'The Little Mermaid' is the latest in a long-standing trend of turning animated characters into live-action ones.
Walt Disney released the first-ever full-length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in 1937, sparking an artistic movement that has since allowed audiences across the world to fall in love with countless animated characters, creatures, animals and more.
Now nearly a century later, Disney also leads the movement to retell these beloved classics with live-action techniques, making waves for fresh takes on films like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and, just around the corner, The Little Mermaid.
Here is ET's guide to the live-action remakes of your favorite animated films.
THE DISNEY PRINCESSES
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937): Adaptation Coming
Based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Snow White was the first full-length animated feature film and Disney's first princess.
Disney is currently in production on a live-action remake starring Rachel Zegler as the titular princess. Gal Gadot will also star, along with Andrew Burnap and Martin Klebba. The project does not yet have a release date, but Zegler was spotted in costume on set in May 2022.
Though still far from finished, the project is not free from controversy. Shortly after her casting announcement, Zegler spoke out about racist criticism she received from fans angry about a Latina woman playing Snow White. Later, actor Peter Dinklage said he was "taken aback" by Disney's decision to adapt the film, criticizing the studio for promoting a "backward" depiction of people with dwarfism. The studio responded to the latter complaint, saying they had consulted with the dwarfism community and were working to avoid reinforcing the stereotypes presented in the original film.
Cinderella (1950): Adaptation Released in 2015
Cinderella's story may be one of Hollywood's most beloved. This princess' tale has been told and retold dozens of times throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, including Disney's original animated film in 1950. The studio released a live-action adaptation of the movie in 2015 starring Lily James as Cinderella, with Richard Madden as the prince and Cate Blanchett as the evil stepmother.
The adaptation was nominated for Best Costume Design at the 2016 Academy Awards.
Sleeping Beauty (1959): Maleficent Adaptations
Though Disney has never adapted its original 1959 Sleeping Beauty under the same title, the studio did release Maleficent in 2014, a retelling of the same narrative from the point of view of the kingdom's evil fairy.
The 2014 film was nominated for Best Costume Design at the 2015 Academy Awards, and the sequel was nominated for Best Hair and Makeup Design in 2020.
The Little Mermaid (1989): Adaptation Coming May 2023
A live-action Ariel will soon be part of (y)our world. Based on the original 1989 animated feature, starring Jodi Benson as the beloved mermaid Ariel, Disney's 2023 adaptation will star Halle Bailey in the same role. The casting made waves for its racial inclusivity, and the teaser trailer's release in 2022 spawned a trend of parents sharing videos of their young Black daughters reacting to the princess' reveal.
Bailey also faced backlash for her casting, having to push against racist claims that casting a Black actress went against the original fairy tale, but Benson supported Bailey's portrayal from the beginning of the adaptation's announcement.
"I'm SO proud of you & your beautiful performance as Ariel," Benson wrote on Instagram after the teaser trailer's release at the D23 Expo. "It was so wonderful to celebrate with your family."
Beauty and the Beast (1991): Adaptation Released in 2017
Beauty and the Beast, the origin story for Princess Belle, was Disney's 30th animated feature film at the time of its release in 1991. The studio then released a live-action adaptation of the beloved fairy tale in 2017, making it the second live-action retelling of their original princesses, after Cinderella.
Emma Watson took on the princess role for the 2017 release. The adaptation also featured Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson.
At the time of its release, some sources believed it to be the most expensive movie musical ever made (the New York Times reported a cost of $300 million), but the gamble paid off: the film eventually passed $1 billion at the box office, and was nominated for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design at the 2018 Oscars.
Aladdin (1992): Adaptation Released in 2019, Another One on Its Way?
Though Disney's Aladdin is technically the story about its titular protagonist, it also houses one of the franchise's original princesses: Jasmine. Linda Larkin voiced the princess in the 1991 animated feature, and Lea Salonga provided the singing voice. Robin Williams starred as the Genie, and Scott Weinger played Aladdin.
Following the film's box office success, several outlets reported in 2019 that Disney was exploring a live-action sequel, ostensibly an adaptation of the animated sequel from 1994.
