by Graham Pierrepoint
So far, Disney has more or less hit it out of the park when it comes to adapting their animated classics into live action. While things may have been kicked off with Glenn Close in 101 Dalmatians over 20 years ago, it’s been a relatively new trend to see big name Disney classics get the real-life revamp. Cinderella, The Jungle Book and Beauty and The Beast have all been met with praise – and big box office numbers – meaning that it makes perfect sense from a business point of view for Disney to continue licensing its classic IPs for the remake treatment.
The Lion King and Mulan are both in the works – but the most interesting titbits this past weekend have come from production progress on remakes of both Dumbo and Aladdin. Two movies that are equally beloved by millions around the world – and yet are decades apart in their original releases – and it seems that their live action updates could be just as disparate, at least in terms of style. You only have to appreciate that by knowing who’s in the director’s seat for both movies – Tim Burton is taking on Dumbo, while Guy Ritchie will be helming Aladdin. Iron Man and Jungle Book director Jon Favreau, meanwhile, will be back to direct The Lion King – you may have seen him recently as ‘Happy’ in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Burton will bring in previous collaborators Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito for Dumbo, along with Colin Farrell and Eva Green – and the Aladdin remake has also had a few details shared out. Relative newcomer Mena Massoud will play the title role, while Naomi Scott – who you may remember from this year’s big-screen reboot of Power Rangers – will take on Princess Jasmine. But how do you recast a role like the Genie? The character was – in no understatement – tied to the comic genius of the late, great Robin Williams – and it seems that to recreate the character for a new generation, casting directors have shifted towards another comic actor who made big waves in the 90s.
Will Smith – who has arguably taken more of a serious route in acting over the years – will portray the Genie in what could be a triumphant return to comic form. Putting critical calamities such as After Earth, Suicide Squad and Collateral Beauty behind him – could Smith become the iconic new Genie for a whole new generation of movie-goers? Let’s hope the casting crew know what they’re doing – and keep our fingers crossed that the adaptation magic continues in the years to come.