Disney is a global media giant; probably the most successful media branch of all times. They currently own Marvel Studios who, with their Marvel Cinematic Universe, has produced by far the highest grossing franchise of all-time. They also own Lucasfilm and are arguably milking the Star Wars name for everything they can, including spin-offs and a brand new sequel trilogy. On top of that, most of us grew up on their 2D animated films or the 3D styles adopted by Pixar, as well as some live action features. Even today it’s impossible to go anywhere without seeing Frozen merchandise. But in spite of the occasional stinker such as Home on the Range, Disney films have rightfully earned a special place in the hearts of millions.
While the company rapidly generates both live action and animated films yearly, a lot of people also remember their theatrical or direct-to-video sequels. Some of these we look back on with fond memories while others we wish had had their scripts put through the shredder before ever being filmed. Because of this we ask ourselves: are Disney sequels really necessary?
Many believe that the sequels Disney has created are not only of poor quality but also take away from what were already solid standalone films. This especially seems to be the case with their line of straight-to-video films. My favourite Disney film is Beauty and the Beast which got a Special in 1997, The Enchanted Christmas. The film has got some good ideas and a cool villain but the animation was downgraded, the songs felt like cheap imitations and it really betrays some of its characters. Belle is one of my favourite Disney characters for her kindness and ability to look past one’s flaws, but in The Enchanted Christmas she’s reduced to this bland, boring archetype who’s constantly happy and optimistic without any personality. This led me to question whether the film has any right to exist in the first place, which is something that can be extended to almost every straight-to-video Disney sequel. Some do certain things worse than others (the story of Mulan 2 is a complete joke despite some nice animation, whereas the animation of Aladdin 2 is atrocious) but it’s generally agreed that these straight-to-video sequels are completely pointless.
Interestingly enough though, despite this shared mind-set, there are often one or two of these sequels we find ourselves enjoying. Are they necessary? Not really, but something about them whether it be the animation or the continuation of the characters we love really sucks us in. The Lion King 2 is surprisingly popular and I’m personally one of the few who liked Return to Neverland. Whether it be something we solidly like or just a guilty pleasure, we can’t help but enjoy some of these films.
Furthermore, Disney has actually made some really good theatrical sequels. True, there have been cinematic genocides like Cars 2 and The Jungle Book 2, but Toy Story 2 was originally going to be straight-to-video before getting a theatrical release and many, including myself, believe that film to be even better than its already phenomenal predecessor. The Force Awakens was terrific and while most Marvel sequels have been merely okay, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a smart, captivating thriller. Even High School Musical 3 got a theatrical release and was mostly well received by critics. It goes to show that not all sequels generated by Disney are rubbish and have the capacity to be just as good as their predecessors, if not better.
So what does this mean for Disney sequels in general? The theatrical ones are far superior in most cases, but even some of the straight-to-video films have their defenders. Maybe nostalgia is clouding our senses, but the fact that we can still be entertained by them must mean they count for something, right?
To that I would say yes. I don’t think the straight-to-video sequels needed to exist, especially if they take away from what was good about the originals, but if even just one person can find something they like in these films then maybe that’s enough. We still have the originals to look back on either way. We shouldn’t let trends or popular opinions affect our own personal views on anything, including film, and if our connections to these characters and stories are enough to make us overlook, or even enjoy, some of the poorer Disney sequels then maybe there’s some merit in their creation after all.