In 2022, Billy Magnussen also told ScreenRant that Disney+ was in production on a live-action spinoff series featuring his character, Prince Anders.
Pocahontas (1995): No Adaptation
Pocahontas remains one of the few original princesses that Disney has reportedly never considered for a live-action adaptation. Though the original movie performed well at the box office -- and even won two Academy Awards -- its depiction of Native Americans and American colonizers is probably best left alone. In 2019, composer Alan Menken said the story would be too tricky to adapt.
"I don't know if we'll ever be able to do Pocahontas, I think that story is going to be difficult. With modern sensibilities, it'd be hard – you're going to offend somebody – so I don't know," Menken said.
Mulan (1998): Adaptation Released in 2020
Mulan marks the final member of Disney's original princess lineup, and her original 1998 film remains a fan-favorite. Disney released a live-action adaptation in 2020. Ming-Na Wen played the princess in the original film, and Lea Salonga provided the singing voice. Yifei Liu took on the role for the adaptation.
The film's release was unfortunately marred by controversy. Much of the movie was filmed in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, where China holds detention camps for Uyghur Muslims and other religious minorities. Human Rights Watch stated in 2017 that the areas "are contrary to China’s constitution and violate international human rights law."
Audiences called for a boycott of the film following this news, along with word that Liu, the film's star, had released a statement publicly supporting the Hong Kong police who many argued had used excessive force in response to the unrest of the city's 2019 uprisings.
Disney CFO Christine McCarthy acknowledged the conflict -- including the fact that Disney thanked the Chinese government in the film's credits -- in 2020, saying that it's standard practice "to acknowledge in a film's credits the national and local governments that allowed you to film there. So, in our credits, it recognized both China and locations in New Zealand," she said. "I would just leave it at that, but it has generated a lot of issues for us."
The Princess and the Frog (2009): No Adaptation
Writer Stella Meghie told The Hollywood Reporter in 2022 that she had pitched a live-action adaptation of Princess Tiana's story, but nothing came of the offer. Disney has not announced if they will adapt The Princess and the Frog.
Tangled (2010): No Adaptation
Disney had not announced any live-action adaptation of Tangled, which tells the story of Rapunzel.
Brave (2012): No Adaptation
Disney has not announced any live-action adaption of Brave, which tells the story of Princess Merida. A live-action Merida did appear, however, as a recurring character on the television show Once Upon a Time. She was portrayed by Amy Manson.
Frozen (2013): No Adaptation
Disney has not announced plans to adapt Princesses Anna and Elsa's story as a live-action film.
Moana (2016): Adaptation Coming
Dwayne Johnson announced in April 2023 that production is underway for a live-action adaptation of Disney's 2016 Moana, the story of a Polynesian princess. Johnson voiced Maui, demigod and mentor for Moana, in the original movie.
"#MAUI changed my life (miss you grandpa) and I’m honored to partner with @DisneyStudios to tell our story thru the realm of music & dance, which at the core is who we are as Polynesian people🪝," Johnson wrote on Twitter.
OTHER DISNEY ANIMATION
Pinocchio (1940): Adaptation Released in 2022
Pinocchio was the second animated feature created by Disney, after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The studio released a live-action adaptation of the film in 2022, featuring Tom Hanks as the story's woodcarver, Geppetto. Cynthia Erivo played the Blue Fairy, with Benjamin Evan Ainsworth as Pinocchio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jiminy Cricket, and Keegan-Michael Key as Honest John.
Though the film was initially planned as a theatrical release, COVID-19 delays ultimately pushed the movie to be released directly to Disney+.
Fantasia (1940): The Sorcerer's Apprentice Released in 2010
Though Disney has never recreated the entirety of its 1940 musical anthology classic, the 2010 live-action Sorcerer's Apprentice recreates the original movie's most famous sequence. The film starred Nicolas Cage as Balthazar Blake, the young apprentice of the sorcerer Yen Sid, who was originally played by Mickey Mouse in the 1940 film.
Dumbo (1941): Adaptation Released in 2019
First released in 1941, Disney released a live-action adaptation of Dumbo in 2019. Tim Burton directed the film, with Colin Farrell starring as the protagonist circus equestrian. Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green and Alan Arkin filled out the main cast.
