Walt Disney Co. is increasingly favoring live-action remakes of its classic animated films, and the box office results make it easy to see why.
The 2016 live-action remake of “The Jungle Book” is so far the fifth-highest grossing film of the year, domestically, at $364.0 million after a $103.3 million opening. That success comes on the heels of solid results from live-action titles like "Maleficent," "Alice in Wonderland" and "Cinderella."
The studio recently said more live-action remakes are in the works. “Beauty and the Beast,” is set to release March 17, 2017, and Disney just confirmed that it would release a remake of “Mulan” on Nov. 2, 2018. The studio also recently confirmed that plans are under way for a live-action version of “The Lion King,” directed by Jon Favreau, who directed this year's "The Jungle Book." Some suggest there could be 16 titles or more under consideration for live-action treatment at the Mouse House, including “Pinocchio,” “Dumbo,” “The Sword and the Stone” and “Aladdin.”
Remakes of “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Jungle Book,” “Maleficent” and “Cinderella” each collected 9-figure sums domestically before leaving theaters, according to Box Office Mojo. Globally, some of those titles catapulted into the stratosphere. “The Jungle Book” and “Alice in Wonderland” each landed near the $1 billion mark in total revenue on production budgets at or under $200 million. “Maleficent” left theaters in 2014 with $758.5 million on a $180 million budget. Even 2015’s “Cinderella,” which did not generate quite the same buzz as some of the other titles, managed to more than quintuple its production budget globally.
Besides the reinvigorating some of Disney’s aging brands, the live-action remakes also delivered box office results at significant proportions to the lifetime totals of the original films they are based on. This year's "The Jungle Book" has brought in more than half of the inflation-adjusted $668.2 million that the animated version garnered over three separate theatrical releases. The live-action "Alice in Wonderland" brought in $369.1 million in domestic box office grosses in 2010, far surpassing the $22.2 million total generated by its animated predecessor in 1951. The new "Alice" led to a sequel: this year's "Alice Through the Looking Glass." However, the second film's $77.0 million domestic gross fell short of its $170 million budget.
Disney has greenlit a live-action sequel for "The Jungle Book" with director Favreau back at the helm.