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Animated movies and shows that deserve a live-action version

Disney is well on its way to world domination. The Mouse House might as well replace the Hollywood sign with two giant Mickey ears. A big factor in Disney's dominance has been remaking their own creative product. We use the term "creative" loosely, as some of these remakes are borderline shot-for-shot recreations. However, it's worked out pretty well for them, with The Lion King leading the way with $1.6 billion worldwide

Meanwhile, Aladdin was one of the few winners in a summer movie season that took no prisoners. After this success, Disney shows no signs of slowing down. Which makes us wonder, why aren't other studios doing the same thing and remaking their own animated classics? Lets consider some options! Some ground rules first. First, we're only including traditional, hand-drawn animation. Second, we're using the term "live-action" to mean photo-realistic. (In a world where Henry Cavill's Mission: Impossible mustache can be removed to create a clean-shaven Superman, just about every movie is digitally animated.)

Ready to feel like a kid again? Climb aboard the nostalgia train, and check out the animated movies and shows that deserve a live-action remake!

Never say never to An American Tail remake

For many 30-something Millennials, the most famous mouse of their childhood wasn't Mickey. Instead, it was Fievel. The blue cap-wearing, Russian rodent was everywhere, and his hold on American pop culture continues to this day. Steven Spielberg even used Fievel on the logo for his production companies, Amblin Entertainment and Amblimation. 

In some ways, Fievel is more popular than the movie he was in. An American Tail made a respectable $47 million domestically, but it was only #16 in 1986, behind Cobra. Yet we're pretty sure Sylvester Stallone's Lt. "Cobra" Cobretti was never made into a stuffed animal. Given Fievel's popularity, it seems like remaking his story as a live-action film is a no brainer. While Spielberg only produced the original (Don Bluth directed), he's the perfect choice to helm a remake. Spielberg's currently in a musical mood, as he's directing West Side Story, another story about immigrants in New York. And with immigration continuing to dominate political debates, the story of Russian mice seeking a better life in 1800s America ("There Are No Cats in America!") is the perfect vehicle to make a subtle statement. 

Also, "Somewhere Out There" is begging for a redo by Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, or some other modern pop star. Remaking An American Tail would definitely draw in not only kiddos, but also their parents, who wore out their VHS tapes back in their own childhoods. 

We'd love to see a live-action Land Before Time

There are several traumatic events from animated movies that every child must suffer through as a rite of passage: the death of Bambi's mom, the death of Simba's dad, and the death of Littlefoot's mom. Grown men ball like babies when watching the little longneck say his last goodbye to his mother, who dies from her injuries after defending Littlefoot from the treacherous T-Rex the characters call Sharp Tooth. We're getting a little misty eyed just thinking about it. 

And with the remarkable success of the newly revamped Jurassic World franchise, now is the perfect time to remake Don Bluth's prehistoric follow-up to An American Tail. There's certainly the potential for a sequel. As of this writing, the franchise currently has 14 films! All of them were direct-to-video, including such entries as Invasion of the Tinysauruses and The Wisdom of Friends, with the latest, Journey of the Brave, coming in 2016. There's a lot of potential in this long-running franchise, and we think remaking Don Bluth's tale of a baby brontosaurus and his friends as they journey to the Great Valley seems like a no brainer. 

The Secret of NIMH is perfect remake material

The Secret of NIMH may seem like a long shot when it comes to getting a modern-day remake. After all, it wasn't a hit in 1982. However, it helped changed animation forever, introducing more ambitious storytelling into a genre that'd been stagnating under Disney's dominance. In fact, it was was because of Disney's stagnation that Don Bluth made NIMH in the first place. Bluth was a Disney animator who'd grown weary of what he felt was the Mouse House's lack of creativity, so he formed Don Bluth Productions in 1979. Their first production featured no singing or dancing, but it did feature mice, in an adaptation of Robert C. O'Brien's Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. And while it wasn't the most commercial debut, the film made waves and caught the attention of Steven Spielberg, leading to An American Tail and The Land Before Time

The story seems too dark and complex for modern audiences, much like it was in 1982. In a nutshell, a widowed field mouse seeks out a colony of priestly rats to save her son, discovering her late husband's connection to experiments on mice in a mental health facility. So yeah, it doesn't exactly scream "mainstream, family friendly hit." However, the Russo brothers (directors of the biggest movie ever, Avengers: Endgame) gained creative control over the MGM film library, and they're developing a NIMH remake. If there's one thing the Russos' know, it's how to make a hit. 

