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Slate defends Disney Cheapquels


Dan Kois makes the case for Disney direct-to-video sequels on Slate.

  • dav

    A very interesting article from someone who’s actually sat down and watched the much maligned films. Definitely makes me want to check them out myself.

  • RR

    >Perhaps ticket buyers (i.e., parents) long for a different era of >animation. If so, Disney’s sequels will do a much better job of >reminding them of the animated classics than the slick gagfests in >today’s theaters.

    A good point is made here. But must we rehash and shove roman numerals onto classics to enjoy this “different era of animation”? I’d rather my children watch the original Bambi one hundred times than the Bambi sequels 1 through 100.

    I also long for the day when the media realizes there is a lot more out there carrying the torch of the “different era of animation” than a few Disney sequels. There are hundreds of talented indie animators doing mind-blowing alternative work around the world right now, but outside of film festivals or the Animation Show you’ll never hear about them in articles like these.

  • DanO

    Well said RR. I think the author of the Slate article is largely ignorant of the amount of animators with ideas being pushed to the wayside in order for corporations to cash in on the name of a proven title.

    There isn’t a single risk about releasing these kind of direct to video sequels -and thats the problem. Thats the pervading cancer in Hollywood. spineless executives afraid to take any risks and just towing the line of past glories.

  • Mr. Semaj

    The cheapquels were killed off for a reason: there’s too many sequels out there already. And in some cases, they have become a bigger priority than making an original film.

    And it doesn’t help that all of the personnel behind the original Disney films are long gone. Would you make a sequel to a Renaissance painting or Shakesperian literature when the original artist or author died centuries ago?

  • What an idiot. She and Jim Hill should get married.
    John and Ed did the right thing. “Disney” used to mean quality, but there were a lot of things that the previous regime did that eroded that image. The sequels helped degrade the Disney image more than anything. They are substandard movies made cheaply and quickly in order to make a lot of money in a short period of time. That is all.
    John and Ed are trying their damndest to retore the Disney image.
    Cutting the sequels was a step in the right direction.

  • David

    I watched “Bambi II” faithfully until the first juvenile fart joke. Walt Disney farted 187 times daily but he never allowed one in any of his pictures.

  • Simon

    After hearing Todd tell Copper “ever since you joined that band you’ve changed” in the ads for Fox and the Hound 2, I don’t think disney sequels can be defended. If they want more money they could just keep the originals in release instead of vaulting em.

  • Well, I’ll throw them into my Netflix queue and give them a try, although some of her arguments sound like a fearful parent relieved to find something that isn’t basically Grand Theft Auto in feature form.

    I imagine the direct-to-video productions will be back after a few years when the revenue stream begins to be missed. Perhaps with more imaginative titles, instead of Bambi III it could be Bambi Goes Hawaiian.

  • Benjamin De Schrijver

    I haven’t seen those pictures, but still, one thing said it all to me: she prefers Bambi 2 because it doesn’t have the “traumatic” experience of Bambi’s mother dieing. Isn’t quality about filmmaking? Isn’t that sequence incredible because of how it is made, and how resonating it is? Of course not, it should be babysitting your little one, not make it think.

    I’m remembered of an extra on the The Lion King special edition DVD… a touching moment where Lisa Keene talks about a letter they got from a father who’s wife had recently passed away, in which he mentions how helpful the film was to talking with his children about their mother’s death. I’m getting the chills from it as I’m writing. Who the hell needs babysitters?

    Also a really good point about corporate vs. new original artistic ideas.

  • Emily

    What a strange article. I actually saw a couple of the Disney sequels, and they were enjoyable in a certain way – it’s fun to see more 2D Disney animation. However, they are not original. The plots I’ve seen were very contrived and I hate those manipulative moments where you can see them trying so hard to pull at your heartstrings. I don’t think that playing off of the original jokes and plots with a new “twist” is really any more creative than fart jokes. Just think if they put all that animation energy into creating original characters and engaging plots – wouldn’t that be more fun?

  • Floyd Norman

    Oh, please!

    Those damn sequels were about nothing else except making easy money. Just be honest and admit it.

    The “Old Man” would bitch slap those greedy executives.

  • It’s funny that a couple of you have missed the fact that the writer is male, and have instead assumed to be female. I must admit, though his writing seems well-intentioned, he certainly does come off as being like one of those female advocates for benign children’s programming. At least his opinion is based on actually having watched these films, so we should give him some credit there, but I can’t imagine too many people agreeing with him that “Bambi II” is somehow better than the original. Bambi following his father through the falling snow after his mother has been killed is enough to eloquently suggest that The Great Stag of the Forest is no deadbeat dad. No sequel is required to hit the audience over the head repeatedly with that information.

