Disney Originals vs. Live-Action Remakes

Are Disney classics better than their remakes? You decide.

Table which scores Disney original films and remakes
Chantel Buchi
Staff Writer, TV & Streaming
Read More
December 15, 2020
4 min read

What's the first Disney original and remake that comes to your mind? Would you agree the classic version is the best? (*Raises hand*)

No one can deny our love for the talking candlestick, portly Gus-Gus, and the Hundred Acre Wood. (If you can't name the movies, are you even a Disney fan?)

We have to say we love the animated, magical movies that take you to another world. The wonderful, nostalgic movies take us back to simpler times.

One reason Disney keeps doing remakes? They make enough money to pay for a lot more than "The Bare Necessities."

The Disney remakes on our list made a whopping $8.76 billion at the box office (woah).

With Disney's Mulan releasing in September on Disney+, we were curious to see how Disney's remakes fared against the originals.

Price Tag
The numbers behind Mulan's direct-to-streaming release

Disney's original animated rendition of Mulan was released in 1998. Adjusted for inflation, the film made $478,686,425 at the worldwide box office.

To match the original film's financial success, nearly 16 million Disney+ subscribers will need to buy-in to Disney's direct-to-streaming cost of $30. With a $200,000,000 production budget, the film will need to sell 6.6 million digital copies to breakeven.

Let's bibbidi-bobbidi to it.

Where does your favorite Disney movie rank?

Table which scores Disney original films and remakes

Let's start with the favorites. We all adore Baloo and the love between Belle and the Beast. But even though their remakes were in the top 10, it's undeniable that the original films take the win.

  • The only remakes that make the Top 10 list are The Jungle Book (2016) at #9 and Beauty and the Beast (2017) at #10.
  • The best (highest-ranked) original film is The Lion King (1994), ranking #1 out of 21.
  • The best (highest-ranked) remake is The Jungle Book (2016) ranking #9 out of 21.

Pongo, Perdy, and their 99 babies are very much loved ... but more so in the animated version. But we can just blame Jeff Daniels for that. (Because who doesn't love dogs?)

But high five to Angelina Jolie for making Sleeping Beauty better than its original.

  • 101 Dalmatians has the greatest difference in ranking between the remake and original. The 1961 original ranks #4, but the 1996 remake ranks at a lowly #21, dropping 17 spots.
  • In contrast, Sleeping Beauty and its remake Maleficent have the most similar scores, with only a difference of two spots—Maleficent ranks #14, Sleeping Beauty at #16. Also, Maleficent is the only remake that scores higher overall than the original.
  • The worst (lowest-ranked) original film is Sleeping Beauty (1959), ranking #16 out of 21. Snooze!
  • The worst (lowest-ranked) remake is 101 Dalmatians (1996), ranking #21 out of, um, 21

NOTE: Lady and The Tramp (2019) wasn't scored as the film did not have any box office earnings to report. (Box office earnings account for 30% of scoring.)

How much did Disney earn at the box office?

Table show

To this day, the top three highest-grossing Disney films are all originals.

  • Cinderella (1950) – $2,804,284,534
  • 101 Dalmatians (1961) – $1,852,435,348
  • The Lion King (1994)– $1,675,577,704

We told you we all like our portly Gus-Gus, who devours cheese and sews dresses. We love the princess who reminds us that "the dream that you wish can come true." And we'll take all the "Hakuna Matata" we can get.

But it turns out we're not too crazy about elephants in either format--neither the original 1941 Dumbo nor the 2019 remake made the top 15. (*droopy ears*)

Dumbo then and now

Here's a more cheery fact about Dumbo—it's the earliest film on our list. When it was released in 1941, it had box office earnings of $1.3 million, which is equivalent to $22,674,299 when adjusted for inflation. The price of a movie ticket in 1941 was just 25 cents! Adjusted for inflation, that's $4.24 today.

The Lion King remake (2019) took the #4 spot, which isn't a surprise (we can all agree that the CGI remake was beautiful).

But what is surprising is that some remakes actually made more than their originals:

  • Beauty and the Beast (2017)
  • Alice in Wonderland (2010)
  • Aladdin (2019)
  • Maleficent (2014)
  • Dumbo (2019)
  • Christopher Robin (2018)

People may complain about remakes, yet we show up at the box office anyway. Why? Because ... well, I guess we all just love our Disney one way or another. (And we also love the fact that we can watch all of these movies on Disney+ whenever we want.)

NOTE: Lady and the Tramp (2019) went direct to streaming on Disney+, so there's no box office data available.

How do Disney's films rate in IMDb?

Table showcasing IMDb ratings of Disney films

So, the ratings say it all. Yes, we may pay to see the live-action remake in theaters, but did we truly like it? The numbers say not as much as the OG films.

And even though it's been established that we love Simba as an animated or CGI lion, the IMDb rating could say otherwise.

  • According to IMDb ratings, Disney's live-action remakes score an average of 0.80 points lower than their original counterparts.
  • The Lion King (2019) has the biggest drop on our list, with the remake scoring 1.6 points lower on IMDb than the original. That's 2x the average drop.

What do Disney fans say?


Survey says ... the top 11 favorites are all classics, surprising no one. We enjoy our oldies but goodies.

A Disney remake in the 2000s cannot replace the original characters we all fell in love with decades ago.

  • According to our survey, the majority of Americans all prefer the original films over the remakes.
  • Nothing proves this more than 101 Dalmatians, which has an overwhelming majority of respondents (nearly 71%) who prefer the original to the remake.
  • In contrast, audiences are more torn about Sleeping Beauty vs. Maleficent, with only a ~10% difference of opinion.

NOTE: These percentages do not add up to 100% because some respondents hadn't seen both films, so they couldn't fairly indicate whether they preferred the original or the remake.

And they lived happily ever after ...

Now that we've given you proof that the Disney originals are better than the remakes, you'll have some evidence to back you up when Uncle Carl tries to debate with you during family dinner.

Speak up for Nala, Dumbo, and Pooh Bear. Let him know everyone actually prefers the original versions of the city of Agrabah and Alice's magical world, as well as the story of Cruella De Vil more than the newer versions.

Plain and simple: we Disney fans love all Disney movies, but we cherish the originals the most.


Each movie was ranked based on the following factors, with a higher value that positively impacted the final score:

  • IMDb rating (50%)
  • World box office earnings adjusted to May 2020 dollars (30%)
  • Consumer preference (20%)

Each measurement was normalized on a 0-1 scale with 1 corresponding to the measurement that would most positively affect the final score and 0 corresponding to the measurement that would most negatively affect the final score. These adjusted measurements were then added together with the weights mentioned above to get a score of 100.

World box office earnings were sourced from Box Office Mojo and Variety. Consumer preference was determined by an anonymous survey of 500 Americans 18+ conducted by Reviews.org in July 2020. The margin of error is ± 4% at a confidence level of 95%.

Chantel Buchi
Written by
Chantel Buchi
Chantel is all about finding the best tv or streaming service to watch as many football games as possible to keep her Fantasy Football team in check. Prior to being a TV and Streaming Tech Reporter for Reviews.org, she worked for NFL Network and The Alliance of American Football. Before that, she received a B.A. of Communication at the University of Utah and an M.S. in Sports Journalism at USC. Go Utes and Fight On. Contact her at chantel@reviews.org

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