Disney have some of the most iconic characters of all time, with distinct and memorable looks that have stood the test of time. When it comes to bringing that look to life, however, it can become tricky. It can be a daunting task for any actor to take over an iconic role, let alone one that is first and foremost a cartoon to begin with.
But Disney has taken to making more and more live action remakes of their beloved classics, and in true Disney fashion, they've recruited some of Hollywood's brightest stars and have transformed them into a classic characters adults will recognize and children will discover. Here is a look at some of those incredible casting choices, and why they're perfect for this new generation of Disney films.
1. Angelina Jolie as Maleficent - Maleficent (2014)
While much was changed about the story of Maleficent in 2014's movie about the backstory of one of the most evil villains, Angelina Jolie was what made those changes work. You felt for her when she lost her wings, and by the end of the film were rooting for her to win.
She had a presence that was intimidating, but brought a softness to the character which was definitely a unique take. While many disagreed with the change to her character, as Maleficent IS supposed to be the "Mistress of All Evil" there is no denying that she brought that little something to the role that made the changes bearable.
Doing a side-by-side comparison of her most infamous scene, as well, you can tell that she studied her role immensely.
Was Angelina a good choice to play Maleficent?
2. Lily James as Cinderella - Cinderella (2015)
There have been many retellings of the story of Cinderella over the years, including two direct to DVD sequels that were made by Disney. However, this was the first foray that Disney made into doing a live-action Cinderella, and they made a lovely choice in actress Lily James.
With a light voice and kind way about her, we watched as she put up with the torment of her stepmother and two stepsisters, always with a smile on her face, reminding us to have courage and be kind. Though there was some controversy over the size of her waist (I was drawn more by the happiness and the magic she brought to the role) she was selfless to the point of putting the kingdom's safety before her own heart, and Lily played it in such a way that it was believable and not fake or overly dramatic.
Was Lily a good choice for Cinderella?
3. Richard Madden as Prince - Cinderella
Let's be honest, the "Prince" in the original Cinderella was boring. He has only a few lines and literally is shown yawning he has so little to do.
This prince was very active in the story, even meeting Cinderella before the ball. He immediately recognizes her at the ball and they dance, spend time together, make conversation and show a real connection. He even shows a real involvement in finding Cinderella, going with his men across his town to search for her. It's a nice change from the original where he just stayed at the palace in my opinion. He plays everything with such a charm that you can't help but fall in love with him. I guess that's why they call him Prince Charming.
Was Richard a good choice for the Prince?
4. Mia Wasikowska as Alice- Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Through the Looking Glass (2016)
Gone is the little girl in the original cartoon, replaced by an intelligent young woman who is quite sure that Underland is all a dream until she realizes that it is truly happening.
Mia had a lot of room to make this role her own, and she did just that bringing a wide eyed sense of wonder to her journey through the perils of Wonderland. Though it is actually named Underland, as Alice had mispronounced it as a child.
Working against green screen and actors who could all be a little over the top, she held her own and led audiences through a different and more a mystical version of Wonderland than we grew up with, much darker and more perilous than before. Mia showed the growth of the character throughout, however, and really made you believe that that little girl could have grown up to become this young woman. It should be interesting to see her return as the character in Through the Looking Glass.
Was Mia a good choice for Alice?
5. Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter - Alice in Wonderland
Johnny Depp has always been known for playing out-of-the-box roles, so it came as no surprise when he was cast as the slightly offbeat Mad Hatter. Even though we are used to the older man with the big nose, seeing his outrageous hair and green eyes was both staggering and slightly intriguing.
This take of the Hatter was just as eccentric, but he was also given a backstory that could break even the coldest of hearts, and that is where the brilliance that is Johnny Depp shined. Acting through a ton of makeup, he showed brilliant range and gave the Mad Hatter a self-awareness that was actually quite impressive. He should be fun to watch when the new movie comes out.
Was Johnny a good choice for the Mad Hatter?
6. Neel Sethi as Mowgli - The Jungle Book (2016)
It's hard to step into a famous role and it be your first time ever on the big screen. It is even harder when you are only acting to your imagination. Neel Sethi did the near impossible task of acting on his own for the entirety of an hour and a half long movie based on the classic tale of man-cub Mowgli, who was raised by wolves in the jungle.
I honestly believed sometimes that there must have been some animal around, because he acted and reacted to the other 'characters' so amazingly throughout the film. He carries the entire weight of the production on his shoulders (though the movie does boast an all star voice cast including Bill Murray as Baloo and Scarlett Johansson as Kaa) and he does it with ease.
His laughter and excitement are contagious, and you're rooting for him wherever he ends up at the end of his journey. This movie is definitely a new favorite, and this young man is certainly going places.
Was Neel a good choice for Mowgli?
7. Bryce Dallas Howard as Grace - Pete's Dragon
Not much is known about this film thus far outside of the fact that Elliot is now a furry dragon, however, Bryce's character Grace seems to have replaced the original character, Nora, who was the one who took Pete in.
