In the past few years, Disney has been combing through their top-performing properties and trying to find ways to reboot, revitalize, or reinvigorate some of their most beloved franchises. Some audiences will say these reboots have captured or even improved the original movies. However, some movies seem to have left a bad taste in viewers’ mouths.
While Rotten Tomatoes isn’t always a fool-proof method of finding out what resonates with audiences, it can be a valuable metric for deciphering what excites people when it comes to movies. Disney’s newest live-action reboot, Pinocchio, has the lowest Rotten Tomato score by 28%, showing that even the most beloved stories can lack the spark that original viewers fell in love with. With the upcoming live-action reboot of The Little Mermaidcoming to theaters in May 2023, now is an excellent time to review which reboots worked and didn’t work for the House of Mouse.
10 ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (2010)
In 2010, Disney released Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton‘s foray into Lewis Carrol’s classic tale. At 51%, it’s clear that audiences prefer the original 1951 version, which currently has an 84%. Even with a star-studded cast and Burton’s typical surreal imagery, Burton could not capture the original film’s lightning-in-a-bottle beauty and charm.
While this is technically a continuation of the original story instead of an outright remake, it almost feels like a completely different universe and cast of characters. Utilizing the same methods that gained him popularity, including Johnny Depp, Helena-Bonham Carter, and Danny Elfman, didn’t do much to save this movie from being critically panned.
9 ‘The Lion King’ (2019)
While not a live-action film (all the animals you see are computer generated), the photorealistic imagery utilized by 2019’s The Lion King is supposed to invoke those feelings. Jon Favreau‘s retelling of Disney’s most enduring tale had all the necessary pieces for success: a stacked voice cast featuring Donald Glover, Alfre Woodard, and Seth Rogan, top-of-the-line CGI, an original song sung by Beyoncé — and that’s just for starters. However, sometimes a completed project is worth less than the sum of its parts. The film currently sits at 52% on Rotten Tomatoes, making it a “Certified Rotten” film.
The original 1994 version of The Lion King earned a well-deserved 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and is considered one of the greatest animated films ever. However, despite stellar casting and imaginative graphics, many viewers felt neutral about the 2019 reboot and found that it did not measure up to the original.
8 ‘Maleficent’ (2014)
This is a film that isn’t a direct remake but rather a retelling. While Angelina Jolie’s performance as the titular mistress of evil is a career-definer, and the special effects are stunning, the story itself cannot match the majesty of 1959’s Sleeping Beauty.
While the original sits at a striking Rotten Tomatoes score of 89%, audiences found this film somewhat enjoyable but not close to recapturing the magic from the first film.
7 ‘Aladdin’ (2019)
This Guy Ritchie film had some big shoes to fill when it was first announced. The original Aladdin is a highly-rated masterpiece at 95% and is considered a stable of the Disney Renaissance era. With the passing of Robin Williams, many fans felt like there was no suitable replacement for the Genie and that the story should stay laid to rest in the sand dunes of Agrabah forever. Because of this, when it was announced that Will Smith would be playing the iconic role, many fans were tepid.
The film undoubtedly suffers from missing Williams’ energetic lines and iconic impressions, but overall, it is a solid entry into Disney’s live-action universe, sitting at a 57% on Rotten Tomatoes. It combines aspects from the Broadway show as well as the original film while updating some of the more insensitive depictions that the original film is criticized for. Smith’s take on the genie suited his character well, and this is sure to be a movie that is still watched and enjoyed years from now.
6 ‘Lady and The Tramp’ (2019)
This reboot of a classic romance was one of the first original films available on Disney+, and the streamer certainly tried to put its best foot forward. 2019’s Lady and the Tramp is currently sitting at a ranking of 66%. With a stacked cast including Tessa Thompson, Sam Elliot, and Janelle Monáe, the film was a perfect way to reintroduce lovable characters that audiences recall from the original 1955 version.
The CGI in the film does a great job of juggling the classic charm while also treating the eye to the most up-to-date technology. While it still doesn’t surpass the original, which currently sits at a ranking of 93%, the film is still a certified breath of fresh air to audiences.
5 ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (2017)
A dreamy update on the seminal original, 2017’s Beauty and the Beast is a visual stunner that retains the same great story that made millions fall in love with the 1991 film. Emma Watson shines as Belle, who is slightly rewritten to allow for more character depth. While her vocals are slightly shaky, the musical aspect is more than saved by the phenomenal musical and acting talent that rounds out the rest of the cast.
In making reboots, there is always a question of how much one should change from the original to match the needs of current audiences while also staying true to the original. It is safe to say that director Bill Condon was able to find a middle ground, and the film is ultimately successful at what it sets out to do, earning 71% on Rotten Tomatoes.
4 ‘Mulan’ (2020)
While audiences weren’t too entranced by this remake of the 1998 film (audience score is currently a staggering 47%), the Tomato meter has Mulan sitting high at 72%. Many changes, such as the removal of musical elements and changing cinematic tone, made audiences worried that the remake wouldn’t be up to par with the original. Because of the many differences between this edition and the 1998 version, as well as a price-point upon the film’s original release on Disney+, many fans were initially weary of watching this film.
While it feels different from the original 1998 animated classic, the film has striking visuals and is certainly worth a watch for any Disney+ subscriber looking for a fun movie night experience.
3 ‘Cruella’ (2021)
At 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, Cruella ranks in the top three best live-action reboots that Disney has done so far. This film, directed by Craig Gillespie, garnered acclaim for the story, costume design, and acting performances. It did an overall outstanding job providing a strong background story to one of Disney’s most iconic villains.
Casting Academy Award Winner Emma Stone as the titular Cruella de Vil proved to be a stroke of genius, and the addition of Emma Thompson as The Baroness was the icing on the cake. In addition to a compelling story and highly praised performances, Cruella continues Disney’s streak of visual excellence — it even won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.
2 ‘Cinderella’ (2015)
There have been many adaptations of this centuries-old tale, and after so many different versions of Cinderella have been repeated through books and movies, it can be difficult to find one that stands out among the noise. However, the stunning visuals, moving storylines, and a fantastic score combine to make this remake of a Disney classic into one of the best live-action reboots that Disney has ever done.
Hollywood powerhouses Cate Blanchett and Lily James lead this magical remake of the 1950s classic. At 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, it is clear that critics and fans alike enjoyed this film from “Once Upon A Time” to “Happily Ever After.”
1 ‘The Jungle Book’ (2016)
Surprising no one who has experienced this masterclass in animation and storytelling, this Jon Faverau-helmed film is the highest-rated live-action reboot for Disney so far. While the original 1969 version is one of the greatest exploits in animation, the live-action version enhances all the charms of the original while pushing the story and characters to surprising places. At 94%, it is the only live-action reboot from Disney to rate higher than the original film, which currently sits at 88%.
Much like the recent reboot of Aladdin, The Jungle Bookmixes nostalgia with updated versions of characters that didn’t hold up to modern-day standards of inclusivity. That, combined with an extraordinary voice cast including Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, and Idris Elba, made this film not only the greatest reboot from Disney but likely one of the greatest films Disney has ever made, period.
KEEP READING: All of Disney’s 2023 Live-Action Adaptations, Ranked Least To Most Anticipated