Disney’s animated features have had a long, rocky relationship with sequels. Starting in 1994 with The Return of Jafar, Disney began cranking out direct-to-video sequels for some of its most beloved theatrical releases. The problem is that many of these new films had predictable stories and poorer animation than their predecessors. While enjoyable, they didn’t hold the same cinematic value of the classics that came before them.
Thankfully, Disney seemed to realize this and slowed down the production of sequels in the 2010s. Nevertheless, its theatrical sequels have not reached a dead-end (Frozen II). While we don’t know how good Disney’s future sequels will be, we do know which films deserve a follow-up — and of course, we know the ones that don’t. We’re only going to be covering the movies that don't already have a sequel, no matter how good (or otherwise) they might be. That means no Aladdin, Peter Pan, or Mulan. We also won’t be covering Pixar films, as its studios have produced a whole line of sequels and prequels, and that’s a totally different matter.
10 Deserves: Meet the Robinsons
Can you say “underrated” a little louder for the people in the back? Meet the Robinsons is the 2007 sci-fi comedy that followed a 12-year-old inventor’s quest to win the science fair and find his family in the process. The time-travel plot was fast-paced and fresh, full of funny twists that balanced out those heart-warming moments.
Meet the Robinsons was actually scheduled to get a direct-to-video sequel through DisneyToon Studios' tentatively titled Meet the Robinsons: First Date. When John Lasseter stepped in as Walt Disney Animation Studios’ new chief creative officer, though, he canceled the sequels to come. This was probably a good move for Disney in terms of quality, but unfortunately, it meant we weren’t seeing another futuristic follow-up.
9 Doesn’t Deserve: Chicken Little
Like Meet the Robinsons, Chicken Little was destined for a direct-to-video sequel with the working title of Chicken Little 2: The Ugly Duckling Story, until Lasseter put an end to those plans. The story was set to follow Chicken Little’s love triangle between Abby Mallard and newcomer Raffaela, and because it was so well received, Disney even considered increasing the budget before it was scrapped. Clearly, this didn’t happen.
While the premise of the sequel was intriguing, the original Chicken Little wasn’t wildly incredible, making us believe it's probably best it never came to fruition. The quirky humor and plot of the original was fun, but didn’t possess the usual Disney magic.
8 Deserves: Big Hero 6
Big Hero 6 follows Hiro and his friendship with his brother’s robotic creation Baymax on a danger-filled adventure. The original film was both a critical and box office success, becoming Disney’s third-highest-grossing animated feature behind only The Lion King and Frozen upon its release. While it was at the forefront of everyone’s minds for a while, the excitement quickly died off.
The film’s directors considered a sequel, although these plans were instead replaced by a television series. We would still love to see the film get additional time on the big screen.
7 Doesn’t Deserve: Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty was one of the few Disney princess films that escaped the direct-to-video sequel curse. While the original is well-loved, we don’t see a second one doing well, even if it did get a high-quality theatrical release.
Disney has shifted to live-action remakes in recent years, and one of those followed Maleficent. This Disney villain is also getting a sequel, and as her live-action film added depth to her character, it seems unnecessary to continue Sleeping Beauty’s original story.
6 Deserves: Treasure Planet
Disney’s Treasure Planet is a 2002 futuristic reimagining of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. While critics thought the characters were lacking, the visuals were beautiful. A sequel had been planned for this film, but after it disappointed at the box office, taking in just over $109 million against a budget of $140 million, those plans were scrapped.
Sure, Treasure Planet isn’t very memorable, but the high-quality 2D animation style is something we miss. We’d love to see Disney give this story a second spin by giving it a fresh follow-up narrative and added character depth. If the original voice cast returned — including stars like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emma Thompson, and Martin Short — we're sure they could pull something off.
5 Doesn’t Deserve: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Disney’s first-ever animated feature film was heart-warming, and revolutionary at the time. While the story was simple, it was also enchantingly sweet. That being said, the film didn’t have a lot of depth. We don’t blame Walt — after all, it fit the theme of other films at the time — but we would have liked to see a revamped sequel. As it’s Disney’s original classic, though, it might be better left untouched.
Disney’s getting a chance to do the tale justice through its upcoming live-action remake. While few details have been released, we’re hoping it will give the characters the complexities they deserve.
4 Deserves: Zootopia
Zootopia raked in over a billion dollars at the box office against a budget of $150 million. That should say something. This 2016 3D computer-animated film about the partnership between a fox con artist and a police officer rabbit was praised for its socially-conscious story, fun characters, and zingy humor.
While nothing has been confirmed by Disney, voice actor Tommy Lister said Disney is working on two sequels to the original. We can only hope they’re as perfect as the first.
3 Doesn’t Deserve: Alice in Wonderland
Like Sleeping Beauty, this Disney classic didn’t end up with a direct-to-video sequel. However, it also ended up with a live-action remake that would render any original sequel uninteresting.
Directed by Tim Burton, Alice in Wonderland’s live-action 2010 remake gave the tale even darker and more magical twists and turns. Its sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, premiered in 2016. So if Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland ever does get a second story, either it would be forced to follow the live-action narrative already told or wipe it away to create a new one. With neither option being appealing, it’s best this one stays away.
2 Deserves: Bolt
Bolt is Disney’s comedy-adventure film following a dog who believes he has superpowers after starring in a TV show alongside his child-actress owner, Penny. When an episode ending on a cliffhanger leads him to believe Penny is in danger, he goes a mission to find her. Bolt was the first film to be released after Lasseter gained control of Disney’s creative production. While its box office score was modest, its critical response was huge.
Bolt was popular enough for people to remember it, but not so popular that it is now rendered “untouchable.” With funny characters and a lot of plotlines left open in the ending, we definitely believe there are all kinds of things Disney could do in a sequel if its creators jumped on it soon.
1 Doesn’t Deserve: Moana
Yes, Moana was a huge success. Critics loved it, the box office score was great, and that soundtrack was catchy as anything. Despite this, Disney is known to push its sequels further than they need to go, and as there weren’t many loose ends worth tying up, a movie might not be in this franchise’s best interest.
Perhaps if they were to come up with a solid story, we’d be all ears. We have no doubt that Lin-Manuel Miranda could pull out some new incredible music, and rumor has it that he has already approached Disney about a second film. That being said, Disney will want to seriously consider whether there is a worthwhile story to be told in a Moana sequel or if it would simply act as a cash grab.