Year after year we see more reboots and sequels to franchises we grew up adoring. With each new announcement comes another wave of concern about ruined childhoods. It can be hard for sequels to live up to our nostalgic memories of being kids witnessing the originals for the first time. The thing is, sequels haven’t just become the norm. They’ve largely become how studios survive.
Everyone wants to see what they love stand the test of time, but with the amount of media being released in the twenty-first century, audiences are always looking for the next thing. Studio moviemaking has become a “What are you doing for me now?” game. It’s not all throwing stories at the wall to see what sticks, though. Disney, in particular, has churned out some great sequels, with some being even better than their originals. Let’s take a look at some Disney sequels that prove your childhood is going to be a-ok!
1. An Extremely Goofy Movie
Though An Extremely Goofy Movie finds itself devoid of Roxanne and bops like “I2I”, it’s still worth more than a few laughs. Ol’ Max heads off to college, and his dad, Goofy, loses his job shortly after. With Goofy being the most rational of the original Disney troupe, he does the totally normal thing and follows in Max’s footsteps to get his degree. At the same college. Max’s chagrin and Goof’s earnestness result in an hour-and-a-half of hijinks that include the legendary leaning tower of cheez-a.
2. Mulan II
The Huns might have been a formidable force, but nothing could have prepared Shang and Mulan for the horrors of wedding planning. That may sound boring at first, but not when the two have to quickly put their wedding woes on hold in order to help three princesses after being summoned by the Emperor. They’re joined on their adventures by Yao, Ling, Chien-Po and, of course, Mushu. There are more adventures to be had while Mushu desperately tries to destroy Shang and Mulan’s engagement, but the story also brings in the trademark Disney heart. Shang, Mulan, and their team all struggle with balancing duty to their country and duty to their hearts in this charming sequel.
3. The Lion King II
Simba just couldn’t wait to be king! Now that he is, he’s realizing what a pain in the neck the job can be in the sequel. The Lion King might feel burdened by all of his duties, but no one’s more annoyed by it than his daughter, Kiara. There’s much more poignancy to the Lion King II than one might expect. It has the love angle that we’ve all come to know from Disney, but wrapped up in that is a deeply relevant discussion of social class, racism, and how societies maintain their viewpoint of all over the actions of a few. Plus, “Not One of Us” is one of the best Disney songs in recent memory. Let’s hope the “live-action” Lion King reboot is equally as delightful.
4. Incredibles 2
Fans of the original spent fourteen years waiting for Incredibles 2. Pregnant mothers had teenagers by the time this sequel finally made its way to theaters, but it was worth the wait. In a role-reversal, Helen Parr, a.k.a. Elastigirl, gets put front and center where she belongs, while Bob has to learn to swallow his pride and navigate the day-to-day duties of being Bob Parr, dad and househusband, instead of Mr. Incredible, beloved super. Elastigirl might be overshadowed by Jack Jack, whose battle with a raccoon might be the best fight scene of the entire superhero genre, but she and her entire family have plenty of room to shine in the sequel.
5. Toy Story 3
Disney and Pixar have always been good at pulling heartstrings, but Toy Story 3 got a generation of adults crying harder than they thought possible in an animated film. After growing up with Woody, Buzz, and the rest of Andy’s toys, no one was ready for the thought of leaving them behind, let alone seeing them slipping toward certain doom in an incinerator, and viewers have remained forever scarred from the emotional turmoil. By the end of things, luckily, all our friends remained alive, unburnt, and together, giving the viewer some heartwarming (and tear-jerking) closure. With Toy Story 4 releasing this year, it’s certain we’re in for more emotional times ahead.
6. The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea
There are two sequels on this list that flip the script of their original film. The first is The Little Mermaid II, where we follow the story of Ariel and Eric’s daughter, Melody. Unlike her mother, Melody wants nothing to do with the world of man. In addition to her motivations making the second movie infinitely more relatable today, Return to the Sea justifies its plot points a lot better than the first. Rather than focusing on a girl who’s fallen in love with the idea of a statue, we learn early on that Melody cannot know about her mermaid heritage or step foot in the sea because of Ursula’s cranky sister, Morgana. Ariel and Erik build walls around the castle to keep the evil sea witch at bay, but Melody mistakenly believes they’re to trap her inside. Based on what you know about Ariel, you can guess how long Melody listened to her parents and stayed away from the ocean…
7. The Muppets (2011)
In 2011, the Muppets that we all grew up adoring came crashing back into our lives with a modest hit reboot featuring Amy Adams and Jason Segel. The movie follows the story of Walter, a lone muppet, and his two human friends, Gary and Mary, as they journey to Los Angeles for what was supposed to be an anniversary trip. Instead, the three find themselves wrapped up in corporate sabotage as the evil Tex Richmand tries to take over the Muppet Theatre to drill for oil. The Muppets reminded fans of everything that they adored about the franchise while bringing in fresh faces and new ideas to kick off their future.
8. Peter Pan 2: Return to Neverland
Like The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, Return to Neverland switches it up on the original story’s premise. In the original Peter Pan, Wendy Darling is desperately trying to escape growing up, and retreats to Neverland with Peter to avoid all of the scary responsibilities of her future. Wendy needs very little help believing in the power of faith, trust, and pixie dust. But her daughter, Jane, is a different story. Coming of age in the midst of WWII meant that Jane had to grow up quickly. With her father at war and her younger brother to take care of, the young Darling has no time for magic. Return to Neverland follows her journey to find belief again with the help of Peter, The Lost Boys, and her family.
There are countless other success stories of animated sequels across franchises, and there will undoubtedly be many more while our generation is still going to the movies. Make a New Year’s resolution to check out a sequel or reboot to a beloved childhood movie of yours with an open mind! Change might be hard, but sometimes opening ourselves up to the possibility of something new leads us to finding something awesome.
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