    I must admit, I haven’t seen more than a couple of these sequels, so I lack firsthand knowledge of most of them, but seeing the trailers was enough to convince me they were totally unnecessary continuations that usually were little more than rehashes with an opposite twist to the original. John was smart to pull the plug on them. I’d like to see Disney Toons put to better use, preferably concentrating on brand new shorts and half hour featurettes telling new stories with new characters.

  • Ghoest

    wow a case for Disney’s artistic abortions… fantastic, let’s go ahead and compare it to Shrek 3, an almost unwatchable movie!
    There is nothing savable about these bags of chumm thrown out to the public. Anyone who has any taste in animation knows this. Who cares if the taste of the American public has changed because of idiocracy… These movies are just horrible compared to their well crafted counterparts

  • Jorge Garrido

    “And Bambi II is filled with some of the most painterly, awe-inspiring forest settings I’ve ever seen onscreen”

    Maybe that’s because they used the original Bambi’s actual backgrounds.

    He says the films are expressively animated. I am reminded of Jerry Beck’s review of Peter Pan 2 in his book: You can actaully imagine Disney’s second string animators freeze-framing through Aladdin to copy the expressions

    “In Bambi II, Bambi’s father learns how to be a devoted, hands-on dad. As a father myself, I’d rather have my daughter watch the kinder stag of Bambi II than the distant, regal cipher of the first film. Plus, while his mother’s death certainly weighs on Bambi in the sequel, there’s nothing approaching the traumatic sequence in the original when Bambi’s mom gets shot. ”

    Folks, this person is a moron.

    Like animation needs MORE fake pathos and character defining songs.

  • Jay

    While I’d never say Bambi II is preferable to the original (she makes a terrible argument for it, in any case), it’s a very, very well made animated film.

    Just like Disney’s features, their DTV animation ranges from the truly poor (Pocahontas II, Fox & the Hound II) to enjoyable eye candy that didn’t really need to exist, but may as well (Stitch Has a Glitch, Brother Bear II) to films that easily trump anything DreamWorks has put out and can nearly sit next to the original comfortably (Bambi II, Lion King II).

    Lumping them all together as “artistic abortions” isn’t too well thought out, considering how much obvious effort went into the best of the batch. But having said that, I can understand why the new leadership thinks DisneyToon would be better used for original stories than being a sequel factory.

  • Christian

    I haven’t seen them all but have seen enough to know that some definitely had some quality aspects to them. Should Disney characters be used only once then never again? Should Mickey have never appeared again after Steamboat Willie (or Plane Crazy)? I’m not standing up for the old regime’s soulless raping of the classics but for the artists under them who made sure that some quality shone through.

    And we can’t discount Andreas Deja’s work in Bambi II. I don’t remember if the storyline was good or bad but there were a lot of good visuals in it.

  • Fred Sparrman

    What Jay said. It’s easy to condemn all the “cheapquels” as garbage, but if you actually WATCH them, you’ll find that in many the animation is surprisingly good.

  • Masten

    I really have nothing of value to contribute here, not having seen the sequels (though I’ll admit, they clearly seem like a victory of enterprise over art). But I’ll throw something out one more time since it was apparently missed again:


    Carry on.

  • Ghoest

    watched… they;re just bad, stories that are bland and unsofisticated and animation that pales in comparison to the originals they really are artistic abortions. Come on, these things were pounded out with very little love. Yeah Andreas Deja worked on Bambi 2012: Revolutions but the entire movie just HURTS to watch! That’s like saying that Valiant was just as fun to watch as Finding Nemo or Toy Story. Comparing clearly inferior products. Don;t tell people to watch this tripe!!! Jorge is right we need less “good sound executive ideas” and more creative stories.

  • RR

    >if you actually WATCH them, you’ll find that in many the animation >is surprisingly good.

    Good animation alone does not a good movie make.

  • Fred Sparrman

    “Good animation alone does not a good movie make.”

    Nor did I say it did. But there are some aspects of these films that are worth appreciating, even though as a whole they aren’t successful.

  • REH

    If they’re so great, why didn’t Disney try to release them theatrically? The answer: because they weren’t great. If those were honest to goodness attempts to recreate the Disney classics, then I’m going to cry myself to sleep while Walt rolls around in his grave for a while.

  • Christian

    Some of them *were* released theatrically. Jungle Book II and Return to Never Land. I also saw very limited engagements of Lion King 1 1/2 and Three Musketeers at the theater.

