- Between 1994 and 2008, one of Disney’s studios was tasked with producing straight-to-VHS and straight-to-DVD sequels to their biggest classics.
- From “Cinderella III” to “The Lion King 1½,” their level of quality and success vary widely.
- Most of these sequels, prequels, and midquels weren’t really warranted and don’t expand the original story in any significant way.
- Here’s every one, ranked from best to worst.
- A few tropes repeat themselves throughout the films on this list, such as focusing on the main character’s kids, giving love interests to characters who definitely don’t need them, and making protagonists forget everything they learned in the original films.
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If you were born before the turn of the millennium, chances are you grew up watching Disney movies on VHS and DVD.
If you fall into that category, you proably also remember some of the trailers that used to play before the film started.
No, they weren’t epic previews of the next big Disney films hitting theatres. Instead, they were usually promos for the next cash-grab B-movie Disneytoon sequel to one of those box office smash hit classics.
We’re talking about the likes of “The Return of Jafar,” “Pocahontas II,” and “Cinderella III,” movies that if you had the misfortune to watch as a kid, you hopefully deleted from your memory.
All jokes aside, some of them are worth a watch if only for a hit of nostalgia, and Disney+ has made catching up on ones you may have missed a bit easier.
Here are all the Disney classic’s direct-to-video sequels, prequels, and midquels ranked from best to worst (or better put, from pretty bad to very bad).
1. ‘The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride’ (1998)
Right off the bat we see one of the main tropes these films use to justify their existence and create the main point of conflict in the plot – the main character has forgotten everything they learned in the first film.
In “The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride,” Simba is now a grown-up dad to teen daughter Kiara, and a surprisingly prejudicial and protective one at that. Kiara – who looks just like Nala – falls in love with Kovu, who looks like a young Scar, but has no relation.
They are childhood friends, but Kovu and his mother Zira were exiled by Simba for being Scar sympathizers, and because Zira believed her son Kovu should sit on the throne, so sent him on a secret mission to infiltrate Pride Rock.
Simba is not happy with the romance at first, but – after Rafiki takes them to a tunnel of love ride in the jungle where the two unleash their wild side, if you know what I mean – he eventually comes around. Overall, it makes for a cohesive and warranted sequel to the original.
2. ‘Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch’ (2005)
With three sequels and a TV show which ran over three years, “Lilo & Stitch” can truly be considered a franchise at this point, and in true Disney fashion, the timeline of all these products is not the easiest to unravel.
But at least they got their nomenclature right, as, despite being the third film in order of release, “Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch” picks right up from where the original left off.
Lilo wants to keep on living her normal life in Hawaii, this time focused on entering a hula competition to commemorate her mother, but she also doesn’t want to abandon her friend Stitch, even though his hardware malfunction is causing a little more than a glitch in her life.
This sequel manages to keep the perfect mix of cute and wacky that made the first one so charming. Both characters have experienced so much hurt in their lives and now that they have found each other will do anything to protect their bond. It’s heartwarming, sweet, and definitely deserves a spot high up on this list.
3. ‘The Return of Jafar’ (1994)
This is the film that set it all off.
“The Return of Jafar” was the first sequel to be made by Disney for the home video market, and the quality hadn’t dropped that much yet.
We were left at the end of the first “Aladdin” film with Jafar being turned into an all-powerful genie, and were supposed to believe that just because he was trapped in a lamp, that would be it for him.
However, Jafar’s lamp very quickly gets picked up by a thief who also happens to want to take revenge on Aladdin, so the two team up and head back to Agrabah.
The epic Genie vs Jafar fight we never knew we needed, added to the fact that Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson) comes in to play the Genie and that Iago (who is now sort of good) has not one but two musical numbers, should make you at least a little bit interested in watching it yourself.
4. ‘Cinderella III: A Twist in Time’ (2007)
Disney knew what they were doing with this film.
As the Disney Princesses brand became bigger and bigger over the last decade, Cinderella needed an image revamp from her original movie.
Cinderella is definitely the blander and more traditional of all the princesses if you only look at the original film. But this lack of any meaningful foundation to build on actually made for a great starting point to rewrite her story entirely. And what better way to do it and make it cool as hell than with time travel?
In “Cinderella III: A Twist in Time,” the step sisters steal the Fairy Godmother’s wand and go back in time to prevent the prince from ever falling in love with Cinderella. He’s a goofball and a hopeless romantic now, and she’s gutsy and in charge, so the Cinderella legacy is healed and they can live happily ever after, for real this time.
5. ‘Mulan II’ (2005)
“Mulan II” would have been way better if Mulan hadn’t been in it. Yet again, the issue of the main character forgetting who they were in the first film for the sake of conflict raises its head, but this time it happens with two characters.
Mulan is now a hopeless romantic and Shang is a wimp who can’t do anything on his own. They are in hot waters with their relationship, so obviously they are tasked to lead a mission together: the Emperor’s three daughters are to be married off in a neighbouring kingdom and need escorting.
Here we have another trope of Disney home video sequels: characters getting random new love interests. If only in the first film we had three single men who sang about what their perfect woman should be like to pair up with these three princesses. This film is basically based on the song “A Girl Worth Fighting For” from the first movie, so much so that they just sing it again in this film.