Bambi (1942): Adaptation Coming
Disney announced in 2020 it would release a live-action CGI adaptation of Bambi, originally released in 1942. At the time of the announcement, creators said the film would act as a "companion piece" to the existing remakes of The Lion King and The Jungle Book, as all three required similar VFX technology to render the photorealistic animals.
Disney has not yet set a release date for the film.
Peter Pan (1953): Peter Pan & Wendy Coming April 2023
Disney's 1953 Peter Pan also introduced Disney audiences to fan-favorite Tinker Bell, originally a Disney princess before moving to lead the Disney Fairies franchise. Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, along with friends Wendy, Michael and John (and enemies Captain Hook and Smee) have made numerous live-action appearances over the years. Disney is now gearing up to release its own adaptation, Peter Pan & Wendy, on April 28, 2023. The film will be released directly to Disney+.
Disney is also rumored to be working on another adaptation, Tink, with Reese Witherspoon providing the voice for Tinker Bell, but the status of this project is less certain.
Alice in Wonderland (1954): Adaptations Released in 2010 and 2016
Tim Burton first directed a live-action version of Alice in Wonderland in 2010, though the film was not billed as a direct adaptation of Disney's 1954 original. Johnny Depp starred as the Mad Hatter, with Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen.
All four actors reprised their role's for Burton's 2016 sequel, Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass.
Lady and the Tramp (1955): Adaptation Released in 2019
Disney released a live-action CGI adaptation of its 1955 film in 2019. The film featured voice acting from Tessa Thompson, Justin Theroux, Janelle Monáe and Sam Elliott, with live-action appearances from Thomas Mann, Kiersey Clemons, Yvette Nicole Brown, F. Murray Abraham, Adrian Martinez and Ken Jeong.
The film was released directly to Disney+.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961): Adaptations Released in 1996 and 2021, One More to Come
Disney first released One Hundred and One Dalmatians in 1961. The studio later adapted the movie for live-action in 1996 (this time styled as 101 Dalmatians).
Disney confirmed it was in production on a sequel in 2021.
Winnie the Pooh (1961): Christopher Robin Adaptation in 2018
Disney acquired rights to the Winnie the Pooh character in 1961, and he soon became a Disney franchise adapted into dozens of animated shorts and feature-length films. Fans saw Disney's first-ever live-action adaptation of the beloved bear in 2018's Christopher Robin.
The Sword and the Stone (1963): Adaptation Coming
The original The Sword and the Stone was Disney's 18th animated feature film and the final movie released prior to Walt Disney's death. The studio first announced plans to release a live-action adaptation of the film in 2015, and named Juan Carlos Fresnadillo as the director in 2018. The release date for the project is still unknown.
Robin Hood (1973): Adaptation Coming
Disney first brought the Robin Hood story to life through its beloved anthropomorphic characters in the 1973 animated film. The live-action adaptation, announced in 2020, will use CGI to do the same.
The film, directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada, will be released on Disney+, but further release details are unknown.
The Jungle Book (1967): Adaptation Released in 2016, Sequel Under Way
Disney is now working on a live-action CGI sequel, though the release date is unknown. Netflix released an unrelated (but also live-action) depiction of the same tale in 2018, titled Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle.
George of the Jungle (1967): Adaptation Released 1997
First introduced as an animated spoof of Tarzan, George of the Jungle was a beloved television program of the 1960s. In 1997, Brendan Fraser starred in a live-action film based on the same character. The studio later released a sequel, George of the Jungle 2, in 2003.
The Aristocats (1970): Adaptation Coming
Deadline reported in March 2023 that Disney had started production on a live-action CGI adaptation of The Aristocats with Will Gluck and Keith Bunin writing the screenplay. Questlove will direct the project.
The Lion King (1994): Adaptation Released in 2019, Prequel Under Way
Disney released a photorealistic CGI adaptation of its original Lion King in 2019. The film featured the voices of Donald Glover and Beyoncé as protagonists Simba and Nala, with Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Florence Kasumba, Eric André, Keegan-Michael Key, JD McCrary and Shahadi Wright Joseph filling out the rest of the cast.
