a good week!