It is long; it is hard; but it is definitely worth it. The sequel and occasional prequel process can be a nightmare for studios, leaving many a film in development hell (RIP Hellboy 3). It involves convincing famous Hollywood actors and actresses known for their humble patience to return to a series, studios to pretty please fund another production, and audiences across the world to go and see if the second one is even worth it. But in the end, it works out. Many sequels see huge success in the box office, utilizing the extensive fan base that the first movie already guarantees. And in general, most sequels make at least half of what the original earned. So Hollywood keeps churning them out as fast as it can.
But there seems to be a trend amongst many animated movies: they are releasing sequels (and Monster University, one of the lone prequels) years and years after the original. In fact, four of the top five movies with the longest gap between a movie and its consecutive sequel are animated. Fantasia 2000 cheats a little bit, but still. And not only that, but some of them are actually really good, successful with critics and fans across the board. Why do filmmakers do this? …Honestly who knows, do you really want to try and get in the head of John Lasseter? That guy’s mind must be a jungle of endless Randy Newman soundtracks and sentient desk lamps. But more importantly, how do filmmakers do this? What elements are key to creating a quality comeback motion picture? Well I’m glad you ask…
Make it Creative
Suspension of disbelief only lasts so long until the audience starts to get bored and ask questions. This is absolutely true across the industry, and yet many sequels often neglect to include the whole unique-plot-and-dynamic-character-development concept that made the original so popular in the first place.
Just look at Charlotte’s Web 2: Wilbur’s Great Adventure. The reason people liked the first Charlotte’s Web is mainly because of the emotional connections with the characters. And even though it was about a friendship between a swine and arachnid, it was strangely relatable. On the flip side, the sequel, released thirty years later and chock full of a dozen shallow plots, is not relatable, not advanced, and (in case you couldn’t guess) not good. Most series’ quality often last as long as their individuality.
Keep the Cast
Maintaining the same voice actors can be tough when some of these gap sequels take decades to produce (over six decades in Bambi II‘s particular case), but if it is at all possible, then do it! Commercially, the whole point of a sequel is to ride the enormous wave of cash that the first installment generated. And sentimentally, the whole point of a sequel is to watch our beloved childhood heroes and friends continue to grow and learn and develop. You can’t ride that wave or reconnect with those characters when the cast and/or voice actors are different! Obsessive audiences notice that type of stuff, and without obsessive audiences, animated movies have no demographic.
Toy Story 3 did an incredible job of keeping the gang together, even going so far as to recruit John Morris, the kid voice of Andy, more than ten years later! And it totally worked. Fans loved both the continuity and the cast’s dedication to the film. Unfortunately, the only main actor that could not return to the third movie was Jim Varney who passed away before the trilogy could be continued.
When attempting an endeavor of massive proportions, such as resuming a classic film, you have a lot of expectations hoisted on your shoulders. Whether it is in theaters, direct-to-video, or even a TV miniseries, you should preserve that original magic and joy that charmed millions. Some sequels are an amazing continuation and every expectation is met. But that’s definitely not most. For example, Cinderella II: Dreams Come True was a financial success, but everyone easily agreed that it was completely awful. It did not compare in the slightest to the brilliance of Cinderella and did not contribute in any way, shape, or form to the original installment’s memory.
That should be the overall goal of any series: keep the magic alive! (But do you think some of the requirements for a quality gap sequel are missing? Feel free to comment below!) In the coming months, we will see how Finding Dory, The Incredibles 2, Toy Story 4, and more all rekindle that light of imagination. To prepare (emotionally and fashionably) for your trip down memory lane, take a look at some of these whimsical t-shirts and show off to your friends!