7 Non-Disney Animated Films That Could Be Remade as Live-Action Movies

We’re not saying they all should be, but they could.
non-Disney Animated movies To Remake
By  · Published on March 14th, 2017

This week, Disney releases another live-action remake of one of their animated classics. And they have many more planned for the future. But they aren’t the only ones attempting to adapt animated works into flesh and blood. Non-Disney animated movies are already joining the trend. The Ghost in the Shell joins Beauty and the Beast in theaters later this month, and other anime remakes, such as Akira, are in development.

It is surprising that more studios aren’t trying to copy Disney with the idea, though. Is it because so few non-Disney features involve human characters or because those that do aren’t that interesting? Below I’ve selected some that could work just fine. Some of them maybe should be done. If you have any other ideas, be our guest and share them with us.

Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989)

As I’m not a fan of redundant literal adaptations, I’m more interested in picking failures that could be remade, such as this very unfortunate film based on Winsor McKay’s comic strip. Basically, there should just be a better adaptation of McKay’s material, but with all the talent who touched this version (Hayao Miyazaki, Brad Bird, Ray Bradbury, among them), there are probably some good bits worth salvaging, including the look and pace of the story. Just make Nemo more interesting and lose the flying squirrel sidekick.

An American Tail (1986)

Most of Don Bluth’s movies involve anthropomorphic animals and very few human characters if any. So, remaking them as “live-action” would really just be remaking them as performance-capture CG-animated features. That’s basically the case with the Secret of NIMH redo in the works. But here’s a crazy idea for An American Tail: turn it into a human immigration story. It’d be a little less adorable but would be taken more seriously for its relevance to current events (see our list of essential immigrant and refugee movies).

Princess Mononoke (1997)

There’s already a live-action remake of Hayao Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service (and two of Studio Ghibli’s classic Grave of Fireflies), so it’s only a matter of time before others follow. CG Totoros are surely on the horizon, but a live-action Mononoke is the movie we need more right now with its environmentalist themes. It could be done perfectly with effects a la The Jungle Book, and thanks to Kong: Skull Island, people are talking about the 20-year-old animated feature right now.

Quest for Camelot (1998)

Another young woman hero can be found at the center of this loose adaptation of Vera Chapman’s series of books based on Arthurian tales, which received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. Perhaps it’d be best to see how well Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword does, especially since Quest for Camelot was a flop, but an improved take on the story, retaining some of the humor, could be a funny fantasy like Princess Bride or Willow for a new generation. Or they could just go back to the Chapman books and start a more faithful franchise.

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Not anytime soon, but just as we’ll probably eventually see very recent Disney features like Frozen and Moana remade, a 2010 adaptation of a children’s book could very well find its way into live-action form someday. In fact, it might be the most logical of DreamWorks Animation’s films. With Game of Thrones finishing up soon, we’ll need more dragons of the non-cartoon variety. The live-action stage spectacular version from a few years back looked pretty darn cool, so a movie shouldn’t be too tough to pull off.

When the Wind Blows (1986)

If they can remake Grave of Fireflies twice in live-action, then they could certainly give this lesser-known British feature from the late Jimmy T. Murakami (The Snowman) a try. Based on the Raymond Briggs graphic novel, it follows an old couple as they poorly attempt to prepare for armageddon and then die from radiation poisoning following a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. Uplifting, I know! But also fun to pretend cast the two great British actors who’d perform the small, two-character story.

La Linea 1 (1971)

How about a live-action feature based on an animated short? Or a live-action short based on an animated short? You know Disney is going to mine from their own once they run out of features. Osvaldo Cavandoli’s initial one-off film, which spawned a long-running series, may not seem like it’d inspire much in the way of a live-action version given that it consists of just a humanoid line drawing interacting with his maker, but the tools now exist to have an actor play the main character interacting with a digital world around him and the visual effects artist manipulating him and his surroundings. Think the Oscar-winning work that went into the barely real live-action Jungle Book meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind mashed with Duck Amock and Harold and the Purple Crayon. Meta movie supreme!

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.