As far as her being able to take on the role of the caregiver, and trying to make Pete realize that Elliott "isn't real", that is left to be seen. She definitely has the familiar look of Nora, however, and knowing a few of her roles before it should be interesting to see her take on this.
She already has experience working with the CGI and imagining fantastical creatures that are there thanks to her work with Jurassic World, as well as having to take care of kids being brought on unexpectedly. It should be intriguing watching her try to grow with the child, and come to terms with what is really happening.
Is Bryce a good choice to play Grace?
8. Emma Watson as Belle - Beauty and the Beast (2017)
For years the fan casting and fan art communities around the world have all agreed that Emma Watson would make the perfect live action Belle. It appears that Disney felt the same, finally casting her in the famous role.
Knowing her knack for playing characters who like books, this seems like a no-brainer. But Emma herself also shares characteristics with the princess, with strong ideals and an ability to stand up for the things she believes in, she's never afraid to voice her opinion on something. It should be especially interesting to see her in this film, as she has confirmed that she will be singing in it as well.
Is Emma a good choice to play Belle?
9. Chloe Grace Moretz as Ariel - The Little Mermaid
This project isn't being tackled by Disney but rather by Universal; it should be interesting to see the fairy tale brought to life. It will be more similar to the original story by Hans Christian Anderson, so comparing the two mermaids and how they differ in style and story is an intriguing thought.
Tthe movie doesn't have a release date yet, and they are still looking for a director after Sophia Coppola left the project. The silver lining here, however, is that Chloe Grace does seem like she will be perfect for the role. She has already starred in 6 remakes including Amityville Horror and Dark Shadows, the second of which she played another hybrid of two beings, a werewolf.
With her quirky personality, ability to do a lot of her own stunts (think of the underwater scenes!) and such an expressive face, she will be an amazing choice to give the mermaid a new voice.
Is Chloe Grace a good choice to play Ariel?
10. Emma Stone as Cruella de Vil
Just this past week Emma Stone was officially announced to play the live-action version of Cruella de Vil in a movie about her origins. While there has already been a live-action version of 101 Dalmatians with Cruella played by Glenn Close, this movie will focus solely on the fashion mogul and about how she became the evil woman that we know today.
Emma has always played kind of goofy or dominant girl type roles, either as Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man or Olive in Easy A. This role would be a departure from what she normally does, but she has never failed to disappoint in her roles so it should be interesting to see her take on this. She is also an incredible singer, so who wouldn't love her doing a rendition of "Cruella de Vil" for the soundtrack?
Is Emma a good choice to play Cruella?
The House of Mouse won't end their projects there, with even more live action movies lined up for the future. Some of the ones included are Mulan, written by Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek (which has a petition asking Disney not to whitewash the cast), Dumbo, directed by Tim Burton, Pinocchio written by Peter Hedges, Sword in the Stone, written by Brian Cogman, Winnie the Pooh, written by Alex Perry and a new live action Peter Pan directed by David Lowery.
As for who could play some of these other famous roles in Disney's upcoming movies? Well, I have a few thoughts of my own.
11. Jamie Chung as Mulan - Mulan
Jamie has already taken on this infamous role on ABC's popular show, Once Upon a Time. Her time on the show, however, is never long enough, with only a guest spot here and there.
Her playing the role in the movie would be the perfect opportunity for her to shine and show the many layers of this beloved character. She has already proved herself a capable warrior, having taught Merida how to fight as well and has shown a softness and kindness, especially to her friends such as Ruby. She has done an amazing job with the role so far, and I couldn't imagine anyone better continuing with the role.
Do you think Jamie would be a good Mulan?
12. Peyton Meyer as Peter Pan - Peter Pan
While I know that in the original story Peter is supposed to be 12-13, given how big of a crush Wendy has on him and the leadership qualities he posses, it doesn't seem too much of a stretch to age him just a little as other productions of the story have done before.
Peyton is a great choice as an actor who has shown his versatility with his characters on the Disney channel. He has that young boyish charm about him and he is also adventurous. But when he wants he can be pretty dark and angry as well. He has that trademark smirk that Pan always seems to carry, and I think it would be interesting to see his take on the role.
Do you think Peyton would be a good Peter?
13. Sabrina Carpenter as Wendy - Peter Pan
This would be an interesting departure for Sabrina, best known for her snarky role as Maya on Girl Meets World, which she co-stars on with Peyton Meyer. There have been episodes of the show, however, where she shows a real vulnerability and kindness that is very understated.
She actually played the role of Wendy in a stage production of Peter Pan, and it would be interesting to see her take on the role again. She and Peyton have an incredible chemistry, and it would be nice to see it blossom and grow in one of the greatest almost love stories of all time. Sabrina would bring a nice toughness to Wendy, which I think could be nice as she can be kind of a push over, and I think we could use that in a modern Wendy.
Do you think Sabrina could be a good Wendy?
It looks like there will be plenty of new yet familiar tales for young and old to enjoy together for a long time to come, and this Disney fanatic can't wait.
Do you have a favorite casting choice? Who would you cast in a live action version of your favorite Disney classic? Write about it! Become a creator!
Illustrations by Stephen Webster