Fans Think This Is the Best Live-Action Disney Remake So Far

Disney’s new version of The Lion King doesn’t qualify as a genuine live-action remake, since it was made entirely with CGI. Nevertheless, the movie looks photo realistic, so it’s still being ranked with Disney’s recent spate of remakes of their own movies. Will it be the new favorite?

It could be, especially since the 1994 original was nothing less than a phenomenon beloved by many. However. it’s too early to tell, with the movie having only been out for a very short time. The current favorite differs depending on how you gauge it.

If you go by box office, the clear winner is the 2017 Beauty and the Beast, which made $504 million. But if you go by ones that most consistently pleased fans, you might have to try on a glass slipper.

Disney logo
Disney logo | Alexander Pohl/NurPhoto

The most money: ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Disney’s 1991 version was a milestone for the company even before it was released. It played at the New York Film festival in a work-in-progress version, with some of the scenes still in pencil form and not fully animated. All the same, it got a standing ovation from the audience.

When the completed movie was released in the fall, it continued to delight and surprise, not least by becoming the first animated film to score a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. It lost to Silence of the Lambs, but the bar had been set. It went on to spark, among other things, Disney’s Broadway shows, an IMAX reissue with the new “Human Again” scene, and finally the live-action version starring Emma Watson.

Per Box Office Mojo It’s far and away the highest grosser of the live-action movies, with 2017’s The Jungle Book making a more than respectable $364 million,  but compared to Beauty and the Beast, that’s still a pretty distant second.

For all its success, however, a feeling hung in the air that there was something there that wasn’t there before – padding that felt inessential. The new songs for the movie weren’t well remembered.

Fans complained about Belle’s ball gown being too modern-looking, and more than a few people wondered if Emma Watson’s singing was auto-tuned. YouTube critic Lindsay Elliis’ takedown of the film became known for its “Thanks, I hate it” quote.

The critical sleeper: ‘Pete’s Dragon’

Neither version of Pete’s Dragon set the world on fire. The 1977 movie, with the dragon being animated and the rest live-action, was considered a flat retread of Mary Poppins. The 2016 remake with Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard was one of the less financially successful of the live-action versions, making only $76 million.

However, the 2016 version had something many of the other remakes didn’t: critical respect. It rates No. 2 on the Rotten Tomatoes ranking, behind only The Jungle Book. Critics admired the inventive direction by David Lowery, who usually makes indie films. The critical consensus on the site read:  “Pete’s Dragon continues Disney’s current live-action winning streak with an update that gives the original a visual overhaul without overwhelming its sweet, soulful charm.”

The fairest of them all: ‘Cinderella’

The 2015 version of Cinderella was the third of the current wave of live-action remakes. The first, Alice in Wonderland was a big hit that aged poorly when its 2016 sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass tanked. The second, Maleficent, was not so much a remake as the story of Sleeping Beauty told from a different angle.

Cinderella was, for the most part, a faithful remake with very little re-imagining, and perhaps that’s why it tops rankings like this one in USA today and this one from The Wrap.

USA Today wrote:

“Kenneth Branagh is the glass-slippered pinnacle of what Disney can do with its remakes, mainly by pulling back from the over-the-top magic – though there is still plenty – and instead focusing like a laser on the dramatic trials and rousing triumphs of its central character. Top-notch casting is the cherry on top, with Lily James as the supremely likable Cinderella, Richard Madden as her down-to-earth prince, Cate Blanchett as the detestable stepmother with her own imperfect backstory, and Helena Bonham Carter as one lovably flighty fairy godmother.”

Now all that remains is to see how The Lion King, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and Mulan fare.