We are in the midst of a new era of Disney movies. Not a new era of new Disney movies, mind you, but just a new Disney era in general.
I mean, of course, that we are now solidly in the "live-action" adaptation Disney era as the Mouse House looks back to its illustrious past to put new(-ish) spins on some classic stories. Thus far, they've produced "live-action" versions of Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, Aladdin, and The Lion King, with varying degrees of live-action.
As for future iterations, the list of planned "live-action" Disney movies and adaptations includes Mulan, Lady and the Tramp, The Little Mermaid, Snow White, Cruella (a 101 Dalmatians spin-off starring Emma Stone), Pinocchio, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Prince Charming (a hot take on Disney princes, I think?), Oliver Twist (but like… a modern musical one. And it stars Ice Cube), James and the Giant Peach, Tink (a Tinkerbell movie), Peter Pan, The Sword in the Stone, and Lilo & Stitch.
Some of these "live-action" adaptations are more confirmed than others, while some will hit the big screen and others will premiere exclusively on Disney+. But regardless of how people consume them, each one of these movies has the chance to make it big or terrify the masses. Or both. Probably both. Just think back to this summer's The Lion King adaptation — it's a huge hit for sure, but no doubt people were scarred by seeing Mufasa die in 'real' life, with his young cub standing above him, visually emotionless but still somehow screaming.
There are plenty of other iconic Disney animated moments that risk that kind of awkward translation. Here are the things I'm most terrified to see, plus a couple of bonus nightmares about movies that aren't confirmed for "live-action" but that we're shaking in our boots just thinking about.
What are you scared of? Let us know in the comments below.
When the kids get turned into donkeys in Pinocchio
The nightmare hellscape that is Pinocchio can only get that much worse in "live-action" form. While there have been some rumor-esque reports that Disney has canceled the live-action Pinocchio because of a changeup in directors and such, Tom Hanks is, as far as we know, still attached to play Geppetto.
All that Hollywood trade stuff aside, what we’re really here to talk about is a scene that has likely stuck in the back of your brain since childhood, haunting your subconscious. That's right, I'm talking about the scene when Pinocchio and the other boys on Pleasure Island (a name that has not aged well) get turned into donkeys.
It is harrowing. It is nightmare-inducing. Now imagine a group of real boys screaming in pain and terror as their faces elongate and hooves grow from their feet.
A realistic whale stomach in Pinocchio
Lotsa odd animal stuff in Pinocchio. While the kids-as-donkeys is my main concern, eyeing the real intestines of a whale as our heroes slosh around inside with a variety of fish and other ocean gunk is, well… not something I think I can stomach.
Will this be CGI? A terrifyingly accurate model of roiling, pink-tinged whale flesh? An actual whale stomach attached to a set somewhere in Los Angeles?
Real dogs talking throughout Lady and the Tramp
After the oddity that was watching photo-realistic lions in The Lion King attempt to emote around half-interested human voices, Disney's next upcoming live-action animal movie, Lady and the Tramp, which will premiere on Disney+ in November, doesn't give me much confidence. I definitely believe in the technology's ability to move the titular dogs' mouths around human voices — I just don't believe it won't be disturbing.
The other live-action talking dog movie that immediately comes to mind is another Disney joint: Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. In that movie (and its sequel, Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco), though, the animals' mouths don't move when they talk. It's almost like they're speaking telepathically as the real-life dogs and cats portraying the characters wag their tails, bounce around, and stand stock-still in the middle of a field. The voice actors' lines are then just laid over the top of the animal footage.
Actually, that’s exactly what I want from Lady and the Tramp: telepathic dogs. I know that’s not what we’re gonna get, but a girl can dream.
Otherwise, I’m terrified.
Madam Mim's pig face in The Sword in the Stone
For a movie that involves a number of disturbing moments, Madam Mim's pig face really steals the show in the original The Sword in the Stone. For the live-action version, my mind, unfortunately, goes straight to the Piggy Man from American Horror Story.
Honestly, what horrors we'll witness during Madam Mim's "magnificent, marvelous, mad Madam Mim" bit as she grows, shrinks, kills flowers, and tries to seduce a bird-boy are nothing compared to their counterpart: that pig face. I still see it in my nightmares. Now imagine that in "live-action." A horror movie in the making.
Everything about a 'live-action' Stitch
In cartoon animation form, Stitch is a fuzzy blue hellion who rides the all-important line between potentially-creepy and ultra-cute. A 'realistic' CGI rendering of Stitch sounds, honestly, horrifying. The Beast from the live-action Beauty and the Beast immediately comes to mind, but at least the Beast is a slightly more humanoid figure than Stitch, whom the charmingly quirky and misunderstood Lilo adopts from a pet shelter as her new "puppy."
Big bug eyes, antennae, four (detractable) arms, and razor-sharp claws; what could possibly go wrong?
While Lady and the Tramp is set to use real dogs (with some CGI layered over the top to make them, y’know, actually talk), it doesn’t seem likely that Disney will have a real-life Stitch equivalent... unless we start making some big cosmic discoveries, and fast.
What does an alien's acting contract look like? And would that alien just naturally nail the famous Stitch voice or would it have to hire a dialect coach?
All joking aside, Lilo & Stitch has a real possibility of ending up in the uncanny valley, stuck in the same meme cycle as Sonic the Hedgehog. Granted, it could also go the way of Pokémon Detective Pikachu. Only time will tell.
Mermaids trying to drown Wendy in Peter Pan
While we already got a live-action Peter Pan in 2003 with a slightly more devilish slant to both our eponymous hero and the magical Neverland, Disney's still determined to give us another take on the classic J.M. Barrie story Peter and Wendy. As of right now, Pete's Dragon director David Lowery is attached — otherwise, we know nothing.
What I know, personally, though, is that the original 1953 Peter Pan's scariest scene isn't anything that happens at Skull Rock or the fact that Tinkerbell 100 percent wants to murder Wendy out of jealousy, but everything to do with the mermaids. The mermaids are, apparently, so jealous of Peter’s fondness for Wendy that they think it's a funny "joke" to try to drown Wendy.
In the 2003 version, the mermaids are ghostly creatures who speak in clicks and whom Peter warns Wendy about from the very beginning. In the 1953 version, they're beautiful girls who love to flirt with Peter and whom he finds charming; he even defends them after they try to drown Wendy. He defends them.
BONUS: Aristocats (aka Cats lite)
After the pure, trippy insanity that was the first trailer for the upcoming Cats movie (and the subsequent reaction from folks online), the thought of a live-action Aristocats movie has me all panicky.
Thomas O’Malley, Duchess, and the kittens would, hopefully, be less meme-able than the Cats cats... but who knows.
BONUS: Live-action Mickey and friends
Think about it: Live-action Goofy.
No. Just no. Please, dear God, no.