With Race To Witch Mountain opening this week, we take a look at the other lesser-seen Disney pics the Mouse could remake...
Because you just know they're going to try.
The film: That Darn Cat! (1965)
Why you should see it: It’s the sort of madcap comedy ‘60s and ‘70s Disney films do so well.
Woman gets kidnapped. She gets a message about her situation out via a wandering cat. Who proceeds to lead the FBI, some jealous boyfriends and angry neighbours on a merry chase as only a feline can.
Where are they now? One of the cat’s “owners”, Hayley Mills, was among Disney’s brightest stars back in the day. Her post-Disney career was patchier and these days – sticking with the animal theme - she can be found in ITV vet drama Wild At Heart.
Dean Jones – AKA FBI agent Zeke Kelso – was the star of Herbie movies before and after his role in Cat and later became a born-again Christian. He still crops up here and there in movies, including the Darn Cat remake (see below).
Sadly, given feline life expectancy and even accounting for nine lives, DC the cat is no longer with us.
How it could be remade: Disney tried once before, in 1997, with an updated version that starred Christina Ricci.
But like a persistent mouse gnawing at a box of Golden Grahams, Witch Mountain proves Disney rarely gives up on remakes, so how about a version with a sassy, talking CG cat?
With Dwayne Johnson. As the cat.[page-break]
The film: The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975)
Why you should see it: Quirky but funny, dumpling finds three typically unhappy orphans foisted on equally unwilling bachelor Russell Donovan (Bill Bixby).
What follows is a tale of earthquakes, gold nuggets and two crazy outlaws (played by Tim Conway and Don Knotts) who agree to take “charge” of the found bounty. Unfortunately for them, it’s locked in the local bank vault.
Cue a heist!
Where are they now? Bill Bixby went on to more acclaim (and more ripped shirts) playing the Bruce Banner side of the Hulk in the TV show. He died in 1993.
Don Knotts forged a successful comedy career on film and TV, including a load of voice-over work. The straight-to-DVD film Air Buddies, in which his vocals appear, is dedicated to his loving memory. So that’s nice.
How it could be remade: This one needs the subtle, yet offbeat touch of filmmakers like… The Coens.
We can see it now... Re-envisioned in the style of O Brother, Where Art Thou, it’s blended with Ocean’s Eleven as soon as the brothers can dig up incriminating evidence that ensures George Clooney stars in the Don Knotts role.
And Dwayne Johnson. As one of the orphans.[page-break]
The film: Monkeys, Go Home! (1967)
Why you should see it: Dean Jones (him again – told you Disney loved using him) is Hank Dussard, an American who inherits a French vineyard.
Despite advice from the local cleric (Maurice Chevalier), he decides to make a go of it. And as cheap labour he hires… Four chimps from NASA’s space program. Because that makes sense.
Predictably, hilarity ensues.
Where are they now? Singer Chevalier made a few more stabs at acting, though we’re pretty sure Monkeys might have put him off for the rest of his life. Which lasted until 1972.
Fellow thesp Darleen Carr has since gone on to mostly voice-over work, and was last heard on The Secret Of NIMH 2: Timmy To The Rescue. Oooh... High profile!
How it could be remade: Tricky. Everyone loves monkeys – sorry, chimps, since they were clearly chimpanzees – but it’s hardly much to work with.
Still, it’s easily one of the lesser-known Disney films (for very good reason), so it would benefit from a radical overhaul.
It’ll become an emotionally crushing drama about dispirating European attitudes to immigration from Alejandro González Iñárritu.
With Dwayne Johnson. As a grim immigration officer torn between his duty and his desire to see all chimps happily integrated into France. Written by The Daily Mail.[page-break]
The film: Unidentified Flying Oddball (1979)
Why you should see it: Wacky doesn’t even begin to describe it in this case.
Here’s the sit - Astronaut Tom Trimble (Dennis Dugan) and the android look-alike Hermes he built to avoid going crazy arrive via light-barrier breaking spaceship back in time at the court of King Arthur.
