Jack and the Beanstalk. Hansel and Gretel. The Wizard of Oz. We all know the stories, and as kids we would give anything to hear them told over and over again. But are we willing to pay good money to see them retold in theaters? All of these classic fairy tales and more are being turned into big Hollywood films, banking on familiarity to make big bucks at the box office.
Like any sequel or remake, nostalgia’s the main factor in adapting these tales. Children’s stories are instantly recognizable to millions of people, and given the right cast and director, any of them could turn out to be hits.
Case in point: ABC’s “Once Upon A Time,” which takes many classic fairy tales and gives them a darker spin. Both a critical and commercial success, the show has millions of followers thanks to the mature take on its fairy tale characters. Clearly an audience exists for these stories, and major Hollywood studios are picking up on this.
The recent “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” didn’t fare that well with critics, but 2010’s live action “Alice in Wonderland” grossed more than a billion dollars, proving that children’s tales, if marketed right, could make successful live action tentpole films. This was reaffirmed last year when “Snow White and the Huntsman” made bank for Universal Studios, thanks to reimagining the tale as a dark fantasy epic. If Snow White and Alice could turn a profit, it stands to reason other fairy tale films can as well.
The upcoming “Jack the Giant Slayer” includes Nicholas Hoult (“Warm Bodies”), Ian McShane, Bill Nighy, Stanley Tucci and Ewan McGregor; quite a star-studded cast for a fairy tale. With a top-notch director in “X-Men’s” Bryan Singer, Warner Brothers is hoping the familiar story of Jack entering the world of giants will make a solid profit in theaters. But not as much as Disney is counting on “Oz” to work its magic at the box office.
“Spider-Man’s” Sam Raimi will direct the prequel to the 1939 classic, which stars James Franco as the titular wizard and Mila Kunis as the Wicked Witch. Clearly Disney is hoping for another “Alice,” but it’s too early to tell whether swapping Wonderland for Oz will work in the long run.
Even if these films don’t meet expectations, it’s unlikely studios will stop looking to classic tales for inspiration. Disney plans to have Angelina Jolie star in “Maleficent,” retelling the Sleeping Beauty legend from the villain’s point of view. Russell Crowe is currently filming “Noah,” a Biblical epic about Noah’s Ark. Dwayne Johnson is set to star in a new version of “Hercules,” with Brett Ratner as director. The fairy tale genre is just getting started, and with an infinite amount of stories to draw from, studios will keep milking them for years to come. They may be tales as old as time, but as with everything in Hollywood, nothing is ever sacred, especially our childhoods.