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The Disney Live-Action Remake That Shouldn't Exist, According To 30% Of People

Fans of Disney's animated films have been pretty divided on the Mouse House's live-action remakes, but nobody can say that the strategy of remaking those classics hasn't paid off. In fact, four of those movies — 2010's Alice in Wonderland, 2017's Beauty and the Beast, and 2019's Aladdin and The Lion King (which were released just a couple months apart) — have each raked in over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office, and 2016's The Jungle Book came pretty darn close to hitting that mark, according to Box Office Mojo. For a bunch of flicks that come under a lot of fire online for ostensibly being unnecessary cash grabs, it sure seems like audiences enjoy them — and given their often eye-popping box office, we can reasonably expect ol' Mickey to keep them coming.

Indeed, we already know that such beloved pictures as The Little Mermaid, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and Bambi all have live-action remakes in the works, and some of those billion-plus grossers we mentioned will likely be getting the sequel (or, in the case of The Lion King, prequel) treatment, as well. Fortunately, Disney has a knack for securing world-class talent for virtually every project in its pipeline — and even if you happen to be in the "cash grab" camp, you'll have to admit that so far, Disney's live-action redos have been some very well-made, gorgeously staged cash grabs.

We could debate the relative merits of these flicks all day, but instead, we decided to pit them against each other with a simple question for our readers: Which Disney remake simply shouldn't exist? The results were a surprisingly even split between four movies, but one emerged as the clear loser.

Audiences didn't believe in Dumbo

We posed the question to 650 readers from across the United States, and with a solid 30% of the vote, the majority of our poll's respondents agreed that Tim Burton's Dumbo — also released in 2019 — should never have seen the light of day. The flick also happened to be one of Disney's worst box office performers in recent memory, grossing a comparatively lackluster $353 million globally, according to The Numbers. Dumbo failed to take flight despite the efforts of an all-star cast that included the likes of Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, and Eva Green — and while there wasn't just one reason for its poor reception, we would argue that the flick was a poor match of director and material. Burton is a singularly weird filmmaker, and his tendency to inject an off-kilter, dark vibe into every project he takes on his well-known. Dumbo, the story of a baby elephant who learns that his giant, floppy ears make him unique and special (and, well, capable of flight), is a movie that didn't really benefit from Burtonization, and its reviews were filled with descriptions like "relentlessly gloomy" and "more glum than endearing."

One could also make the case that the original film, released all the way back in 1941, wasn't exactly familiar to a wide, contemporary audience. The flick was also bashed for its washed-out color scheme and a CGI main character that struggled to engage the viewer. Disney's first live-action offering of 2019, Dumbo amounted to a pretty hard stumble out of the gate — and according to our poll, it's the least essential of all of the studio's live-action remakes.

Fans were split on Disney's other recent live-action remakes

In second place, with 22.8% of the vote: Mulan, which was released as a premium rental on Disney+ in September 2020 before being made available for all of the streamer's subscribers in December. The flick's planned theatrical release was scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it may very well have underperformed pretty severely at the box office had that not been the case. The omission of several key characters and complete lack of songs made it controversial among fans of the 1998 original before it was even released — and, while it earned decent critical reviews, fans weren't quite so kind. By way of illustration, on review aggregator Rotten TomatoesMulan carries a 73% Fresh rating — but only a 49% audience score.

Next up, with an even 20% of the vote: The Lion King, which barely qualifies as "live-action," since every character is rendered using photorealistic CGI. The film benefited from a stellar voice cast, the direction of The Mandalorian's Jon Favreau, the full complement of songs from the 1994 original, and a new tune by Beyoncé ("Spirit") composed just for the movie — and it was a roaring financial success, raking in over $1.6 billion worldwide. A goodly number of our readers, though, failed to be won over by the (sort of) live-action Lion King.

In last place by a hair, with 19.54% of the vote: Aladdin, a faithful retelling of the 1992 classic with a wonderful lead actor in Mena Massoud (who literally looks like he stepped out of the cartoon into the real world) and Will Smith taking over for the legendary Robin Williams as the Genie. The Lion King and Aladdin both split critics down the middle, but fans mostly seemed to love them; roughly equal numbers of our poll's respondents would prefer to give them the heave-ho.

"Other" came in at 7.62% of the vote, with Beauty and the Beast, Jungle Book, and 2018's Christopher Robin all getting mentions. Obviously, not even Disney can satisfy everybody all the time — but given the absurd global reach of the studio, it's pretty safe to say it doesn't have to.