All Dogs Go to the Multiplex

All Dogs Go to Heaven might just be Don Bluth's darkest film. Yep, even darker than The Secret of NIMH. The movie famously features a deleted extended scene in hell, and it has a story that sounds like a Martin Scorsese/David Lynch mashup. For those of you who haven't seen it in years, All Dogs Go to Heaven is about a German Shepherd named Charlie (voiced by Burt Reynolds, doing a canine impression of himself), who busts out of prison, is murdered by his former partner, schemes his way out of Heaven, and launches a gambling operation by using an orphan girl who can talk to animals. So yeah, it's a little weirder than you remember. 

All Dogs Go to Heaven is best remembered for two things. First, there's the the title, which has become a part of our cultural lexicon, even for people who haven't seen the movie. And second, it opened the same weekend as the film which launched the Disney Renaissance, The Little Mermaid. So yeah, it got crushed at the box office back in 1989. However, if we got a live-action remake, it would be interesting to see how Hollywood would treat the film's darker elements. Get somebody like David Sandberg of Shazam! fame in the director's chair, and things might get especially scary.

But what's the likelihood that All Dogs Go to Heaven will be remade? Doubtful. People love dogs, but not dogs that are gambling, smoking, firing guns, and being attacked by Satan himself. Better just dust off your old VHS tape and show it to the kiddos when they (and you) are emotionally prepared.

Want to see some cute, live-action bunnies murder each other?

Watership Down isn't really a kid's movie. Either that, or UK children in the late 1970s could handle more disturbing material than kids today. Based on Richard Adams' novel of the same name, Watership Down is about a group of rabbits who flee their old home, facing many dangers on their journey to their new home. And by dangers, we mean being ripped apart by dogs and bigger rabbits, complete with animated blood. There's also a matronly goose you'd expect to sing a friendly little tune, but instead, she winds up dead in a pot, about to be consumed. That's about as disturbing as a PETA ad, and it probably created an entire generation of vegans. Watership Down is a film that was probably meant for kids who were raised on a farm. 

So all this begs the question … should it be remade? Well, it already has been. BBC and Netflix teamed up for an animated remake that came and went in 2018 with barely a peep. Frankly, we'd completely forgotten it even existed. While the film received solid reviews, the lack of dark imagery made it more forgettable than the original, which continues to haunt viewers to this day. We'd like to see it remade in live-action, but more like Babe, where the violence is implied, not seen. 

FernGully would go green and make green

We know what you're thinking. "Wait a minute, wasn't FernGully already remade in live action … as Avatar?" Nice burn. And yeah, there are many similarities between the former highest-grossing movie ever and this 1992 animated classic (as well as with Dances with Wolves and dozens of other movies). However, we'd still like to see a full-on, live-action remake of FernGully: The Last Rainforest. Like  many other films on this list, FernGully wasn't a huge hit. Despite that, it still managed to plant a seed in our memories. 

The story is about a human hired to destroy a forest, but he discovers the error of his ways after he's transformed into a magical creature, and he joins the fight against his former employers. So yeah, Avatar. The film is perhaps most noteworthy for Robin Williams' voice performance as a high-strung bat, a full seven months before he voiced the Genie in Aladdin. Maybe Will Smith could also play that part, too? Given that environmental awareness is at an all-time high, especially with the Amazon rainforest fires, now would be a perfect time to remake this story in live action.

Everybody (still) wants to be a cat

Disney is obviously dominating when it comes to live-action remakes, but there are plenty of films from their massive catalog we'd like to see remade, starting with The Aristocats, one of the better entries in Disney's much-maligned Bronze Era (1970 to 1988). The Aristocats doesn't belong in the same conversation as Disney's Golden Era (1937-1942) and Renaissance Era (1989-1999) masterpieces, but with a 66 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it's still a perfectly fine little feline flick. 