  • tom

    That article is flawed in so many ways, but chiefly it seems to make the case that cheapqiels never have the Dreamworks cheap pop cultural references, and theatrical releases are compelled to have them. What an idiotic point to try to make.

    Slate sometimes has all of the editorial panache of Parade magazine.

  • Ed Thompson

    What I got from the article was that the author really liked them because they were SAFE. No new thoughts, no disturbing situations, no trauma, and even the humor is low key. All of the card-board cut out authority figures in their proper role model modes. Implicit in this article is the idea that cartoons are to be made for, and be safe for, kids and that well-drawn bland is preferable to creative and inventive movies and videos.

    I do agree that the heavy doses of pop culture in most major cartoons today are vastly over-used, but look back at WB cartoons from the 30’s and 40’s and you will see lots of film and radio stars being used or caricatured, so it’s not really a recent phenomenom.

  • “As a father myself, I’d rather have my daughter watch the kinder stag of Bambi II than the distant, regal cipher of the first film. Plus, while his mother’s death certainly weighs on Bambi in the sequel, there’s nothing approaching the traumatic sequence in the original when Bambi’s mom gets shot.”

    He can’t be serious. So “Bambi II” is better because it’s “safer”? I’m going to need for him to go sit down somewhere. He’s been bribed, I’m sure.

  • joecab

    I also think people gave the sequels way more crap than they deserved. People acted like the quality was no better than Hanna-Barbera cartoons of the 1970’s. The quality is actually very nice, the voice work enjoyable, and the stories entertaining.

    BUT I hate the fact that they’re sequels: you should only release a sequel if it will meet or exceed its predecessor in quality, like say Toy Story 2. These stories just don’t do that. It does feel like they’re more about making money rather than art, which may be good for that year’s profits but tarnishes the company’s rep in the long run. can make something truely beautiful and still make a profit.

  • John Tebbel

    Walt was playing the real grown-up game of moviemaking, risking it all on theatrical pictures that had to please the general audience. Making home videos for parents too lazy or ignorant to hunt up real literature for their kids to see and read is a carny scam.

  • I have seen some of these (Little Mermaid 2, for instance), and I have seen very little merit in them. The animation is so-so (but better than anything you’d see oin TV) and the stories are contrived and trite.

    Actually, the only sequel Disney did that I liked in terms of story, characters and artistic appeal was ‘Rescuers Down Under’ — and best of all, it didn’t have any character defining songs, except for when George C. Scott warbles out the an evil version of ‘Home on the Range’.

  • I prefer the saying “the proof is in the pudding.” And those sequels just tasted baaaaad. It’s no wonder people don’t know quality animation anymore. They don’t even know what quality writing is.

  • Lucy Daly

    Disney sequels, with the exception of the second ‘Rescusers’ movie and perhaps the second ‘Lion King’ film, the lone direct-to-video Disney movie I enjoy, are about as needed as this article was; that is, it wasn’t.

    Did the author not stop to think that the reason Shrek III did not do well was not the fact audiences are tiring of CG animation, but because the plot was paper thin, the major ‘twist’ at the end was given away in the commercials, there were a slew of unneeded characters, and Justin Timberlake’s voice acting was some of the worst, whiniest slew I’d ever been forced to sit through?

    The fact that he sites the ‘high animation quality’ as one of the good points is laughable. Out of all of the direct-to-video sequels, probably the Lion King II and Brother Bear II had the best animation, but it was nowhere near as good as the original.

    I can see where some stories can be extended, sure, but I think for the mostpart Disney direct-to-video sequels are a last means of defense for a teen stuck babysitting a tribe of unruly children on any given weekend evening.

  • Christian

    “Making home videos for parents too lazy or ignorant to hunt up real literature for their kids to see and read is a carny scam.”

    Home video wasn’t around when Walt was around and some have even made the same pointless accusation about Walt: “Why is he making movies out of these classic fairy tales? Why doesn’t he let kids use their intelligence and just *read* the fairy tales?”

    If Walt had lived to see to see the advent of home video my *guess* is that he would allow further tales of some his classic characters to be made, but he wouldn’t go about it in the way the most recently departed Disney regime did, that story would always be preeminent, and that animation quality would always be great instead of the hit-and-miss nature of what we did end up with.

  • Jay

    Lucy Daly — just a note; while I totally agree with everything you cite about Shrek III (what a godawful wad that thing is), it certainly did do very well indeed. Right now it’s the fourth highest grossing animated film of all time, after Shrek 2, Finding Nemo, and Lion King. It also had the biggest opening weekend of any G or PG rated film ever.