There, Trimble falls for the lovely Alisande (Sheila White) and must deal with the evil Nordred (Jim Dale). Guess what happens?
Where are they now? Dugan is these days better known as one of Adam Sandler’s collaborators, and the director of Big Daddy, I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan and The Benchwarmers, among others. We sort of wish he’d stuck to acting.
Carry On legend Jim Dale still snags the odd acting job, but he’s now more heard than seen as the narrator of the Harry Potter audio books and on TV as the voice of recently-cancelled drama Pushing Daises.
How it could be remade: We have a horrible feeling Disney would want to shove this one right back to Dugan – but as a director.
The first person to suggest Rob Schneider takes over the lead for one of his typically laugh-free comedy performances is hereby banished to the court of Very Painful Limbs.
So maybe Dwayne Johnson could suit up…[page-break]
The film: The Cat From Outer Space (1978)
Why you should see it: We’ll let the tagline handle this one to begin with: “Mysterious visitor with unknown powers on our planet for supplies.... A six-pack of tuna?”
Basically Disney seeing Close Encounters and thinking, “Hhhm… we should get ourselves some alien action…” It follows a downed UFO piloted by a cat whose collar holds special powers, so naturally the government wants to get their hands on it.
Scientist Dr Franklin “Frank” Wilson (Ken Berry) must help the furry friend get home.
Where are they now? Cat was Wilson’s last film. But his career continued with TV guest shots here and there (Fantasy Island, Golden Girls). He’s pretty much retired these days.
Co-star Roddy McDowell - best known for the Planet Of The Apes movies and series - had a full career and passed away in 1988 after completing a small role in Pixar’s A Bug’s Life
How it could be remade: Disney needs to work with Sony on this one, as we figure the plot could be easily nabbed as the basis for the in-development Men In Black 3.
Wouldn’t you pay to see Dwayne Johnson as Agent X teaming up with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones to help an alien cat – let’s face it, the first film hinged around a cat’s collar, why not the third! – get home before his powerful ship destroys Earth. [page-break]
The film: Gus (1976)
Why you should see it: It’s about a mule. That plays football. And proper football, too.
Yes, a classic Disney plot as a struggling local US footie team, the California Atoms (led by Don Knott’s Coach Venner) decide that their only chance is to bring in team mascot Gus to be their big kicker. You can fill in the rest.
Other members of the cast included Disney regular Tim Conway and Bob Crane.
Where are they now? Crane’s name might be familiar to anyone who saw Auto Focus. He was one of the stars of Hogan’s Heroes, and was a big TV name, but later became better known for his sordid social life. He was found murdered in a hotel room in 1978.
Tim Conway continues to work – with voice-over work on SpongeBob Squarepants and small roles in everything from the Clueless TV show to, er, Speed 2: Cruise Control.
How it could be remade: Donkeys and mules are a massively underappreciated part of the world.
So how about Disney works up a straight remake that blends elements of Gridiron Gang with a football comedy. Vinnie Jones could be the endlessly frustrated manager who sparks to the idea of getting a donkey on the team. Let’s face it: he needs someone at his acting level.
And Dwayne Johnson? The coach of the team who initially butts heads with Gus (not literally, as that would be painful and result in the humane society getting outraged) but accepts him in the end.[page-break]
The film: Treasure Of Matecumbe (1976)
Why you should see it: Not exactly one of Disney’s finest hours, but diverting enough.
Blending Tom Sawyer with Treasure Island, Metacumbe sees young Davie (Johnny Doran) and Thad (Billy “Pop” Atmore) learning of hidden riches in them that Florida swamps.
So the pair set out for leisurely adventure with Peter Ustinov (above) and some danger (from Vic Morrow’s Spangler) as they go hunting for their fortune, learning morals as they do.
Where are they now? Doran all but gave up acting in the early ‘80s, probably scared away after being a child “star”.
