A look at the 10 best (and the 5 worst) Disney animated sequels

Disney has done a lot of animated sequels over the years so here's a look at the 10 worthy of the original and five that never should have been made!
Lilo and Stitch Premiere
Lilo and Stitch Premiere / Kevin Winter/GettyImages

The massive success of Inside Out 2 has led to more talk about Disney wanting to indulge in sequels. It makes sense as Hollywood does rest on them (see the box office hits of this year) and Disney wants to use familiar material to entice audiences. It's not like the company hasn't done this before, notable in the 1990s when they began a wave of direct to video sequels to many of their animated hits. 

Frankly, many of those films ranged from simply forgettable to flat-out horrible. Yet there could be some surprising gems among the lot. Pixar is a different story as they've been much better at sequels than standard Disney animation. Yet for those curious, this have to be listed as the ten best (and five worst) Disney animated sequels and that the company can make a worthy follow-up to a classic film. 


Lion King 1 and ½

It's a goofy premise, but it works wonderfully. The odd title is because this movie plays on the classic story Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by showing the events of the Disney hit through the eyes of Timon and Pumba. That means how the pair first met and inadvertently were part of the action long before running into Simba.

The movie expertly weaves the pair into the original film's animation, and it's terrific to hear Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella step back into those roles. It's really a companion piece for the original movie, and in a time when Disney animation was a bit rough, this was a great idea for how to play off a great movie with its own unique direction. 

The Rescuers Down Under

Seriously underappreciated as a box office bomb in its time and overlooked coming in between The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, this 1990 film deserves more love. The Rescuers was a cult favorite, with Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor returning as mice to rescue kids in need.

In this case, the duo head to Australia, where a boy's majestic winged eagle is hunted by George C. Scott's evil hunter. The animation is stunning when the eagle flies, there's a great story of the romance between the mice, a feisty Aussie mouse helping and it's that rarity: A sequel even better the original and should be much better regarded by Disney fans. 

Aladdin and the King of Thieves

After The Return of Jafar was met by a rough reception, Disney was quick to make up for it. The good news was being able to overcome issues and have Robin Williams once more voice the Genie in his own wonderful way. The plotline of Aladdin meeting his thief dad while preparing for his marriage to Jasmine was also a good storyline.

The voice work is great, from Williams to John Rhys-Davies as the King of Thieves to Jerry Orbach as another villain, and some fun songs, too. The animation is also better than the typical direct-to-video art of the time. It's a more than worthy sequel and another reason to love Williams' terrific turn as the Genie, still one of the best castings in Disney animation history.

Cinderella III: A Twist in Time

The second Cinderella film is pretty forgettable, but the follow-up is actually inventive. The idea is terrific: The evil Lady Tremaine gets the Fairy Godmother's wand and uses it to go back in time and ensure daughter Anastasia can fit into the glass slipper to win the Prince. Cinderella has to race to stop a wedding and remind the Prince who his true love is. 

The time-travel plot is a fun concept and a wonderful touch is Anastasia slowly coming into her own character, realizing she doesn't want a "love" based on a lie. That's more character growth than the original film ever had with a surprising ending too. Of all those direct-to-video sequels to Disney masterpieces, this is the one that comes closest to matching the original well. 

Return to Neverland

Disney's Peter Pan leaves off the play's ending, in which Peter meets an adult, Wendy, and her young daughter. This 2002 feature film utilizes it well as Wendy is a mother in World War II whose daughter Jane refuses to believe in her tales of Neverland. That changes when she's kidnapped by Captain Hook and the movie is good showing the stronger and independent Jane clashing with Peter. 

The movie has some good animation to match the period it was made in and nice original songs to boot. While not as well received in 2002, it's grown in appeal among Disney fans with Jane seen as a precursor to stronger Disney female characters. It also does a good job building on the original story for a good big-screen follow-up to a Disney classic. 

The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning

This 2008 film is interesting as it doesn't have songs close to matching the 1989 classic but won wide praise for the screenplay and storyline. It's set years before the original film, when his wife is killed by pirates while hunting a music box, King Triton bans all music from the undersea kingdom. 

Yep, it's basically an animated Disney take on Footloose as young Ariel stumbles onto a secret group of musicians and tries to change her dad's mind. There's good voice work, especially by Sally Field as the villain and Samuel E. Wright as Sebastian (his last turn before his death) and a lovely theme of generational clashes and family. It's one of the better direct-to-video sequels of the time and Jodi Benson shines as ever in that iconic role. 

