In this article, I am going to be comparing five live-action Disney movies with their animated counterparts. Okay, so here’s how this is going to go. I am going to give you the summary that is on Disney+ for both movies. Then, I am going to give my thoughts on the movies. I’m going to talk about the characters, the setting, and the plot. And when it’s all said and done, we are going to find out which version I think is better and why.
Maleficent / Sleeping Beauty
Animation: “Vengeful Maleficent places an evil curse on Princess Aurora, a curse that can be broken only by the kiss of her true love.”
Live-Action: “Angelina Jolie stars in the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the classic Sleeping Beauty. Driven by revenge, Maleficent places a curse upon the King’s newborn infant Aurora, only to discover she may hold the key to peace in the land.”
Let’s start with the most beloved villain in Disney history. Maleficent is the type of villain that is impossible to hate. She is such a strong character that even with different adaptations and actresses her core is carried throughout. At her core she is, for lack of a better term, a woman scorned. You could tell in the animated classic Maleficent was upset and hurt by the lack of invitation at Aurora’s christening. We only find out the reason in the live-action. Not to give away any spoilers but a man took something precious from Maleficent and her heart filled with hate.
This right here is where the live-action did a better job. In the animated version, Maleficent is very basic. All she talks about is revenge on King Stefan and how best to inflict the most misery. In the live-action, we see the full character growth of Maleficent. From the innocence of childhood to her traumatic past which led to her anger, to finally giving up her anger and learning the meaning of love, true love. However, Maleficent isn’t the only character expanded on in the live-action. Sleeping Beauty, aka Briar Rose, aka Aurora also went through a dramatic character change between the animated version and the live-action. In the animated version, Aurora is a naive girl who got eighteen minutes of screen time. The movie title character only got eighteen lines and was on screen for eighteen minutes! That blows my mind. There was so much potential and the original creators missed out. However, the live-action creators picked up where the original left off. We get glimpses of Aurora’s childhood which tie in really well with how she interacts with Maleficent. Not once is she afraid of Maleficent despite Maleficent’s best efforts. Even when Aurora found out Maleficent cursed her, it felt like she was angrier at the lie than actually being cursed.
As for the music, for me, it’s a wash. The animated Sleeping Beauty has more songs in the movie. With such classics as “I Wonder” that Aurora sings during her walk through the forest, and “Once Upon a Dream” that Phillip and Aurora sing together. As for the instrumental pieces, I think both are fabulous. For both movies, the instrumentals add to every scene, and I am not disappointed. However, I prefer the Lana Del Rey version of “Once Upon a Time”. Her version is much darker than the original and for the live-action version, and I think it suits the movie best. The song is played during the end credits but the voice of the song fits the overall mood of the movie.
Now, for the final reveal, which movie do I like best? Drum roll, please… Maleficent! All the way. Between the character growth and the backstory of Disney’s most beloved villain, this movie is hands down one of my favorites.
The Lion King
Animated: “Celebrate the glory of The Lion King as this magnificent coming-of-age masterpiece takes its rightful place as the reigning star of the acclaimed Walt Disney Signature Collection!”
Live-Action: “Disney’s The Lion King, directed by Jon Favreau, journey to the African savanna, where a future king overcomes betrayal and tragedy to assume his rightful place on Pride Rock. Through pioneering filmmaking techniques, The Lion King brings treasured characters to life in a whole new way.
The Lion King is another movie from the Golden Age of Disney. People like to argue that Simba was based on Hamlet. I’ve never read Hamlet so I can’t say if The Lion King is similar. Putting that aside, I have to say The Lion King was one of my favorite movies growing up. So when Disney said that they were making a live-action version, I was elated! My Dad got us tickets for the premiere night at our local movie theater. My grandma came up and we made a whole night of it. My initial reaction to the movie was that I liked it.
Delving into the characters most of the personalities flowed between the two movies. However, the hyenas were expanded on in the live-action. The hyenas were a true clan instead of three lackeys following Scar for a scrap of meat. There was an actual hierarchy with Shenzi being the Alpha female. As for Timon and Pumbaa, they are still the hilarious duo that brings comedic relief to the movie. Their type of humor as a child used to go over my head, and now that I’m grown, I understand their humor more. I thought I would find it funnier in the live-action. As for Simba, his character development stayed pretty much the same between the movies. Nala stayed the same as long as the supporting roles of Sarabi, Mufasa, and Rafiki. And it was amazing that James Earl Jones came back to play Mufasa in the live-action version!