Released in 1970, The Aristocats is about a smooth-talking tomcat rescuing a family of Parisian felines — who are set to inherit their owner's fortune — from their dastardly butler. No, we don't see this lighting up the box office in the not-too-distant future, but with the November launch of Disney+ and the need to keep cranking out content, The Aristocats being remade for the streaming service is practically an inevitability. Much like the upcoming Lady and the Tramp, The Aristocats is easy content for Disney+'s insatiable appetite. In fact, rumor has it the cat flick is one of several old Disney films currently in development. Here's hoping it doesn't feature any terrifying felines like the ones from Cats.

The Rescuers could make a ro-dent in the box office

Released in 1977, The Rescuers is a Disney Bronze Age classic. The story is about Bernard and Miss Bianca, two mice who come to rescue a little girl from treasure hunters in the Devil's Bayou. The Rescuers is a perfectly fine little flick that should be a shoo-in for Disney+. The original featured the voice talents of Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor, so maybe this one can feature Zach Galifinakis and Marion Cotillard? Or maybe instead of a single movie, turn The Rescuers into a series, where the little mice rescue a new kid every episode or season. 

While we're at it, Disney should also remake The Rescuers Down Under, too. Released in 1990, between The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, The Rescuers Down Under could feature all sorts of amazing visuals (we'd love to see Disney recreate that gigantic, golden eagle). Plus, its anti-poaching message would definitely attract audiences in the 21st century. Either way, for Disney fans of a certain age, The Rescuers series holds a special place in the heart, and it definitely deserves a live-action remake.

A Great Mouse Detective remake is elementary, my dear Watson

Sherlock Holmes hasn't been this popular since the late 1800s. There's Robert Downey Jr.'s take on the character, which has earned more than $1 billion worldwide. There's Benedict Cumberbatch's contemporary spin, which launched his career and has been popular with fans on both sides of the pond since it was released in 2010. There's also the forthcoming Enola Holmes, with Henry Cavill donning the deerstalker, while Holmes' younger sister Enola (Millie Bobby Brown) takes center stage. Really, all that's missing is a mouse version, right? 

Fortunately, Disney already went down that road in 1986 with The Great Mouse Detective. Basil of Baker Street was likely many kids introduction Sherlock Holmes, and he formed an indelible imprint. And hey, since everybody absolutely adores animated mice and ol' Sherlock, now is the perfect time to bring this story back to the screen. It might even be a clever idea to get Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman to voice their animated doppelgängers. It makes perfect sense to remake the film in live action. And wouldn't you know it, Disney has already beaten us to the punch. But who could possibly replace Vincent Price as Ratigan?

Let's get dangerous

We kind of wish we were in this pitch session with the Disney studio bosses. "So imagine Donald Duck … but crossed with the Shadow and Batman!" As strange as it sounds, the resulting show — Darkwing Duck — was pretty cool, at least as far as our Millennial memories remember it from nearly 30 years ago. 

But you might be asking, "Remake Darkwing Duck? Why?" Sure his catchphrase ("Let's get dangerous!") was weak, and his intro reeks of early '90s cartoons, but there's still something delightfully kitschy about the character. We've already seen a CG live-action duck on the big screen, with Howard the Duck making a post-credits cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy. And honestly, is Darkwing Duck any more bizarre than a talking raccoon and tree? Turns out, some fans are already pining for it and have created a mock-up of what a live-action Darkwing Duck might look like. If this doesn't get you excited about the possibility, then you've gone quackers (or you were born after 1992). Maybe Christopher Nolan can direct. 

A DuckTales remake would make everyone go whoo hooo

Disney's love of talking cartoon mice is perhaps matched only by its love of talking cartoon ducks. There's Donald Duck, of course, as well as Daisy Duke and Darkwing Duck. Add DuckTales to that list. Running from 1987 to 1990, DuckTales was essential viewing for kids born in the late '80s, with the theme song permanently etched in our brains. Somebody at Disney saw the value in the outrageous adventures of Scrooge McDuck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie, and revived the franchise in 2017. But that's not good enough for us. We want to see a live-action remake! 