Fantasia 2000

Walt Disney always intended for Fantastia to be updated with new segments, but the failure of the 1940 original put that off. It finally happened in 2000, with a new slate of animators and musicians giving it a wonderful go. Highlights include Donald Duck as Noah in "Pomp and Circumstances," the delightful play of the flamingos and a yo-yo, and the gorgeous "Rhapsody in Blue," done in the style of Al Hirschfield's art.

The music segments shine with some fun hosts in between, an update on The Sorceror's Apprentice segment and more. Sadly, like its predecessor, it wasn't successful enough to spawn more installments, but it still a glorious mix of music and animation. 

The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride

With the daunting task of a sequel to such a smash hit, the Disney animators scored nicely. Sure, it doesn't match the visuals of the 1994 film but it's better than most video stuff of the time. Better yet is the music, incorporating part of the Rhythm of the Pridelands album with some great new score and songs to shine nicely.

If the first film was inspired by Halmet, this is Romeo & Juliet as Simba's daughter falls for a lion who once served Scar. The relationship is well done as well as the argument on the sins of the father. We get Timon and Pumba to lighten things up yet a bit better animation and this could have been a fine big-screen sequel to live up to the original film. 

Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has A Glitch/ Leroy & Stitch

One of the last great hand-drawn Disney films, Lilo & Stitch spawned a sequel that set up a TV show. The full-on sequel has Lilo worried Stitch can be returning to his monstrous roots and puts a wedge between them. It's a wonderful climax with great songs and what other Disney movie has the grand finale being a simple hulu contest rather than some epic fight?

Leroy & Stitch is the conclusion to the entire saga as Stitch now leads his own fleet but misses Lilo. They have to come together when an evil double of Stitch called Leroy goes on the attack so just about every creature from the animated show is brought in to fight him. It's a terrific send-off for the franchise, packed with humor and heart to bring this underrated Disney series to a fun close. 


Hunchback of Notre Dame II

It was always odd that Disney would turn Victor Hugo's dark novel into an animated film in the first place. Making a sequel was even stranger. Quasimodo is now accepted in Paris, and Esmerelda and Phoebus are married. Enter a circus troupe with Jennifer Love Hewitt as an acrobat seducing Quasimodo as part of a plot.

So we have Quaismodo with a girlfriend and the flat Disney home animation robs the movie of the sweeping vistas of Paris that made the original so memorable. Even with most of the voice cast coming back and so-so songs, it's a completely unneeded sequel that almost no one can defend and easily the low point of the direct-to-video animated era. 

Mulan II

What grates on this sequel is how it undoes so many of the great themes of the original film. The plot is Mushu learning that if Mulan marries Shang, he can't be her guardian anymore. So Mushu selfishly tries to break them up, and suddenly, the pair are bickering over the dumbest things and undermining their good character arcs.

Worse is the subplot of protecting women heading for arranged marriages that Mulan fights against and poor romances abounding. Toss in the subpar animation and no Eddie Murphy and it's a truly pathetic follow-up that should never exist. 

Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World

Another unneeded sequel, this oddly actually uses history by showing Pocahontas heading to London. Enter Billy Zane as John Rolfe with John Smith presumed dead (a good excuse for Mel Gibson not coming back) and suddenly Pocahontas is forgetting Smith to be with this new guy amid bad comedy of her adjusting to civilization.

The bad animation is a blow as well yet there's also scores of historical inaccuracies, poor writing and a bad ending to wrap it up. Really, not much happens in this film to merit a sequel at all and why history has not been very kind to it. 

Atlantis: Milo’s Return 

The reason this looks so horrible is that it was meant to be the pilot for an animated series based on the 2001 movie. However, that movie's underperformance led Disney to ax the show after a few episodes were completed. So this is basically an extended pilot of the sub crew returning as Milo and Kida track a mysterious danger.

Even for the early 2000s, the animation was terrible, the characters looked awful, and there was no flair to them, so it's little wonder why Disney decided to call off the show. The ending was obviously meant to set up that series, but much like the fabled city, the movie sinks to the bottom very fast.

The Fox and the Hound 2

One of the most underrated Disney films ever, The Fox and the Hound was a beautiful story of the friendship between two supposed enemies that had one of the most warm-hearted endings of any Disney film. So of course, someone decided it needed to be a follow-up. Technically, it's more of an "in between" film taking place when Copper and Todd are younger. 

The film does have good voice work from Reba McEntire and, surprisingly, the one voice performance by Patrick Swayze. But the songs are dull, the animation uninspired and the story feels like even the scriptwriters weren't that interested in making it. It's a sequel no one really wanted to rank among the worst. 

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