Likewise Atmore, who was one of the original Disney Mousketeers but never seemed to keep up with the acting shtick.
Villain Vic Morrow kept at it, at least until 1982’s Twilight Zone: The Movie, where a tragic accident killed him and two of his young co-stars.
How it could be remade: While the Pirates franchise looks like it’ll be coming back for several more instalments, Matecumbe could be just the sort of adventurous tosh the studio could use in between Jack Sparrow’s outings.
Hire a halfway competent action director (say Simon West when he’s done dallying with Dali) and get a new series of movies up and running.
Dwayne Johnson could have a cameo in each as a wise riverboat captain. Or something.[page-break]
The film: The Island At The Top Of The World (1974)
Why you should see it: Adventure! Danger! Thrills! An airship!
We say again: An airship. Yes, it’s Disney does Verne-lite as Victorian gentleman Sir Anthony Ross (Donald Sinden) goes in search of his missing son.
His trip takes him to the high arctic, where he encounters a tribe of lost Vikings.
Where are they now? Sir Donald can usually be found these days playing fussy older gentlemen in the likes of Midsomer Murders and Judge John Deed.
Co-star David Hartman all but gave up movies after the film, but did go on to have a lucrative career working for ABC news.
How it could be remade: McG is trying to bring 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea back, so why not hitch the Disney name to that bandwagon?
Steampunk’s big right now, so put Dwayne Johnson in a top coat and tails at the helm of a bloody great airship and have him track down a missing relation. It’s got to be better than the modernised Journey To The Centre Of The Earth – and that got a sequel!
Plus, Sinden can nab a cameo. As a fussy older gentleman, natch.[page-break]
The film: Napoleon And Samantha (1972)
Why you should see it: Johnny Whitaker is Napoleon, a boy entrusted with the care of Major, a former circus lion. When his grandfather dies, Napoleon goes on the run with the animal and his best mate Samantha (Jodie Foster), to find grad student-turned goat herder Danny (Michael Douglas) who can help.
Easily the star of the show is Major, who out-acts everyone else. Even Foster. But still doesn't get his name in the title.
Where are they now? Douglas is happily married to Catherine Zeta-Jones and still has a thriving career.
Jodie Foster chooses her films carefully and directs here and there.
Whitaker took on guest-starring roles and a few other films, but seems to work little these days. Perhaps he could have a comeback when US TV show Sigmund And The Sea Monsters becomes a movie?
How it could be remade: Race To Witch Mountain’s Alexander Ludwig is Napoleon, who must care for a young lion after his local safari park faces closure (don’t ask how).
To make sure the animal is safe, he’ll have to get him to the home of Daniel (Dwayne Johnson) who used to be a grad student, but is now a chicken ranch owner (again with the not asking – it’s Disney).
And this time, Douglas can play the grandfather who carks it. He probably wouldn’t want to, though.[page-break]
The film: Never A Dull Moment (1968)
Why you should see it: Dick Van Dyke stars – fortunately without his Moiry Pawppins accent – as low-rent actor Jack Albany.
He’s mistaken for hired killer Ace Williams by gang boss Edward G Robinson and forced to take part in an art heist that will require killer tendencies.
Things get even more complicated when the real Ace (Jack Elam) shows up…
Where are they now? Dick Van Dyke has been consistently acting since the ‘50s and will be seen this year reprising his villainous role of Cecil in Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian.
Robinson acted until his death in 1973. His last movie was Soylent Green – not a bad way to go out, by any means.
How it could be remade: This one’s crying out for the comic stylings of Adam McKay, in one of his few forays away from working with Will Ferrell.
Dwayne Johnson could easily handle the central role – who wouldn’t buy him as a brutal killer with his build?
For the crime boss, we’d like to see Anchorman’s David Koechner. Hell, most of the Apatow/Ferrell crew could have small roles as criminals. Actually, we'd probably watch this remake. But only this one.
Liked This? Then see:
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- 7 Preposterous Movie Shoot-Outs
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