Now onto the music. Both soundtracks are amazing, but I think I prefer the animated soundtrack. I could listen to the music for hours on end and never get tired of it. It also helps that I picture the scene from the movie when “Be Prepared” by Jeremy Irons is one of - scratch that- it is my favorite song sung by a Disney villain. Upon listening to the live-action soundtrack again I find that I like the songs with Timon and Pumbaa the most. As well as “Be Prepared” by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Ejiofor did Scar justice. Very realistic and much like the animated version.
Which version do I prefer? If you didn’t already know, I prefer the animated version. I prefer the animated music, animated Timon and Pumbaa, and animated feeling. I think a lot of this comes from The Lion King being my favorite movie growing up so I automatically love this movie no matter what. Also, Timon and Pumbaa have a lot to do with this vote. The luau scene where Timon is in a grass skirt, a pink flower lei, and has a flower behind his ear is one of my favorites in the whole movie.
Beauty and the Beast
Animation: “Embark on an epic adventure with Belle, Beast, and all the characters you love, with the music you’ll never forget.”
Live-Action: “The story and characters you love come to live in the live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic, one of the most beloved tales ever told. Experience the fantastic journey of Belle, a bright, beautiful, and independent young woman who, seeking to rescue her father, is taken prisoner by a Beast in his castle.”
Beauty and the Beast truly is a tale as old as time. Both movies start with a similar opening. A narrator tells the story of how the Beast is cursed. The animated version used stained glass to tell the story while the live-action version tells the story through a ball. Then the movies go on to introduce Belle, a small-town girl with big ambitions. This story is such a classic that even if you don’t know the ending, you could probably guess; happily ever after for everyone but Gaston.
Let’s talk about characters. First up, Belle. Now Belle’s main personality trait, I guess, is that she is a bookworm at heart, which makes her different from every girl in town. She dreams of a life outside of her small village and she got more than she bargained for when she met the Beast. Now the live-action did a great job of keeping her character the same and I have to say that Emma Watson was a great choice for Belle. Her character has more of a backbone in the live-action and by the end of the movie she has matured in a way. By learning more about her mother, she has grown and I think she appreciates her father that much more because of his sacrifice to keep her safe. Next up is the Beast, aka Adam. Yes, the Beast has a name! In the live-action, we get a small glimpse of his childhood. What I picked up on was that his mother died young and his father seemed to only care about grooming his son to be a prince, not really nurturing the boy to be compassionate, leading me to believe that the house staff did their best to raise young Adam. After he gets cursed, the Beast turns cruel and cold-hearted. When Belle comes to live with him he finally seems to understand that what his father taught him was not the correct way to treat other people. The biggest emotional change for the Beast comes just before the song “Evermore”. In the song, Beast sings about his love for Belle and how he will never forget her even though he has lost hope that he will ever be human again. A lot of this subtext was missing from the animated version and I think it was needed to show that the Beast is not the true villain of this story.
Gaston and Lefou, they deserve their own paragraph. To start, Gaston and Lefou have a rather unique dynamic. Lefou is mostly for comedic relief in the animated version. In the live-action, he takes on a different role for Gaston. Instead of just being a lackey, he is a best friend and confidant even if he begins to question Gaston at the end of the movie. As for Gaston in the animated movie he is rather one-dimensional. He is a self-absorbed, egotistical, womanizer. In the live-action, we get a slightly different side of him. There is a moment in the movie where Gaston gets so mad at Maurice that Lefou has to step in. Lefou talks about the war and it seems to calm him down. I’m not sure if this is PTSD, since I haven’t done any research into PTSD, but I definitely think that the war affected Gaston more than he is willing to show the world. I’m not making excuses, Gaston needs to keep his ego in check but it’s refreshing to see that the live-action creators added something to Gaston’s character to show that he is human.
The sidekicks, Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Chip, and Plumette. The sidekicks are great in both movies. They add just enough comedic relief not to mention they are fantastic singers. They are slightly different in each version. Lumiere is more flirty in the animated version than the live-action. Cogsworth, however, I think is more open in the live-action than the animated because in the animated version he is almost stuck up in the beginning and loosens only slightly. As for Mrs. Potts and Chip, they are very similar in both movies. Mrs. Potts has a motherly personality and Chip is still as energetic as ever. We hardly see Plumette in the animated version other than when she is flirting with Lumiere. In the live-action, Plumette is on screen for a longer time and it seems like she and Lumiere are in love, which I find adorable.
As for the music I adore both soundtracks. I would listen to either soundtrack over and over again and again. The music is a 10/10 so that really has no sway on my vote.
Speaking of vote… bum ba da bum… It’s a tie! There are aspects to the animation that I prefer, such as Anglea Landsberry’s voice, over the live-action but there are different aspects, such as character backstory, that I prefer from the live-action.
Thank you so much for reading this article. I am always happy to talk Disney. Stay tuned for part 2 where I pick three different animation and live-action movies to compare.