I don’t need to tell you that Disney has been making live-action reboots of every beloved animated classic it can think of. And because I’m a grumpy old man at heart, I’m against these movies on principle. There’s no valid reason to reboot perfect films like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. And no, the fact that it’s a way for Disney to print its own money does not count as a “valid reason.”
But rather than shake my cane at the Disney kids to get off my lawn, I want to do something useful. Here are old Disney films that actually could use a reboot.
1. The Sword in the Stone
Yes, some Disney movie are practically perfect. But not every film in the Disney vault is on that level. Some, like The Sword in the Stone, are bad.
I’m sorry to have to say this, because The Sword in the Stone is one of my favorite books. The movie, however, was a victim of Disney’s “let’s make a loosely-connected string of set pieces and call it a movie” era. Here is the actual plot (such as it is). Wart finds Merlin, who decides to become Wart’s teacher. Merlin turns Wart into a fish. Merlin turns Wart into a squirrel. Merlin turns Wart into a bird. Wart becomes King Arthur. The end.
[Side Note: The original Jungle Book film had this exact same problem. That’s why Jon Favreau’s reboot worked so well—it gave the film an actual plot.]
Give me a Sword in the Stone reboot that’s faithful to the whimsy and wisdom of the book. Give it an actual plot with actual things like character development and story arcs. Heck, maybe it could lead to a movie franchise based on the whole Once and Future King series. Studios like franchises, right?
2. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
There are things about Atlantis that I absolutely love. There are even more things that drive me absolutely crazy.
Things I love: the design of the Atlantis culture is superb. Everything from the architecture to the language to the clothing to the small details of daily life are both anchored in real civilizations, yet uniquely Atlantis. I also love the opening scenes, where the hapless academic gets drawn into a mysterious quest into the unknown. It harkens back to those old-timey pulp adventure stories that I love a little too much.
Things that drive me crazy: the story feels rushed in some areas, and plodding in others. The film doesn’t linger enough on the build-up to the adventure. Instead, it spends an oddly large amount of time on the exploration team travelling through a cave. The film also make some odd choices with Atlantis culture (why do all the people have to be 5,000 years old?). Finally, the plot undergirding the final act seems half-baked and nonsensical, like it was thrown together to justify the final action sequence.
In summary: the animated film is a five star concept with a two star execution. The perfect candidate for a do-over.
3. Robin Hood
I remember this movie fondly. I especially love the opening song about Robin Hood and Little John Walking through the forest (laughin’ back and forth ‘bout what the other one has to say). One of the reasons I enjoy this film is that it makes strong creative choices. Like casting animals as all the characters, and having the whole thing narrated by a minstrel rooster.
But ironically, these strong creative choices would give a reboot enough room to do something different. A live-action (and human) Robin Hood would actually be original. I guess they could drop the rooster minstrel too (but I’d recommend against it).
As an added bonus, the recent Robin Hood movies are either deathly serious, or just plain weird. Having a Robin Hood that retains the breezy, whimsical tone of the animated film would be a welcome change.
4. John Carter
Warning: this is one of my biggest soapboxes. I think John Carter was pretty good, and that it never should have flopped so hard. But rather than step on the soapbox, I’ll just say this: the movie lost a ton of money. But this had little or nothing to do with the movie itself. As such, I think it’s time for a reboot.
But because John Carter was a (ridiculously expensive) live-action film, Disney should do the reverse. Reboot it as a cartoon. This would give Disney a chance to fix its earlier mistakes in marketing and presentation. It would also give nerds like me a chance to see the whole planned trilogy.
5. Star Wars Prequels
Let’s start with the obvious. We can applaud George Lucas for taking technological and creative risks with the prequels. His risks all failed. Badly. The prequels are now an embarrassing anchor dragging the entire Star Wars canon.
But now, Disney can actually do something about it. It would just need a couple caveats. First, the reboot cannot change any of the later canon continuity. Second, the reboot shouldn’t be a series of films. If there’s one thing the latest trilogy taught us, it’s that the gargantuan Disney machine adds so much weight to Star Wars films that it’s practically impossible to tell cogent stories.
But that’s not the case for new Star Wars series like the Mandalorian. Because they’re smaller scale, there’s more opportunity for creative control and cohesive stories. Let’s reboot the prequel story, but as a Disney+ original series.
Please. Pretty please.