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The Epidemic of Needless Sequels

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It’s no secret that there’s been a surplus of sequels released to add on to film franchises. But after a certain point, when is it a continuation and when is it a cash grab? 


Many franchises have felt the need to release sequels to existing properties. Some notable examples are horror franchises like “Saw” or “The Conjuring” that have a ridiculous number of installments. It’s obvious that when a movie does well, the production companies and the higher-ups raking in the most cash are going to greenlight as many iterations of a successful thing as possible. 


However, there’s something to be said about remakes and the revival sequel. More recently, many companies like Disney are releasing newer versions of previously beloved movies, but adding something new to guarantee movie tickets will still sell. Many of the well-known animated classics, mostly from Disney’s Renaissance Era, have been or will be released as live-action remakes. A lot of these “fresh new versions for a new generation” are still mostly animated but contain better computer graphics rather than traditional animation. Within the last four years, Disney has released six “live-action” remakes of animated classics, three of which came out this year. There’s still more to come, with the “Little Mermaid” adaptation, “Mulan” and “Lady and the Tramp” also set for future release. 


These aren’t the only Disney properties granted a revival, either. Many animated properties under the umbrella of Pixar have received seemingly misplaced sequels to classic films. “Toy Story 3” was released in 2010, 11 years after its predecessor “Toy Story 2.” “Monsters University” came out in 2013, 12 years after “Monsters Inc.” These two sequels were somewhat unexpected and similarly tugged at the heartstrings of die-hard Disney fans who grew up with the originals. Both sequels offered a relatable scenario with familiar characters that hit home for a lot of life-long fans, and the now grown-up viewers facing the scary uncertainty of life after childhood.


Even stranger, though, was the announcement and release of “Toy Story 4” earlier this year. The previous installment to the franchise left things feeling finished and neatly packed, so why continue? 


A new generation of viewers has grown up with these properties and a movie about toys is guaranteed to sell mass amounts of merchandise. If a movie does well, it’s unlikely to be shelved and never touched again. But this new sequel brought on a cast of wacky side characters voiced by well-known celebrities for even more appeal. Keanu Reeves, Keegan Michael Key, and Jordan Peele are just a few. Others like Mel Brooks and Betty White voiced characters specially made as punny cameos. 


This is brilliant marketing. The previous generation that flocked to “Toy Story 3” for the sake of nostalgia wouldn’t be interested in yet another movie about toys that seemed wrapped up. But including voice actors of major relevance would get the attention of older viewers, and Keanu Reeves has been the celebrity of the year. He’s become an internet sensation among a crowd that otherwise might have no interest in seeing another installment of “Toy Story,” and just in case, they snagged a few other noteworthy names to insure that they get butts in seats. 


The live-action “Lion King” is another needless Disney movie guilty of hiring buzz-worthy celebrities. The main characters of Simba and Nala were voiced by Donald Glover and Beyoncé. The supporting cast included Seth Rogan as Pumba and Billy Eichner as Timon. It’s clear that Disney hoped having big names attached to beloved characters would be a sure-fire way to make as much money possible. 


Others from this year, such as “Aladdin” and “Dumbo” had a few needless inclusions of notable celebrities. Will Smith was cast as the Genie of “Aladdin,” and Danny DeVito played the circus leader in “Dumbo.” With so many sequels and remakes plotted for the future, it’ll be interesting to see which celebrities will be cast to guarantee social media coverage and ticket sales. 

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Image by Amber Duan


written by
Courtney Roeper
January 3, 2020