    Sad but true. Sequels, including Disney’s, make money, and lots of it… at the expense of respect.

  • Just curious, but—why do people seem so well-disposed toward The Lion King II?

    To my way of thinking, that movie is a right travesty. I haven’t seen any of the other cheapquels out there, so if TLK2 is actually that much better than them, then I truly feel for those who have sat through them.

    The animation in TLK2 is inconsistent and sloppy, the characters are derivative, and the plot is so forced the army of writers must have had to order out for laxatives. It’s like they looked at TLK and said, “Hey, well, if the original was Hamlet, why don’t we just do Romeo & Juliet?”

    And what’s worst of all is all the scenes they cut out (see my site— Anything that might have lent depth or interest to the story, like Nuka’s death, Kovu’s parentage, and Zira’s suicide was plastered over. In fact, the ending of the movie, which originally had Zira maniacally flinging herself off the cliff, cackling, rather than accept Kiara’s help, was limply reworked simply by dubbing in a scream of terror—so she’s still animated as though laughing in glee, but instead of it being a character-developing plot point, it reduces the climactic ending of the movie to a pointless accident. “Can nearly sit next to the original comfortably”? Bah…

    Now, if you want good, entertaining watching, try The Lion King 1 1/2 on for size. That one, instead of trying to stretch out a nicely encapsulated story into two or three more episodes beyond the next morning’s sunrise, was recast as what amounts to a parody of the original—by people who really knew and loved the original and wanted to do it a proper homage. And lo and behold, it’s far better animated than TLK2, and mines some genuinely funny comedic territory. If all “cheapquels” were done with that same level of respect for the ground they walked on—where they sought to fill out the dimmer corners of the movie’s world instead of prying more story out of a narrative that’s already been told—I’d be more inclined to watch them, or at least to agree with what this article’s author has to say.

    I wrote about this stuff in an interview here.

  • “Good animation alone does not a good movie make.â€?

    Nor, for that matter, does bland functional animation, with poor clean-up, obviously outsourced tweens – and formless, drifting computer airbrush colouring.
    The chepquels i’ve seen looked like they were probably okay at the linetest stage, but had any life in them drowned out by layers of fondant icing.

    Those things are designed (though not very well executed) to *look* like Disney classics, in a static promo image. But none of them stand up to scrutiny when they start moving. The filmic equivalent of a Jack Vetriano painting, the lot of them.

  • Chuck R.

    True, the animation can be quite good in some of those Disney cheapquels, but what’s positive about that? Unless you’re using these films to train artists for better things, the thought of all that talent being spent on a weak movie makes me sad.

    BTW, Toy Story 2 was supposed to be a direct-to-video, but like Finding Neverland, it escaped the ghetto. I don’t know how they got Pixar to make it, but obviously Pixar’s incapable of making crap, and TS2 earned a theatrical release.

    I still wish Lasseter hadn’t let Chris Sanders go.

  • Darryl Hirschler

    Another point I didn’t see raised against sequels was that it even cheapens the original movie before it is created. A better story might not make it to print because they need to leave the door open for sequels. Not only are you missing out on a possible great ending, but you are not getting a *final* ending to the story.

  • Kyle Maloney

    I don’t care for most of the cheapquels, though admittedly Ive only seen a few. I will say I loved the Lion King 1 and 1/2 for its animation alone. story wise it was just a retread of the original plot. but they did a fantastic job of capturing the style of the original on a much more modest budget. I honestly think it looked theatrical quality. with a few more tweaks such as removing those annoying timon and pumba interruptions every 5 mins and with a bit more filler or something, it could have been somewhat successful at the box office in my opinion. its a real shame that this australian based animation studio had to be shut down, because I think they could have been amazing if given a real chance to shine with an original concept.

    lion king 2 however was crap to me. even though I was younger, I still knew that it looked little like the original. it didn’t have have the talent working on it.

    I’m kinda looking forward to the Little Mermaid III (even though TLM II was crap). I wont be buying it, but I’m sure I’ll be watching it one way or another out of sheer curiosity. its been getting some pretty good word of mouth from those who have seen some of it.

    still, I’m really glad to hear that they are stopping these sequels. even if some turn out decent here and there, their all unnecessary for the most part.

  • Keith Paynter

    If there were merit in putting every Disney roman numeral sequel in theatres, then I would consider the points valid. However, with the box office failure of Peter Pan II: Return To Neverland, the cheapquels would never again be seen in theaters, and future films would be animated by their low-budget television animation unit.

