Disney has come a long way since The Return of Jafar in figuring out how to continue the adventures of its animated characters. Too many of the early sequels were content to recycle the original films familiar story beats, usually with the heros offspring retracing the parents steps. (In more than one of the films someone eventually observes, he/shes just like his/her father/mother.) Taking no chances, Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea even threw in a penguin and walrus team to serve as Timon and Pumbaa clones, while 2003s Jungle Book 2 sent Mowgli...
Disney has come a long way since The Return of Jafar in figuring out how to continue the adventures of its animated characters. Too many of the early sequels were content to recycle the original films familiar story beats, usually with the heros offspring retracing the parents steps. (In more than one of the films someone eventually observes, he/shes just like his/her father/mother.) Taking no chances, Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea even threw in a penguin and walrus team to serve as Timon and Pumbaa clones, while 2003s Jungle Book 2 sent Mowgli back out into the jungle for one more go-round with Baloo and Shere Khan and three reprises of The Bare Necessities.
A few of the sequels attempted with varying degrees of success to continue the heros adventures: Pocahontas travels to England and finds a new love Quasimodo becomes babysitter and confidant to Esmeraldas and Phoebus son or, in the newest DTV, Mulan and her fiancé are sent on a secret mission.
The characterization shifts in these sequels are often as interesting as the films themselves. In the original Mulan for example, Eddie Murphys Mushu clumsily tries to protect Mulan in order to prove himself, but in the sequel he (now voiced by Murphy sound-alike Mark Moseley) sets out to sabotage Mulan and Shangs engagement for his own benefit, turning himself into a far less sympathetic character.
The best of the straight sequels to date, both in terms of respecting the source material while taking it in a new direction may be 2003s 101 Dalmatians II: Patchs London Adventure. The film retains the originals early 60s ambience and recreates Ken Andersons jazzy art direction to a T, but this time around the focus is on a single Dalmatian, the lost-in-the-crowd Patch. Left on his own via Home Alone-style complications, he links up with Thunderbolt, the seemingly heroic canine TV star glimpsed in the original movie.
The films stroke of brilliance however, is in providing Cruella DeVil with (get ready) a boyfriend/soul mate a minimalist painter by the name of Lars. Dressed head-to-toe in black, sporting dark sunglasses and a Germanic accent courtesy of Martin Short, Lars could be the offspring of Saturday Night Live s Dieter and The Incredibles Edna Mode. (Line of dialog to die for Your harsh words strike me like the blows from the fists of a large dockworker; keep an eye on Lars canvases for some clever visual riffs, too.)
With next chapter sequels nearing a point of diminishing returns, the films have begun exploring the missing chapters of its characters lives in what DisneyToons president Sharon Morrill refers to as inbetween-quels. Its an approach first attempted in 1997s Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas where Lumiere, Cogsworth and company recall how the castle musician, now a massive pipe organ, tried to sabotage Belles efforts to lift the Beasts spirits. Beyond the intriguing idea of a villain unwilling to give up his non-human form if it means losing his influence over the Beast, the movies flourishes include the CGI-animated pipe organ and a sequence where the organs spell-casting music takes the form of superimposed, green-tinted rough pencil animation.
DisneyToons most recent inbetween-quel, Lion King 1 1/2 is Disneys funniest feature since The Emperors New Groove (itself the recipient of an upcoming next chapter sequel). This time around the focus is squarely on Timon and Pumbaa, watching the film were watching in Mystery Science Theatre 3000-style silhouette. Turns out they were in the background, just out of frame throughout the first half of the original Lion King, unknowingly tracing the movie scene-by-scene. (Oh perfect, Timon complains when I Just Cant Wait to be King wakes him, we moved to the theater district.)
Even an otherwise pedestrian TV pilot like Cinderella II: Dreams Come True can boast of an inspired moment or two: in the last of the videos three episodes, the personality-free heroine gives one of her stepsisters a makeover and helps her win the heart of a simple baker. The idea of a previously stereotypical Disney villain experiencing growth and coming into her own is downright subversive, but the image of the other sister looking back in amazement at her happy sibling as her mother pulls her out of frame is evocative and unforgettable; maybe theres another life out there for me too
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