I was lucky enough to grow up during the Disney Renaissance. During that decade of childlike wonder and unbridled creativity, Walt Disney Feature Animation released the following (mostly) classics: The Little Mermaid (1989), The Rescuers Down Under (1990), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Hercules (1997), Mulan (1998) and Tarzan (1999). Being a child of the 1990s also meant having immediate access to Disney’s archive — I owned or rented every pre-Renaissance title on VHS, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Oliver & Company, and loved them all. With one exception: Pete’s Dragon.
I hated Pete’s Dragon.
The 1977 misstep is a nap-inducing bore, and when it wasn’t sentimental to a fault, it was unsettlingly dark. One of the lyrics to “The Happiest Home in These Hills” — the first song in the movie! — goes, “Beat him, heat him, eat him for dessert/Roast him gently so the flames won’t hurt.” These mountain-bred child abusers are talking about killing and eating Pete! “Belle,” it ain’t.
And yet not only did Pete’s Dragon get the live-action animated treatment, but the remake is also really good! As our own Mike Ryan wrote in his fairly glowing review, “It feels like a movie from a talented director who decided to make the best Pete’s Dragon remake possible, and he did.” That makes Disney two-for-two this year when it comes to animated-to-live action remakes (Pete’s and The Jungle Book), or two-for-three if you count Alice Through the Looking Glass (you shouldn’t), with plenty more to come, including Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins Returns, and reportedly Dumbo, Mulan, The Sword In the Stone, Pinocchio, and Peter Pan (don’t forget Tink).
Disney is cleaning out the infamous vault, and slapping a big name star on every property they own the rights to. But even the House of Mouse has limits (probably). There are some titles that will never get a live-animation remake, for reasons varying from impracticality to racism. Here are five such films, ranked from least to most implausible (I’m working off the official Walt Disney Animation Studios list, which doesn’t include anything that’s purely live-action, as well as the “associated” Walt Disney Productions movies).