    [i]Fantasia 2000[/i] was not the hit Disney was looking for, and for good reason. A classic now, the original was a financial failure until reissue in the 60’s thanks to Haight-Ashbury poster art catering the film to the burgeoning hippie culture and the assistance of ‘herbal cigarettes’. Fantasia is still not a successful means of bringing classical music to the masses because, unfortunately, most symphonies survive today only by playing ‘Top 40’ classical along with anything John Williams ever wrote.

    My experience with The Return Of Jafar was enough to put me off cheapquels forever.

  • To be honest, when i heard that they were canceling all disney direct to video sequels, i was sorta relieved, but also disapointed. a mixed reaction, the disney sequels, i will admit, have not lived up to their hype, and are certainly not better than the original, but i still found them entertaining. Ive bought a majority of them, and some are good, and some are terrible. i do not believe that disney are just a money obsessed company doing whatever they can to satisfy their coperate greed. i believe this films are made with good intentions, and maybe, sometimes not.

    Bambi did, and still does, get critised for the death of bambi’s mother, how it affected people and disney has never been able to shake this off, Bambi 2, i believe, was made in order to help shake this criticism off, bambis mother does make a apperance in a dream sequence, where she tells him that she loves him, she misses him, and that she’ll always be with him. It was similar to the idea used in The Lion King, but it helped with the critics and children.

    Some films, really dont require a sequel, such as The Fox and the Hound, and thankfully cancelled films such as Dumbo 2 and The Aristocats 2. Its simply not practical, These films have limit story room, whereas Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and the Lion King, has such great story material, that all 3 films each, and all 3 tv series were succesful. I admit, i was disapointed with The Little Mermaid II, not for making a sequel, but for the story and the budget, they couldve done so much more with the story, and the animation was either re-used or of such low quality, some characters such as Ariel and Eric looked occasionally like someone completely different.

    Now, everyone criticises Cinderella II, saying how dreadful it was, but personally, i liked it, the animation wasnt half bad, and didnt result in mutayted versions of the key characters, especially as Cinderella herself is one of disneys most difficult characters to draw.
    A sequel to Cinderella wasnt really required i think, and the disapointments i felt for Cinderella II, was cleared up with Cinderella III, although Cinderella II was badly criticised, it still sold very well.

    Cinderella III was such a improvement on all levels, a much better story, (although, a little predictable) memorable songs, and amazing animation, in my opinion the best sequel animation ever made by the disney company. i was a little annoyed with the ending to be honest, i just felt it needed more wrapping up time.

    Peter Pan is one of my least favorite disney films, and i enjoyed the sequel, and was curious when rumours of Peter Pan III began to crop up. I was dispointed that the audience didnt see much of Wendy, and even more disapointed that she greatly resembled a cross between Ariel and Belle and that Kathryn Beaumount didnt do the voice.

    Ive read Peter Pan in Scarlet, and if i was to make a Peter Pan sequel, i would deffernatly adapt that, although few plot points would have to change, mainly to do with the lost boys, there are some i would keep just because it was so impressive, the way Wendy and John returned to neverland by use of Pixie Dust they caught in a london park, Micheal had died in the 2nd world war in the book, and i would deffo keep this in. There is so much potential with this book that Return To Neverland wasnt really much of a match.

    Now, Mulan, when first released, i really enjoyed and still do, i understand the need for a sequel, it had good story possabilities.
    But Mulan 2 was such a dismal experience, ive only ever watched it the once, and now remains in a box covered in dust. The story itself, of Mulan and Shang escourting 3 princesses to be wed…well, i liked the secret mission idea, but to have the 3 princesses run off with the guards and fall in love was just idiotic. And then they tried to have a emotional moment by Mulan offering upherself to take the Princesses place after Shangs supposed death. now……OH JUST COME ON!!

    I came up with better ideas when i was 6! Mulan had some much potential, and Mulan 2 is just such a boring dry film. The animation and songs werent half bad, but the acting of the animation and voices were too stiff for a audience member to really connect to the characters. The Princesses themselves, now, Mulan, she may have had the nerve to run away from home, cross dress all in aid of keeping her father home, but the princesses, who were brought up in a palace, and in real life would not have the nerve to break rules and tradition, and if they did would probebly have been sentanced to death for deseriton and failure to go through with their promise. But in the film, they got all completely free without dealing with the consequnces! That film just had too many problems with it.

    Walt Disney himself said he would never want to make sequels to his films, but it was bound to happen. I Just wish they had been given more dedication, care and more importantly the budget to make a decent collection. But no matter how much attention to detail their given, they would always get given criticism for merely being a sequel. As much as i liked them, im glad they wont be tarnishing their reputation any longer.