The sequel is the cinematic equivalent of a safety shot. It ventures down a risk-free and proven path, reintroducing moviegoers to a universe they already understand and characters they already love. It’s the warmth of a stable romance rather than the thrill of new love.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If a story captivates an audience, why shouldn’t it be allowed to continue? Some of the more cerebral Disney movies of late, like Inside Out and Wall-E, left viewers feeling there was more to be explored. A sequel can expand on the themes presented by those movies and continue to develop their stories, creating a deeper and richer experience.
It also affords older viewers the chance to reconnect with some of the most defining moments of their childhood. A sequel of an older Disney movie, such as The Little Mermaid or Mary Poppins, has the advantage of appealing to children as well as their parents and nostalgic young adults.
However, this is when it’s done right. A good sequel can rekindle fond memories, but a bad one can destroy them. Disney could choose to pick up a wildly successful blockbuster (say, Frozen), and mine it for all its commercial worth with sequels and remakes and ice shows and musicals and spin-offs and live-action plays, while adding nothing of value whatsoever and leaving us feeling robbed and strangely violated.
And then there’s the remake: perhaps the most cynical and calculated decision a studio can make. The remake doesn’t even tack on a half-baked continuation to a story. It just retells the story. Willy Wonka is still Willy Wonka but now he looks like Johnny Depp. And Peter Pan is still Peter Pan but now he’s flesh and blood, not a cartoon character.
Ok, maybe I’m being a little facetious. A remake, when done right, is a chance to retell a story from a different angle. Many Disney stories (or rather, stories stolen by Disney) are centuries old, and a remake is an opportunity to tell these stories through the lens of today’s sensibilities and values. Old tropes such as the damsel in distress and out-dated gender roles can be challenged and subverted. Classics such as Cinderella and Pocahontas are ripe for revisionist remakes.
And of course there is Toy Story. When asked for an example of a worthy sequel, most of us will try to appear intelligent and mention The Godfather: Part II. But what we’re really thinking is Toy Story 2. With Toy Story 2, we saw the characters age as we aged, and we saw Andy (adorable child and toy owner) grow as we grew. We saw him at different milestones of his life, and watched the toys struggle to make sense of their changing relationship with him and with each other. Toy Story 2 embodies everything that’s right about the sequel.
Disney’s obsession with the sequel and remake is the reason we need to wade through a wasteland of commercially successful garbage, but hey, it also gave us Toy Story 2, so humanity can consider it a wash.
As we march ever forward, more remakes and sequels are sure to come from the animation giant. Indeed, a fourth entry in the Toy Story franchise is already slated for July 2018 at the latest. (Yippee!)
Which films/franchises are most likely to get a makeover or companion piece next? We set the odds.
Odds to be the next Disney remake or sequel:
Inside Out: 12/1
Mary Poppins: 15/1
Toy Story: 25/1 [Though Toy Story 4 already has a tentative release date, the fact that it’s a couple years down the road still makes it a longshot.]
(Photo credit: Loren Javier (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/legalcode].)