In 1990, Walt Disney Animation produced and released the movie “The Rescuers: Down Under”, a sequel to their 1977 classic simply known as “The Rescuers”. Since it was during the time where Crocodile Dundee made Australia a US craze, the film was mainly set in Australia with reptiles, wallabies, koalas and other Australian animals in an Australian desert setting. While it has a cult following nowadays with many fans claiming it to be much better than the original, back then it had a generally positive view and was able to break profit, although being the least profitable in the Disney Renaissance. It proved the Disney Executives that even the mildly successful hits can have profitable sequels if they brought back the original cast and essentially rewrite the same story and structure with different villains, different settings and some other small elements to create a new story.
This was what probably changed DisneyToon Studios (then known as MovieToon Studios) to change its main direction to direct-to-video sequels, which it will finish doing at the end of 2011 after the change of management to John Lasseter and Ed Catmull.
Now talking about how much I hate animated (if not any) sequels would make me a very redundant film critic because everyone knows what is wrong with sequels. They are usually lazy and unoriginal forms of films and storytelling, they drain out the creativity of the source material, most seem unnecessary and the main purpose behind them is for businesses to take money from us viewers. However, unlike remakes there are several ways of making a good sequel, but for animated movies, it’s rare that film makers actually use these methods, or use them well.
Disney is probably infamous for this, as most of them decide to use a brand new villain, and have new characters replace the ones fans enjoy. All are mainly given negative praise, mainly for their downgraded quality, and their lazy storytelling, however this is mostly by critics and movie goers. From my past memories, unless they really loved the original Disney Classics so much that they couldn’t stand any character changes or plotholes made in their sequels, most people liked at least one or two of the bad Disney sequels, when I was younger, me and my sister enjoyed Lion King II: Simba’s Pride just as much as the original, Lion King 1 1/2 not so much but it proves my point. Sometimes they truely put effort into their direct-to-video sequels line, by bringing back some of the original cast members and making the followup stories as believable as possible, but nowadays people are glad that there won’t be anymore.
Most other major animation companies such as Blue Sky Studios and Dreamworks put much more noticeable effort into their sequels to make them better the original, if not consistant. While in the cases of both Ice Age and Shrek, the quality of the animation, music, acting talent and cinematography has definitely improved in the sequels, the storytelling and atmosphere has not overall. I know that some of the plot elements are well executed in their sequels such as Manny’s life issues in Ice Age and the relationship between Shrek and Fiona in Shrek, most of the problems in these sequels go into my Problems with CGI Films as a whole, but it doesn’t exclude from the fact that they don’t expand on their stories as much as their visuals, or even fully continue on from their past film.
Take for a recent example, Kung Fu Panda 2, the original film was a homage to classic kung fu movies, and outside it’s humour and creative action scenes, it had a main character who progresses overtime to achieve who he always wants to be, it had well developed bad guy and the film’s supporting cast all were likable and had their own personalities, some even having depth to them. However, without spoiling the movie itself, while it’s sequel did have bigger action scenes and more suspense, especially with a bad guy that actually kills people, and it further develops the main protagonist Po to find his true origins, outside its humour, it’s weak and generic.
In honesty, the only Dreamworks film I felt deserved a sequel was Madagascar, because it had a clear open ending. The same goes for Alladin with the Return of Jafar, because the ending of Alladin fits with the story of Return of Jafar. But a Disney sequel is a Disney sequel and the first Madagascar in my opinion wasn’t good enough to warrent the actual sequel or other films any chance of being as good or better.
But what about good sequels? Well it might be debatable but they are rare, especially since their aren’t as many animated sequels as there are film sequels altogether, and people can have a liking to critically or even universally panned sequels if they grew up and enjoyed the original and felt that any changes or irregularities are so miniscule to make a fuss over. Out of the list of sequels, Rescuers Down Under, Patlabor 2 and Pokemon 2000 are a few that are considered as good or better than the original (especially Patlabor 2, the original is really boring in comparison).
The one that should come to anyone’s mind of a good animated sequel is Toy Story, both 2 and 3. However, other than the fact that they are made by Pixar, one of the greatest animation studios in the Western Hemisphere today, I’m not entirely sure why they are good sequels. They barely follow on from they predecessing films and I personally never liked Toy Story 2 as much as people I know, even in comparison to the original Toy Story. It’s probably because they all act as separate films, except with the same characters and almost the same structure, each dealing with different stages of life through toys. Maybe it’s what they should do for their upcoming Monsters Inc and Cars sequels, but let me ask, why is Cars 2 clearly marketed as the comic relief as the main character?
Oh and for anyone wondering why I didn’t mention The Land Before Time, the most infamous example of unnecessary sequels, especially with the fact that it has TWELVE poorly recieved sequels. Well just to go back on growing up with the sequels to liking them…