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Between 1937 and 1990, The Walt Disney Studios produced twenty-four animated movies, all of them original features. In all that time the only movie Disney had any plans to follow up with a sequel was Fantasia (1940). Having resisted any temptation during those fifty-three years to make a sequel to any of their animated movies, the company made an odd choice for their very first: The Rescuers Down Under (1990). It under-performed at the box office, and since then, only two further entries in the Animated Classics series have been sequels: the long-awaited Fantasia 2000 (1999) and Winnie the Pooh (2011).

But in the Nineties, and away from their Animated Classics, Disney embraced the idea of direct-to-video sequels with a vengeance. The first to be released was The Return of Jafar (1994), a clumsy attempt to capitalise on the success of Aladdin (1992); it was followed by the slightly better Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996), which proved to be commercially successful. More direct-to-video movies followed, and the House of Mouse, through either its Disney Televison Animation or DisneyToon Studios arms, released a welter of movies that often bore little relation to the originals they were trying to imitate/emulate. The following movies were all released between 1998 and 2006, and are all prime examples of a studio trampling all over its legacy as a creator of some of the most beloved animated movies – hell, just movies – of all time. These are the sequels that have yet to be followed up by another movie that further devalues the original.

Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (1998) / D: Tom Ellery, Bradley Raymond / 72m

Rating: 5/10 – neither better nor worse than Pocahontas (1995) – which wasn’t that great to begin with, this sees the same awkward mix of New World politics and cute animals transported to London as Pocahontas strives to avoid conflict between England and the Colonies; the animation is flat and drab to look at, without the attention to detail of an Animated Classic, and the story itself is unsatisfactory, leaving the viewer to tread water waiting for something more interesting to happen (which it doesn’t).

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Hercules: Zero to Hero (1999) / D: Bob Kline / 70m

Rating: 3/10 – a compilation movie with three stories acting as an introduction to Hercules: The Animated Series, this is basic is as basic does, with little charm or imagination to help the viewer along; another example of poorly designed and executed animation, it’s a sequel in name only, and seems to have been made as a way of grabbing as much cash as possible before word got around as to how bad it is.

Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure (2001) / D: Darrell Rooney, Jeannine Roussel / 66m

Rating: 3/10 – the offspring of Lady and Tramp gets into all sorts of trouble when he joins a gang called the Junkyard Dogs in an effort to be a “wild dog”; a better-than-average cast that includes Chazz Palminteri, Mickey Rooney, Cathy Moriarty, Bronson Pinchot, and Frank Welker can’t rescue this mongrel of a movie as it completely ignores what made the original such a classic and spins a tale so dull and uninspired you’ll be hoping the entire canine cast will end up with distemper.

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Return to Never Land (2002) / D: Robin Budd, Donovan Cook / 72m

Rating: 3/10 – released theatrically (although it’s hard to see why), this did well enough to be regarded as a minor success, but it’s still a drab, forgettable movie with none of the charm or energy of the original; the story lacks the kind of forward momentum that keeps the viewer interested, and as Peter Pan, Blayne Weaver gives the kind of vocal performance that makes you wonder if he was given any direction whatsoever.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2002) / D: Bradley Raymond / 69m

Rating: 3/10 – fans of the original will be horrified to see how shoddy the animation is in this equally horrifying sequel that makes a mess of its basic storyline, as Quasimodo (a returning Tom Hulce) is embroiled in a plot to steal Notre Dame’s most famous bell; there’s a lot of filler here, and despite most of the original cast returning along with Hulce, it’s a movie that struggles to engage the audience or provide a solid reason for staying with it ’til the end.

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101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure (2003) / D: Jim Kammerud, Brian Smith / 74m

Rating: 4/10 – despite a stronger storyline than most direct-to-video sequels, this is still a baffling mix of the original’s use of Cruella de Vil and the shenanigans prompted by Patch’s need to seek adventure outside his family (a la Scamp); with two stories being told the movie ends up letting itself down by not paying full attention to either, and the animation is as uninspiring as previous direct-to-video releases.

The Jungle Book 2 (2003) / D: Steve Trenbirth / 72m

Rating: 4/10 – despite replaying large chunks of the original, and having some of the flattest, blandest animation of any of the sequels listed here, The Jungle Book 2 was surprisingly given a theatrical release; however, this isn’t an excuse to believe this is a superior product, as it displays a reluctance to be inventive or smart, and instead trades off the goodwill created by the original.

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Atlantis: Milo’s Return (2003) / D: Victor Cook, Toby Shelton, Tad Stones / 78m

Rating: 3/10 – although Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) wasn’t quite the success Disney had hoped for, it still had a certain charm, thanks to Michael J. Fox’s performance and its quaint, steampunk aesthetic; this sequel, made up of three episodes of a TV series that was never completed, shows Disney trying to make something out of nothing, and the result is a sequel that never gels or satisfies thanks to its piecemeal nature.

Mulan II (2004) / D: Darrell Rooney, Lynne Southerland / 79m

Rating: 2/10 – one of the poorest of all the direct-to-video sequels, Mulan II is simply dreadful, and begs the question why Disney thought it should have been released in the first place; the script is a muddle of ideas around arranged marriage and loyalty that not even the usually talented voice cast can do anything with, and Rooney and Southerland prove that having two directors doesn’t always guarantee the required level of quality.

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Kronk’s New Groove (2005) / D: Elliot M. Bour, Saul Andrew Blinkoff / 72m

Rating: 3/10 – lightweight in both its script and its performances, this sequel to The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) has a storyline that underwhelms consistently and lacks energy; the songs are underwhelming too, while the returning cast – like others before them – aren’t given the freedom to make more of the material than is on the page, all of which leads to a sequel that proves a chore to sit through.

Bambi II (2006) / D: Brian Pimental / 75m

Rating: 3/10 – set during the events of Bambi (1942), and following the death of Bambi’s mother, this ode to single parenting suffers from an agonising sense of its own seriousness and vocal performances that give new meaning to the term “lifeless”; it suffers too from having a visual style that is blander and weaker than that of its predecessor, leaving it feeling and looking even more turgid than it already is.

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Brother Bear 2 (2006) / D: Ben Gluck / 73m

Rating: 3/10 – by this stage, Disney’s consistency in churning out pale imitations of its Animated Classics is beginning to become noteworthy in itself, and this sequel to a movie that didn’t exactly set the box office alight is another case in point; only sporadically engaging, and with a soundtrack that practically screams “lacklustre”, Brother Bear 2 has a better rep than most Disney sequels, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that this is still disappointing from start to finish.

The Fox and the Hound 2 (2006) / D: Jim Kammerud / 69m

Rating: 3/10 – Tod and Copper: The Early Years (as this could have been called) aims for a high degree of sentimentality and in doing so, makes watching the movie more hard going than it needs to be; recycling ideas from the Lady and the Tramp and 101 Dalmatians sequels, this has all the feel of a contractual obligation as Kammerud puts the characters through the motions, and the script busies itself with saying nothing of interest or importance.

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