There was a time when Disney “got it”. They preserved their legacy via carefully protecting their animated classics, making each seven-year stretch between releases an event. Audiences of all ages would line up to revisit beloved characters and cartooning excellence, and when a movie didn’t make the grade, it was relegated to the vault and the myth of many an oldster’s tale. Then home video came along and the House of Mouse saw a way to profit from their past. Again, they initially went about it right. They offered up their most choice titles, and when a film didn’t live up to said label, it wouldn’t be captured on magnetic tape for all eternity. Then someone got the bright idea to craft direct to VHS sequels, spinoffs of the best made for one reason and one reason only: to bank a bit of extra cash with trading on a parent’s sense of security with any of Walt’s works.
Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, before present studio head John Lasseter put the kibosh on the practice, dozens of these dopey non-theatrical knockoffs were tossed out like so much smelly trash, the adults in the consumer sphere lapping them up like the lame electronic babysitters they are. Let’s face it. Disney is a trusted name. If you can’t sit your wee one in front of the boob tube with a piece of Mickey’s manufactured domain, why bother? Well, here’s why. Cars 2. And now the equally awful Planes. Even when they say they won’t, the Happiest Hucksters on Earth can’t help themselves. If there is money to be made, they will merchandise it out of us. That being said, here are 10 more examples of awful entries into this who specious scheme. Call them sequels, prequels, or spinoffs, but they really only have one official moniker: ripoffs.
As the company’s first direct to video feature, there was a lot riding on its success. Aladdin had made a mint and the studio was hoping to use this novelty as an introduction to a regular TV series based on the film. Unfortunately, Genie voice Robin Williams was in a dispute with the House of Mouse over his fee for the original, so he did not return. Instead, Homer Simpson himself, Dan Castellaneta did the honors. He’s okay, but like most of this pointless revisit, there is nothing new or novel. Just a cash grab coat-tailing onto an already established triumph.
Curious about what happened to the meerkat Timon (voiced by Nathan Lane) and warthog Pummba (Ernie Sabella) before, during, and after their run in with Simba and the rest of the Lion King gang? Well, here’s your retread, a lax buddy comedy which sees the mismatched animals wander around, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern style, bopping in and out of the established classic while filling in some blanks about their background. We learn that Timon is an outcast because her nearly got his family killed, and that Pummba is a bloated, overweight waste of space. Even with an MST3K shout out at the beginning, this movie is a mess.
How do you sully (or at the very least, attempt to sully) the good name of the first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences? Why, you craft a crappy holiday special which is supposed to showcase what happened in between two major plots points in the first film. Disney loved doing these mid-quels, looking over their catalog and smacking their head, shouting, “Dang! We never found out what happened before Dumbo’s mom was tortured. Let’s find out.” As a strategy, it never worked. Not here. Not ever.
Another House of Mouse gimmick was taking a classic title, in this case, the beloved story of star-crossed curs who fall in love, and focusing on their offspring. Here, Lady and Tramp have a son, Scamp, and this little rascal loves to get in trouble. In fact, he longs to be a “wild dog”, unlike his pampered and (somewhat) polished parents. So what does he do? Why, what any anthropomorphized canine does, he joins a gang known as the Junkyard Dogs. Now that’s a terrific lesson for the kiddies, isn’t it. Of course, the pup learns from his mistakes. The audience? We’re not so sure.
As one of the most hated of Disney’s post-renaissance efforts (perhaps behind Treasure Planet and Home on the Range), Atlantis: The Lost Empire was accused of everything from causing boredom to blatant plagiarism (some have said that it was nothing more than a lift from the anime classic Nadia: The Secret of Blue Waters). Whatever the case, this follow-up went straight to video when the original belly-flopped at the box office. This revisit is just as mediocre, mixing old school adventure yarning with a bunch of New Age touchy feeling foolishness. As with many of these knock-offs, even the animation couldn’t match what came before.
// Notes from the Road
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