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How Disney live-action movies compare to the originals

Do you prefer the live-action remakes or the original animation?
In 2023, the Walt Disney Company will be celebrating its 100th anniversary.

In 2023, the Walt Disney Company will be celebrating its 100th anniversary. On Oct. 16, 1923, Walt Disney signed his first animation deal for a series of animated comedies based on "Alice in Wonderland."

Over the last century, the company has churned out over 120 films, from early 2D animation classics like "Steamboat Willie" (1928) and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" (1937) to the impressive feats of CGI seen in recent films like "Turning Red" (2022) and "Lightyear" (2022).

Many recent additions to Disney's cinematic lineup have been live-action remakes of their 2D animated films, starting with 2010's "Alice in Wonderland" and 2015's "Cinderella."

Before the studio's live-action remake trend kicked off in earnest, Disney had only made three live-action remakes of their animated features: a 1994 adaptation of "The Jungle Book" and the Glenn Close-starring classics "101 Dalmatians" and "102 Dalmatians." The films were not particularly critically or commercially successful then, but that changed with Disney's subsequent live-action attempts in the 2010s. These projects reached various levels of critical success, but were usually box office smashes.

Stacker looked at every Disney live-action remake and sized them up next to the original animation version with IMDb and Metacritic data. Live-action adaptation sequels, spinoffs, and origin stories were not included—just remakes.

'Mulan' (2020)

- Director: Niki Caro
- IMDb user rating: 5.7
- Metascore: 66
- Runtime: 115 minutes

The prospect of a live-action "Mulan" that could harness the past decade's visual effects (known as VFX) developments had many fans excited upon its initial announcement. But the news that director Niki Caro's remake would cut out the musical numbers and remove fan-favorite Mushu left many nervous about what would come. The filmmakers chose to emphasize the darker, more realistic side of this war-based story by letting the battles play out in epic proportions with the help of CGI. Critics and audiences alike found faults in this retelling, with Vox critic Aja Romano considering it "superficial and perfunctory." The film's box office records reflect this lack of interest, specifically in the film's target audience: China.

'Mulan' (1998)

- Directors: Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Metascore: 71
- Runtime: 88 minutes

"Mulan" is a timeless feminist classic with an uncanny ability to balance heavy themes like wartime conscription with upbeat songs like "I'll Make a Man Out of You." This film was received incredibly well, grossing over $300 million worldwide and receiving nominations at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards. Much like the 2020 version, this film was panned in the Chinese market despite Disney's best efforts (like bringing in Jackie Chan to record versions of some of the songs), with some claiming the international failure had to do with Mulan being too ethnically ambiguous.

'The Lion King' (2019)

- Director: Jon Favreau
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Metascore: 55
- Runtime: 118 minutes

It's hard to fathom a more star-studded cast than that of Jon Favreau's 2019 "The Lion King," which features the likes of Beyoncé, Donald Glover, James Earl Jones, and Seth Rogen, among others. Unlike the Broadway version of "The Lion King," wherein human actors wear stylized animal costumes, this live-action remake relied on CGI to animate photorealistic animals voiced by the celebrities mentioned above. Critics protested the realistic animation style as the characters were essentially unable to emote. But despite this, audiences seemed to appreciate the film, with a 88% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

'The Lion King' (1994)

- Directors: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Metascore: 88
- Runtime: 88 minutes

Released in 1994, Disney's animated "The Lion King" is so widely praised that some consider it one of the best animated feature films ever made, with two recent surveys in 2018 and 2022 placing the film squarely in the #1 spot. "The Lion King" is undoubtedly one of Disney's best: a touching story about the families we're born into and the families we make. It features songs written by Elton John, a soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, and vocal performances from Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, and James Earl Jones.

'Pinocchio' (2022)

- Director: Robert Zemeckis
- IMDb user rating: 5.1
- Metascore: 38
- Runtime: 105 minutes

The most recent film to be released on this list, Robert Zemeckis' "Pinocchio" attempts to offer a faithful adaptation of the 1940 film and the source material, "The Adventures of Pinocchio," with a slightly modern twist. In this case, the twist includes swapping out cigarettes for root beer, pop culture Easter eggs galore, and extensive fourth wall breaks. The movie has been critically panned, with viewers widely considering it dull or soulless and protesting the disconcerting CGI animation of Pinocchio—who never turns into a real boy.

'Pinocchio' (1940)

- Directors: Norman Ferguson, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, Ben Sharpsteen
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 99
- Runtime: 88 minutes

"Pinocchio" followed directly in the footsteps of the studio's wildly successful "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and was a box office failure. This abysmal reception had less to do with the quality of the film itself than with the outbreak of World War II, preventing the movie from enjoying an international release. Despite its financial struggle, the film was adored by critics, with the New York Times calling it "radiant" and "witty" and heralding it as "the best cartoon ever made."