Disney later confirmed it was in production on a prequel, Mufasa: The Lion King, which will not, contrary to fan rumors at the time, be an adaptation of the original film's 1998 sequel.
Mufasa: The Lion King is currently scheduled for release July 5, 2024.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996): Adaptation Coming
Disney first announced plans for a live-action adaptation of its 1996 animated The Hunchback in Notre Dame in 2019. Tony-winning playwright David Henry Hwang will write the script, this time titled Hunchback, with Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz penning the film's music. Josh Gad is also rumored to be part of the film's cast.
Disney has not released any further information about the project.
Hercules (1997): Adaptation Coming
Disney announced in 2020 that MCU visionaries the Russo brothers would lead a live-action adaptation of Hercules. In 2022, Joe Russo told Variety that their adaptation will be "a little bit more experimental in tone, a little bit more experimental in execution."
Russo maintained that the film would remain a musical, but with a modern twist. "There are questions about how you translate it as a musical," he said. "Audiences today have been trained by TikTok, right? What is their expectation of what that musical looks like and feels like? That can be a lot of fun and help us push the boundaries a little bit on how you execute a modern musical."
The live-action flick does not yet have a release date.
Lilo & Stitch (2002): Adaptation Coming
Disney has not yet announced a release date for the project.
The Flintstones (1960): Adaptations Released in 1994 and 2000
Originally a beloved animated sitcom of the 1960s, The Flintstones first became a live-action feature film in 1994. Among others, the movie featured Elizabeth Taylor in her final theatrical film appearance. A prequel for the movie, titled The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, was released in 2000.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966): Adaptation Released in 2000
The Grinch's first screen appearance was in 1966's popular animated television Christmas special, featuring the narration and voice acting of Boris Karloff. In 2000, Jim Carrey starred as the titular green creature in Universal's live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Scooby-Doo (1969): Adaptations Released in 2002 and 2004
Originally an animated television series that premiered in 1969, Scooby-Doo and his band of friends have received numerous adaptations throughout the half a century since then. Warner Bros. Pictures released Scooby-Doo: The Movie in 2002, starring Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini and Rowan Atkinson. The studio then released a sequel, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, in 2004.
The Cat in the Hat (1971): Adaptation Released in 2003
Similar to Dr. Seuss' Grinch, The Cat in the Hat began as an animated special in 1971. Universal released a live-action adaptation of the story in 2003, starring Mike Myers in the title role. Alec Baldwin, Kelly Preston, Dakota Fanning, Spencer Breslin, Amy Hill and Sean Hayes rounded out the cast.
Charlotte's Web (1973): Adaptation Released 2006
Charlotte's Web was first adapted for the screen with the 1973 animated feature. Henry Gibson, Debbie Reynolds and Tony Randall voiced the film's main protagonists. Paramount Pictures released a live-action version of the story in 2006, starring Julia Roberts, Dominic Scott Kay, Dakota Fanning and Steve Buscemi.
Clifford the Big Red Dog (2000): Adaptation Released 2021
Originally a beloved animated character from PBS Kids, Clifford got his own animated movie, Clifford's Really Big Movie, in 2004. Paramount Pictures then released a live-action film, Clifford the Big Red Dog, in 2021.
Dora the Explorer (2000): Adaptation Released in 2019, Spinoff Series Under Way
Fans first fell in love with Dora on the animated Nickelodeon series, Dora the Explorer, which ran from 2000 to 2014. Her character has since been the subject of many franchise adaptations, including Paramount's 2019 live-action feature film, Dora and the Lost City of Gold. The film starred Isabela Moner, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria and Danny Trejo.
In February 2022, Paramount announced via the Paramount+ Twitter account that the streamer is developing a live-action spinoff series, along with a second animated spinoff. No further release information is available for either.
How to Train Your Dragon (2010): Adaptation Coming
DreamWorks announced plans for a live-action adaptation of How to Train Your Dragon in 2023. Dean DeBlois, the writer-director of all three animated films, will also lead the live-action version. The film is due to hit theaters on March 10, 2025.