Disney's live-action remakes explained: Why now and what's coming?

From The Jungle Book to Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland, Disney has been mining its classic cartoons in recent years to create a series of live-action remakes for a modern audience.

This week Beauty and the Beast is the latest to hit the big screen, with a CGI-packed blockbuster take on the 1991 animation.

These remakes are bringing in big bucks for Disney and the studio has even more planned in the coming years.

But are they any good, who are they for, and why are we seeing this cartoon-to-live-action trend now?

What have we seen so far?

The 2010 adaptation of Alice In Wonderland was soon met with a stream of other Disney releases, including Maleficient (2014), Cinderella (2015), The Jungle Book (2016) and even Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016).

Film critic Zak Hepburn said the rollout was a controlled tactic by the studio giant.

"There is eternal audience attraction to these stories," he said.

"I think Disney has been very clever in picking which ones they want to retell, because they're ones people connect with."

What's coming up?

There are rumours about a number of classic Disney stories getting the live-action treatment, with a few already confirmed.

The Lion King has announced key cast members for its retelling of the 1994 hit, including Donald Glover as the central character Simba and James Earl Jones returning as the old king Mufasa.

Jon Favreau, who directed the recent Jungle Book film, is lined up to lead this production as well.

A Mulan remake is also slated for 2018, 20 years after the animated feature told the story of a Chinese maiden who disguises herself as a warrior to save her father.

Live action versions of Dumbo (1941), The Sword in the Stone (1963) and Aladdin (1992) all have writers, directors or actors associated with them and are said to be in the works.

"Disney is really big with their vault. Things go in the vault and you don't see them for years," Hepburn said.

"And I think this is a way of sneakily reopening the vault and allowing you to see these classic films on the big screen again."

Why are we seeing these remakes now?

It's cyclical, according to Hepburn.

He said it was important to remember that in some cases the animated features we're all familiar with were remakes or retellings themselves.

"That's probably the third time Beauty and the Beast has been put on screen in some capacity," he said.

"You had the (1946) Jean Cocteau version, which was the classic French fairytale put on screen."

Not only that, but Disney has a history of switching between live action and animation through the generations.

In the late 1970s and early '80s the studio produced a number of live-action films such as Dragonslayer, Tron and The Black Hole.

"They unfortunately stopped being profitable at the box office and they went straight into the renaissance of Disney animation of The Little Mermaid, Lion King and Beauty and the Beast cartoon," Hepburn said.

Now we're heading back to animation to suit the modern audience.

"We're in that time now where those films feel maybe a bit outdated in their cartoon forms for the younger audience," Hepburn said.

"Which is a bit of a sad reality, but I do feel the younger viewers struggle with some of the deliberate pacing in some of the cartoons.

"We're just in a different cycle. And for a studio that is as eternal as Disney in the Hollywood system, you're going to see a studio go through different production periods."

Are these live-action films any good?

In many cases, yes, says Hepburn. Or at least they're successful.

"I don't think they've created a poor live-action remake as of yet," he said.

"They've really gotten very good filmmakers to deal with the properties — Jungle Book had Jon Favreau, the Beauty and the Beast retelling has Bill Condon, who won the Oscar for Chicago.

"You're putting it with very talented, visionary filmmakers and that's where people are being able to put their own spin on it and make it visually interesting."

In most cases the target audience remains the same and the stories aren't altered very much between the animation and the live version, with Jungle Book being an exception.

"It was a little bit darker than I think a lot of people did expect," Hepburn said.

Nevertheless, he said there was an audience willing to pay good money to take the family to the cinema event.

"Families want to go and see these classic stories and they need to be re-released in that regard," Hepburn said.

"And rather than re-release the film they're putting a new stamp on it, which is an interesting way to re-energise a property."