In recent years, Disney has been taking the animated classics beloved by audiences for decades and reimagining them in live-action form. On the whole it’s worked out very well: Cinderella with a modern look, a box-office smash with Beauty and the Beast, a Tim Burton twist on Alice in Wonderland, and now a brand-new take on The Little Mermaid. Audiences young and old have delighted in seeing their favorite heroes and heroines portrayed by actors in the flesh or recreated with cutting-edge CGI. These incredible side-by-side images show the magical parallels between our favorite Disney films old and new — but also reveal how much times have changed.
Animated Maleficent vs Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent
The film Maleficent isn’t a straight-up live-action adaptation — it’s more of a new take on the Sleeping Beauty story. It stars Angelina Jolie as the titular villain-turned-heroine, and she is iconic! Jolie told the website Collider in 2014 before the film came out, “It was a crazy idea, and I was so challenged by it. My kids are now all watching all of these movies and wanting to play with mommy.” Her version of Maleficent proved to be so popular that she got a sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, in 2019.
Classic Aurora vs. Elle Fanning’s Aurora
When Elle Fanning played Aurora in 2014’s Maleficent, it was a fairy tale come true for her. Aurora was always her favorite Disney princess! She explained in a 2014 press conference, “I felt that I looked like her the most when I was little. She has the long blonde hair and wore the pink dress, and I love pink.” She added, “So this is the biggest dream of my life.” And indeed it was, because her role as Aurora helped turn her into the leading lady she is now.
Animated Alice vs. Tim Burton’s Alice
When Tim Burton did his big-budget live-action version of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, originally released in 1951, he cast the then little-known Mia Wasikowska in the title role. She 100 percent looked the part, but she told The Guardian in 2010 that she wasn’t sure about being a big star. She said, “It feels really weird seeing me on a movie poster.” She also admitted, “There’s a certain amount of anxiety that comes with playing a character so beloved by so many people.” But she nevertheless gave a wonderful portrayal of Alice.
1950s Mad Hatter vs. Johnny Depp’s “tragic victim”
In true Tim Burton fashion, the Mad Hatter got a modern, gothic glow-up for the 2010 Alice in Wonderland movie. And Johnny Depp had some thoughts about how to make him more than a one-note character. He told The Guardian, “The term ‘mad as a hatter’ actually came from real hatters when they were making these beaver-pelt top hats. The glue they used had very high mercury content which made them go nuts. I saw him as kind of tragic and a victim in a lot of ways. He was like a human mood ring to me. He represents all the extremes of the human personality, so his highs are very high, his lows are extremely low, and his rage is incredibly dangerous.”