'101 Dalmatians' (1996)

- Director: Stephen Herek
- IMDb user rating: 5.7
- Metascore: 49
- Runtime: 103 minutes

"101 Dalmatians" is the oldest remake on this list, premiering over 10 years before the live-action craze of the 2010s and 2020s. While the character Cruella de Vil has recently taken center stage in 2021's "Cruella," Glenn Close did it first: simultaneously leaving audiences enraptured as the phenomenally dressed villainess. Unfortunately, Close's performance and the costuming are said to be the only impressive aspects of the film. Despite its box office success, it received negative reviews.

'One Hundred and One Dalmatians' (1961)

- Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 83
- Runtime: 79 minutes

Dodie Smith's book "The Hundred and One Dalmatians" supplies the source material for this 1961 Disney feature film, the studio's 17th animated film following 1959's "Sleeping Beauty." Despite its somewhat dark narrative following Cruella de Vil's attempt to turn the titular Dalmatians into a new coat, the film was a much-needed box-office success for Disney and received significant critical acclaim cementing it as a classic.

'Alice in Wonderland' (2010)

- Director: Tim Burton
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Metascore: 53
- Runtime: 108 minutes

Tim Burton's dark yet whimsical style combined with the fantasy of "Alice in Wonderland" seems to be a match made in heaven. And visually, it is. The settings, costumes, performances, and Danny Elfman's beautiful score all faithfully illustrate the world of Lewis Carroll's stories. However, despite its box office success (it was the second highest-grossing film of 2010), Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" was highly criticized for its confusing and unsatisfying narrative.

'Alice in Wonderland' (1951)

- Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, Jack Kinney
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 68
- Runtime: 75 minutes

"Alice in Wonderland" debuted in 1951 to very little fanfare—so little fanfare that the film bypassed a traditional theatrical run and was instead a TV release as an episode of "Walt Disney's Disneyland." Unlike 2010's "Alice in Wonderland," which was financially successful but critically panned, the original was a financial loss but is now celebrated as one of Disney's most unique animated offerings. In a compelling twist, Walt Disney's original plans for "Alice in Wonderland" involved a live-action Alice interacting with animated animals and characters … perhaps a precursor of what was to come.

'Cinderella' (2015)

- Director: Kenneth Branagh
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: 67
- Runtime: 105 minutes

Kenneth Branagh's "Cinderella" falls near the beginning of Disney's recent live-action remake craze. Years later, the film still stands out as one of the trend's most accomplished offerings. This film features the casting of Lily James in the titular role, Richard Madden as Prince Charming, Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother, and Cate Blanchett as the Evil Stepmother. "Cinderella" was a critical and box office success, retaining the magical atmosphere of the original despite removing musical numbers and talking animals.

'Cinderella' (1950)

- Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 85
- Runtime: 74 minutes

This "Cinderella" changed the face of Disney forever, both as a symbolic financial savior for the previously failing company and as the literal blueprint for the studio's castle-centered theme parks. The heartwarming tale of a mistreated woman getting everything her heart desires and songs like "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" and "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" make this a timeless film.

'The Jungle Book' (2016)

- Director: Jon Favreau
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 77
- Runtime: 106 minutes

Jon Favreau's "The Jungle Book" is one of the more respectable live-action remakes, no doubt thanks to the voice talents of Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, and Christopher Walken, to name a few. While it is not an outright musical, the film does include a few of the loved songs from the original. But on the whole, the film largely sticks to the lighthearted narrative of the original movie, combining the live-action performance of Neel Sethi (Mowgli) with impressive CGI animals and a VFX jungle. The film was a major box office success grossing $966.6 million. The film was so well received that the studio is working on a sequel.

'The Jungle Book' (1967)

- Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Metascore: 65
- Runtime: 78 minutes

1967's "The Jungle Book" has the honor of being the last Disney animated film Walt Disney worked on himself and the first animated film the studio released after their founder's death. Despite the darkness of its source material (Rudyard Kipling's 1894 anthology of the same name), the film took on a much lighter tone changing the story into a musical with "The Bare Necessities" standing out as a hit song. "The Jungle Book" has always been well received, financially and critically, on its original release and subsequent rereleases.

'Beauty and the Beast' (2017)

- Director: Bill Condon
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Metascore: 65
- Runtime: 129 minutes

With a budget of around $250 million, Bill Condon's "Beauty and the Beast" remake falls high on the list of most expensive movies ever made. However, given the film made over $1.2 billion, the investment appears to have paid off. "Beauty and the Beast" preserves the original film's story while introducing some modern twists, like Belle being an inventor, making LeFou gay, and writing a new song called "Evermore." They also added to the lore of the Beast's curse, expanding its reach to include the entire townsfolk, who forget his family ever existed in the first place.