As long as we're making demands, it should also feature Donald Duck, whose decision to join the U.S. Navy and leave his nephews to his uncle Scrooge McDuck's care started the series (thank you for your service, Mr. Duck.) Anyway, we'd be down for a live-action reboot of the TV series or even a remake of DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. The DuckTales movie was actually the first feature from Disney's animation subdivision, MovieToons, which became DisneyToon and produced 47 animated films (mostly direct-to-video) before closing up shop in 2015. Anybody else getting nostalgic just thinking about this?

A live-action Gargoyles would rock.

Back in the mid-1990s, Disney animation wasn't the place for dark-themed TV. Come to think of it, it still isn't. The notable exception was Gargoyles, a show about a team of, well, gargoyles that turned to stone during the day, but fought crime and the forces of evil at night in New York City. Does making a live-action remake seem like a no-brainer? What if we told you Jordan Peele, yes, the Academy Award-winning Jordan Peele of Get Out and Us fame, actually pitched this idea to Disney executives? According to entertainment writer Richard Rushfield (via Slash Film), Peele told studio higher-ups he wanted to make Gargoyles. Their response? Nothing.  

"How do you turn down Jordan Peele?" wrote Rushfield. "Well, you can't. Who wants to be responsible for that decision? So in the absence of a good reason to say no, but prevented by their Big IP box from saying yes, Disney is slow walking the decision. It's hoping, it seems, that they'll run out the clock, he'll sign other deals elsewhere, and the project will just fade away." Given this was in 2018, Disney may have gotten their wish. And that's too bad, because we'd love to see it. Idris Elba as Goliath? Yes, please.

It's definitely time for a live-action Daria

Lasting from 1997 to 2002, Daria is the story of a smart, cynical girl who ventured through her teen years as a proud outsider, and it struck a cord with audiences. Since teenagers haven't changed that much in the past 17 years, now seems like the perfect time for Daria to come back and lay down some sass. 

Back in 2013, CollegeHumor produced a fake trailer for a Daria remake starring Aubrey Plaza, which is casting so perfect that it could only exist in our imaginations. Apparently back in 2018, MTV was pitching a remake of Daria, called Daria & Jodie, to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Apple. There's no word on if it was going to be live action or animated. And unfortunately, there haven't been any updates since, so who knows? One way or another, we're pretty sure Daria would just say "whatever."

Who else dug Doug?

Doug is an interesting show in the land of IPs. It debuted on Nickelodeon, but when Nick declined to order more episodes, Disney picked the series up in a multi-million deal where the Mouse House also acquired ABC. Our favorite green sweater vest-wearing dweeb is still property of Disney, though for many of us, you just can't replace his original four-season, 52-episode run on Nickelodeon. 

And honestly, the friendly outcast Doug is a character who'd be perfect for reaching tweens in a live-action streaming show. Back in the day, Doug taught kids about important issues, like romantic and platonic relationships, bullying, and the struggle to fit in. However, the one issue with a live-action remake is the characters being blue, orange, and green, which could wind up looking a little ridiculous. Will we see a live-action Doug? It's doubtful, but Disney does have to feed the beast that is Disney+, and what would be better than Doug? They could even release a Spotify album, with such Beets classics as "Killer Tofu" and "I Need Mo' Allowance."

Let's all join up for a live-action Voltron

Nearly a decade before a team of Mighty Morphin teenagers piloted animal robots to assemble a giant man robot, Voltron did the same thing. The concept sounds really strange when we write it out like that. Anyway, Voltron aired from 1984 to 1985, and it's had several reboots, most recently in the Netflix-exclusive series Voltron: Legendary Defender, which premiered in 2016. 

There's been talk of a live-action version since 2005, when producer Mark Gordon of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen infamy announced plans alongside his fellow producer, get this, Pharrell Williams. Alas, this team didn't get lucky. There were once plans for a live-action Voltron TV series, but we got Legendary Defender instead. The last time there was any announcement for a live-action Voltron movie was three years ago. With Power Rangers underperforming at the box office, leaving that series' future in doubt, we don't have a lot of confidence that another expensive, monster-fighting Japanese robot show will become a film. But hey, we can dream.