Disney Has Made a Surprising Choice to Direct Its Upcoming ‘Robin Hood’ Remake

At the pace Disney has been going, the studio will run out of animated classics to remake in just a few short years. Since 2015, Disney has released live-action remakes of Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Lady and the Tramp.

While most critics and some fans consider these productions unnecessary cash grabs, they have been tremendous moneymakers for Disney. So naturally, the studio has many more on the way. Fans already knew Disney was set to revisit stories like Mulan and The Little Mermaid. But no one expected a new version of Robin Hood to join their ranks.

Carlos Lopez Estrada at SXSW
Carlos Lopez Estrada at SXSW | Diego Donamaria/Getty Images for SXSW

Disney is reportedly making a remake of its animated ‘Robin Hood’

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Disney is, in fact, working on a live-action/CGI hybrid version of Robin Hood. The character has, of course, been adapted for the big screen countless times before. But Disney’s animated musical put anthropomorphic animals in each role, with Robin Hood himself as a fox.

This new version will stay true to the animal cast and musical nature of the 1973 Disney classic. Moreover, the studio will release the new Robin Hood directly to Disney+, much like 2019’s Lady and the Tramp. Kari Granlund — who wrote Lady and the Tramp — will return to script Robin Hood as well.

The animated Robin Hood proved a box office hit for Disney, despite receiving mixed reviews at the time. However, over the years, it has developed a devoted fan base. No doubt, this surge in appreciation for the film pushed it up on Disney’s development schedule.

But its director made one of 2018’s most critically acclaimed movies

Other than the mere existence of the project, the most surprising element of this new Robin Hood is its director, Carlos L√≥pez Estrada. He has previously directed short films and TV, including an episode of FX series Legion. Robin Hood is only Estrada’s second directorial feature. But his first was one of 2018’s most critically acclaimed releases.

Boasting a 94 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Estrada’s first movie was Blindspotting. Following two friends (Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, who also wrote the film) in Oakland, Calif., the film is a raw, hip hop-infused exploration of racism, gentrification, and violence. After its debut at the Sundance Film Festival, the comedy-drama earned critical praise specifically for Diggs’ powerful lead performance.

At the box office, Blindspotting only earned $5 million worldwide. But the film’s reported $1.2 million production budget means it still turned a profit. More to the point, Blindspotting also likely helped Estrada land his current deal with Disney. In addition to Robin Hood, he’s collaborating with the studio on a fully animated project as well.

Will Disney be able to perfect the ‘digital fur’ Universal used in ‘Cats’?

From a business standpoint, Disney’s decision to remake Robin Hood makes sense. But the fact that the film will be a CGI/live action hybrid raises some questions. The original film doesn’t have any human characters. So there really is no need for a live-action component.

Perhaps Robin Hood will photograph a live-action environment and install its animal characters into it. Or it could go photo-realistic like The Lion King. Still, the notion of combining CGI with live performers sounds intriguingly like Universal’s Cats. That project infamously used “digital fur technology” to turn its actors into humanoid cats.

Given the Disney+ release of Robin Hood, the chances the film will go that route are slim. After all, Cats cost nearly $100 million, much of which went to visual effects. We can’t imagine Disney spending anywhere near that much on a Disney+ release. Then again, the studio has perfected technology in the past. Could Robin Hood be the movie to pull off digital fur? We’ll see.