TROUBLE CITY

Which Animated Films Deserve the Live-Action Treatment?

Pop Culture, ArticlesBrandon MarcusComment
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After much buzz and hoooplah, Disney’s Aladdin has arrived…again.

This Friday, audiences will be treated to a live-action adaptation of the landmark animated film. As we all know, Aladdin is one of the many remakes Disney has produced. It joins the ranks of Beauty and the Beast, Cinderalla, The Jungle Book and the upcoming The Lion King and Mulan. That’s a list that will only keep growing over time too.

Why does Disney continue to transform their cartoon classics into live-action pictures? Because audiences are devouring them. Each of the movies I listed above were box office smashes and Aladdin promises to be one too. Though the stories and characters are well known, moviegoers can’t wait to eat these films up.

But let’s think outside the box. Let’s take a look at some other animated movies — including many that aren’t Disney — that deserve to be given the Aladdin treatment. Which other films should morph from ink to flesh?


We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story

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I bet you forgot about this one, didn’t you? It was never acclaimed nor was it a huge hit but We’re Back capitalized on the dinosaur craze of the mid-90s. I was a young boy when the film came out and I couldn’t wait to see what these dinos could get up to in modern-day New York City. And…I was disappointed. The movie is a pretty big flop, containing decent animation and performances but a rather bland story that I can hardly remember. But the dinosaurs! Boy, I was smiling ear to ear seeing them roam through Manhattan.

A live-action version of We’re Back would look great. The dinosaurs would have to be CG, of course but the cast and, more importantly, the city of New York would be real. And let’s be honest: you’d like to see dinosaurs stomping around the crowded streets of the Big Apple. It’s far better than Godzilla destroying it again, right?


The Thief and the Cobbler

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Have you ever heard of The Thief and the Cobbler? Maybe not. But you should have. The film was lambasted by critics because, well, it sucks. But despite the end product on display, the film has a wild history that’s worth learning about. Director Richard Williams poured his heart and soul into Cobbler for more than 25 years before he was unfairly fired and replaced in the final stages of production. Warner Bros haphazardly re-dubbed and re-edited the film to compete with Disney’s Aladdin and released something that was far from Williams’s vision. But there are parts of the movie that hold up, including the ambitious and ahead-of-its-time animation style.

It’s a damn shame that The Thief and the Cobbler was manhandled and brutalized by the studio but maybe a live-action version could bring the story to life. Of course we would lose William’s fantastic animation but the story, similar to Aladdin in many ways, would be respected. Plus maybe a successful live-action take on the movie would finally allow Williams’s director’s cut of the cartoon to see the light of day. That’s really what I want in the end.


Balto

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Since it was an animated film, Balto had to deliver on the silly, zany antics that other cartoons were bringing to audiences in the mid-90s. So you got talking animals with silly voices, larger-than-life villains and other kid-friendly material that families would gobble up. But the story of Balto is actually pretty heavy for a kids flick. It’s about a dog who is trying to save a bunch of children dying from a disease in remote Alaska. Not necessarily the cutest plot, huh? There’s not a whole lot of laughs in a kids hospital ward.

A live-action Balto could drop the voice-acting and the whacky side characters and focus on the bravery of the dogs and humans who saved scores of innocent children. It would be bleak, exciting and far more daring than most family fare. I don’t know about you but that’s a story I would want to see. If only we could somehow keep Kevin Bacon involved…


The Halloween Tree

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Based on Ray Bradbury’s novel of the same name, The Halloween Tree was a made-for-TV movie about friendship, Halloween and history. It had a strong voice performance from Leonard Nimoy and warm, kindly narration from Bradbury himself. It followed a group of kids who traveled through time to save the soul of their best friend. Along the way they learn the history of their Halloween costumes and what each of them mean. But it’s more than just a lesson on different customs, it’s a thrilling adventure about childhood and the scary things that can greedily snatch our companions away.

Like all of Bradbury’s work, there is a sense of comfort and awe in everything but unfortunately this was a made-for-TV film and the budget was lacking. Imagine if this was a live-action production with a cast of actors and great CG and a director who knew how to perfectly capture Bradbury’s whimsical fantasy. Like Coraline and the recent Goosebumps films, a new version of The Halloween Tree could be a light horror film for kids. It wouldn’t be out-and-out scary but it would be a bit exhilarating and just a wee bit creepy. I think this one is a no-brainer and something that could rake in the cash if done correctly. Come on, people. Give Bradbury some love.


The Hunchback of Norte Dame

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Finally, let’s remake another Disney film. I know that the animated Hunchback of Notre Dame wasn’t the first film version of Victor Hugo’s classic so I don’t feel too bad about another live-action take on the story. Disney did a decent job with their 1996 cartoon but of course it lacked some of the gravity of the story because it had to shoehorn in songs and zany characters (that Jason Alexander gargoyle haunts me to this day). And since Disney isn’t cruel, Quasimodo was softened and made kid-friendly. Now I doubt a live-action translation of the movie would make Quasi as horrific as Hugo envisioned but it would add a layer of reality, which would be a welcome change.

Of all the stories Disney has taken on, Hunchback is the heaviest and darkest. In fact, people were confused why a cartoon would contain such themes and drama. A live-action version of the story, produced by Disney, would still entertain families but could be quite mature. And let’s be honest, it could bring in an Oscar nomination for the actor lucky enough to play Quasimodo.