'Beauty and the Beast' (1991)

- Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Metascore: 95
- Runtime: 84 minutes

Since its 1991 release, "Beauty and the Beast" has entranced audiences with its romantic narrative and musical numbers. Disney's 30th animated feature adapts the classic French fairytale, drawing heavily from Jean Cocteau's 1946 film of the same name. It was the first-ever animated film to win the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy and was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. All told, the film grossed around $400 million worldwide.

'Dumbo' (2019)

- Director: Tim Burton
- IMDb user rating: 6.3
- Metascore: 51
- Runtime: 112 minutes

Tim Burton returns as a director of a live-action remake of a Disney animated classic with "Dumbo," one of the most altered adaptations on this list. The film, set in 1919 instead of 1941, boasts an entirely new subplot surrounding Colin Farrell's character, Holt Farrier. The film also does away with all the musical numbers, which were likely too cheery for the film's darker tone. The most startling difference is that the animals in the film are devoid of human characteristics, meaning they don't speak or emote, and we never know what's happening in their heads. Sadly none of these creative risks paid off, and the film was a box office failure receiving mixed critical reviews.

'Dumbo' (1941)

- Directors: Samuel Armstrong, Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, Ben Sharpsteen, John Elliotte
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Metascore: 96
- Runtime: 64 minutes

An animated musical adapted from a popular children's book, "Dumbo" follows the somewhat tragic life of a young talking elephant who can fly. The film cost less than $1 million to make (a third of the budget of 1940's "Pinocchio"). Nevertheless, "Dumbo" was financially successful, receiving positive reviews from critics and audiences who applauded the imagination required for the story and animation. "Dumbo" now faces backlash for repeated use of racial stereotypes of African Americans, including a gang of crows whose leader is named "Jim Crow" in reference to U.S. segregation laws.

'Aladdin' (2019)

- Director: Guy Ritchie
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: 53
- Runtime: 128 minutes

Guy Ritchie's "Aladdin" update modernizes the narrative of the original while keeping the same spirit and visual splendor. Unlike other entries on this list, this remake keeps the classic musical numbers while also (much like the new "Beauty and the Beast") adding an entirely new song for Jasmine. Even though the film generally garnered positive reviews and made over $1 billion, there was still criticism of the CGI elements of the film, especially about Will Smith's Genie.

'Aladdin' (1992)

- Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Metascore: 86
- Runtime: 90 minutes

"Aladdin" finds its inspiration in the collection of Arabic folktales titled "One Thousand and One Nights." Many consider the character of the Genie to be one of the late actor Robin Williams' best roles, especially his energetic musical performance in the song "Friend Like Me." With praise from critics and audiences alike, "Aladdin" became the top-grossing film in 1992, making over $500 million worldwide.

'Pete's Dragon' (2016)

- Director: David Lowery
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Metascore: 71
- Runtime: 102 minutes

David Lowery's "Pete's Dragon" takes the story of the 1977 film and recontextualizes it in the Pacific Northwest during the '80s. While the core narrative remains consistent, this remake removes the original film's musical numbers and pares down the subplots in favor of a simplified, dramatic retelling. With big-name actors like Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford, this film endeared itself to critics and audiences who gave it largely positive reviews. However, the film was only moderately successful financially.

'Pete's Dragon' (1977)

- Directors: Don Chaffey, Don Bluth
- IMDb user rating: 6.3
- Metascore: 46
- Runtime: 128 minutes

"Pete's Dragon" is notable for being a live-action/2D animation hybrid long before the days of 1988's "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." This musical follows Pete and his sometimes invisible dragon Elliott in their dark but often comedic escape from Pete's abusive foster family. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe and two Academy Awards for its soundtrack but received mixed reviews and moderate financial success.

'Lady and the Tramp' (2019)

- Director: Charlie Bean
- IMDb user rating: 6.2
- Metascore: 48
- Runtime: 111 minutes

"Lady and the Tramp" is a fairly straightforward retelling of the original film's narrative. But instead of 2D animated dogs and cats, this version opts for a combination of real animals and VFX, using CGI to make their mouths move while they speak like humans. One notable difference in this version is the much-needed removal of "The Siamese Cat Song" due to its racist stereotypes. This film is the first live-action Disney remake to release straight-to-streaming on Disney+, making its financial gains/losses unknown.

'Lady and the Tramp' (1955)

- Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, Jack Cutting
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 78
- Runtime: 76 minutes

Disney's "Lady and the Tramp" is a classic romantic tale of opposites attract set against the backdrop of a small Midwestern town (changed to New Orleans in the 2019 remake). This 1955 film took inspiration from a short story in Cosmopolitan magazine named "Happy Dan, the Cynical Dog," which partly inspired the character of Tramp. "Lady and the Tramp" was Disney's first animated feature filmed in CinemaScope, but despite this cinematic progress, the film received very mixed reviews upon its initial release.