Disney’s plan to remake all of their most-loved, classic animated movies in live-action form is in full swing, with many of the remakes proving to be successful at the box office. This huge project began with Maleficent (2014), starring Angelina Jolie (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Taking Lives, Wanted), which was a loose remake of Sleeping Beauty (1959). Cinderella (2015), The Jungle Book (2016), Beauty and the Beast (2017), Christopher Robin (2018), Mary Poppins Returns (2018), Dumbo (2019), and Aladdin (2019) have followed thus far, and there are even more on the way.
There have been many successes, but some have proven to be poorly received critically, while others – most notably, Dumbo – have also been flops at the box office. Despite being one of the most iconic and beloved Disney characters, having starred in the company’s fifth film in 1941, Dumbo hasn’t enticed the cinema-going audience quite like the House of Mouse would have hoped given its $170 million production budget and large marketing campaign. Following the flop of Dumbo, the ill-received trailers for Aladdin, and the distinctly average showings by Mary Poppins Returns and Christopher Robin, movie fans are looking on to the next remakes on the Disney slate, trying to find the next blockbuster or flop.
The Lion King (2019) is an all-but-guaranteed hit, in the upper-echelons of Beauty and the Beast to rake in over $1 billion, and Mulan (2020) looks set to be well-received as a big-budget remake. However, Lady and the Tramp (2019) looks to be a different prospect altogether. Starring the voices of Inland Empire’s Justin Theroux, Tessa Thompson (Westworld, Thor: Ragnarok), and Benedict Wong (Sunshine, The Martian, Doctor Strange), a lot is riding on the reception of Lady and the Tramp after Dumbo put a stick in the spokes of Disney’s master plan.
As much as many audiences have enjoyed seeing classic Disney films comes to life, the creators simply haven’t been allowed to differ from the originals enough, in terms of content, to make them stand-out. Some have worked tremendously well by following the blueprint, with a couple of politically correct updates, but others which also had to do so couldn’t update the story while also adhering to the need to deliver the originals with some modern aesthetics.
This may be where Dumbo fell apart. The original was steeped in elements of 1940s American culture and views which would now be seen as far too offensive to have in a modern movie for children – not to say that these changes weren’t necessary. Not only this, but updates like humans suddenly being kind to animals has taken away from the against-all-odds story of the original Dumbo movie. As noted by ScreenCrush, the remakes can’t be too different from the originals, but they also need to give the audience something that they didn’t expect despite them only showing up to see the beloved set pieces in the new way.
There’s no doubt that the original Dumbo is among Disney fans’ favourite film characters, an all-time classic of animated movies, but the simple fact is that not all of Disney’s old animated movies are built for the live-action makeover. The trailers for Aladdin received a lot of criticism for the blue Will Smith, and seeing a life-like looking elephant with huge ears being bullied – for the most part – isn’t something that many cinemagoers want to see. Some of the classic characters, while adorable and relatable in hand-drawn animation, look unsettling in real life.
Here lies the potential problem with Lady and the Tramp. Featuring two protagonist dogs and many other dog side characters chatting, giving each other looks of affection, and being romantic doesn’t sound as though it’ll translate very well into the new Disney remake strategy.
Disney’s 2019 release of Lady and the Tramp doesn’t have a bulging cast like so many of the other recent remakes. Taking the roles of human characters in the movie are Kiersey Clemons (Dope), Thomas Mann (Project X), Yvette Nicole Brown (Community), Adrian Martinez (The Secret Lie of Walter Mitty), and Arturo Castro (Broad City), which isn’t exactly the all-star cast that would entice a general audience. The grade steps up a bit more in the voice acting, with Tessa Thompson as Lady, Justin Theroux as Tramp, and Benedict Wong as Bull.
The movie will be of a much smaller budget than that of recent remakes and, thankfully, won’t feature CGI animation to bring the anthropomorphised characters to life. ScreenRant expects the new Lady and the Tramp to be a throwback to old Disney talking dog movies where real trained dogs play the dogs and are given voiceovers by actors.
Another pro for Disney is that Lady and the Tramp won’t be subject to the full span of cinematic scrutiny of ticket sales and critics, instead being launched on the upcoming Disney+ streaming platform. Simply by having an online premiere, expectations will be tempered, and audiences will be more receptive if the film is at least enjoyable and filled with nostalgic moments. It would have been very risky to release another live-action remake in 2019, especially one which may have aimed to animate dogs with moving mouths.
The upcoming Disney movie starring Justin Theroux won’t be under the same microscope as the other live-action remakes and yet should be appealing enough for fans to sign-up to Disney+. Lady and the Tramp, which launches on 12 November 2019 online, looks set to be a welcomed addition to the new platform.