The princesses turn out to be exactly what Yao, Ling, and Chien-Po asked for and they fall in love and elope together, and Mulan finds them and is supportive of their love. Shang isn’t, but it all doesn’t matter since they get attacked, checking off yet another Disney sequel trope – the fake death.
Spoiler: It looks like Shang died falling into a bottomless pit, but he eventually comes back and stops Mulan in her attempt to give herself away for marriage instead of the princesses, meaning no one gets married to the foreign king.
6. ‘Tarzan II’ (2005)
How could you never have heard of “Tarzan II,” the third Tarzan movie made by Disney which takes place between the prologue sequence of the original and the actual story, and features Tarzan as a kid?
As far as these films go, “Tarzan II” is actually pretty decent, and it even manages to use the usual tropes in a unique way. This time, the fake death from a plummeting height isn’t of the love interest – it’s Tarzan who everyone believes to be dead.
So kiddo Tarzan, who still hasn’t learned how to survive in the jungle, has to, well, survive in the jungle alone, until he finds and makes friends with an old solitary ape who teaches him that he doesn’t have to act like a gorilla or other animals to fit in because he is a Tarzan. It’s kind of heartwarming, to be honest.
He eventually returns to his tribe, followed by some evil gorillas who terrorize his family, but Tarzan swings in with his new skills and chases them away.
7. ‘Leroy & Stitch’ (2006)
The last in the Lilo & Stitch timeline, “Leroy & Stitch” acts as a finale for the TV show, in which we met some (but not all) of the 625 experiments that preceded Stitch, all little loveable big-eyed aliens with unique powers.
Now, the evil Dr. Hämsterviel, who has been trying to capture all the experiments to use them for his own plans, has made a 627th experiment, a new and improved, red, evil Stitch named Leroy, whom he will use to take over the world.
For fans who were really involved with the series (it was one of my personal favourite shows as a kid), this film acts like the perfect finale. We see all the experiments come together with their quirky powers to fight in the final battle. It’s definitely cute, but loses a bit of the human charm of the original and the previous sequel.
8. ‘Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World’ (1998)
In the first scene of “Pocahontas II,” John Smith dies… or does he? No, he obviously doesn’t, but Disney has to pretend like he is dead for Pocahontas to get a new love interest.
Oh, and remember how at the end of the first film, Pocahontas decides she couldn’t follow John Smith to England because she had to stay with her tribe? Well, she doesn’t remember that and as a new John arrives on her land – John Rolfe – she decides to board a ship with him and sail to England to meet with the King.
Once there, though, the King refuses to meet with her because she is a savage, so amnesiac Pocahontas, who now thinks “Colours of the Wind” was about arts and crafts, decides to learn manners to prove she is worthy of the King’s attention.
That is basically the film, until she gets arrested and John Smith has to come and rescue her. She is now torn between which John to pick, but it doesn’t really matter because they are basically the same character anyway.
9. ‘The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea’ (2000)
This one is about Melody, the daughter of Ariel and prince Eric, aka brunette Ariel – not only because they look alike down to the quiff, but because their story is exactly the same but reversed.
Melody was brought up on land by two seemingly human parents who never told her she was half mermaid. She has this strange obsession with the sea and wants to go live in the sea but thinks her mum Ariel is just too stupid to ever understand, since, you know, she doesn’t talk to her about this.
But at least they got to have a different villain in this film, right? No, not really – it’s just Ursula’s secret crazy sister Morgana, aka thin Ursula. She has been trying to kill Melody since she was a baby, so Ariel and Eric took a parenting tip or two from Elsa’s parents and locked her up and forbade her from ever going into the sea without any explanation.
So of course, she runs away, hops into the ocean, finds Morgana who promises to turn her into a mermaid, and basically you know the rest if you have seen the original.
10. ‘Brother Bear 2’ (2006)
The trope where a character who didn’t get a love interest in the first film is given a love interest in the sequel is already a stretch in most of these movies, but when you try to pair up a bear and a human, it gets to a whole new level of uncomfortable.
In “Brother Bear 2” we meet Nita, who is about to marry a fellow human, but the spirits aren’t happy and send a message by crashing their union with an earthquake. It turns out that Kenai, the main dude/bear from the first film, gave Nita an amulet when they were childhood friends and the spirits think they are now an item.
Nita, who is not happy about her soul being tied to a bear, seeks out Kenai in order to destroy the amulet with him. For some reason he refuses to help her get rid of him even though he doesn’t have any interest in pursuing this bond at first, but obviously as they travel together, they fall in love and Nita decides not to marry her human fiancé.
11. ‘The Lion King 1½’ (2004)
The concept of “The Lion King 1½” is brilliant: Timon and Pumba retell the story of the first film from their own perspective. It doesn’t undermine the events of “The Lion King,” and it doesn’t try to make an interesting plot happen out of non-existent conflict. It’s lighthearted and humorous, if maybe some of the jokes do tailor a bit too much to an 8-year-old audience.
Overall, with both its sequels, “The Lion King” has received a great treatment, with the animation of this one being impeccable and maybe even better than the 10-years-older original when comparing some of the same scenes side-by-side.
12. ‘Bambi II’ (2006)
“Bambi II” lives in the same weird timespan in which “Tarzan II” resides. It’s not technically a prequel, but it does take place before the main events of the first film.
In “Bambi II” we learn more about what happened between the death of Bambi’s mum and his adolescence. The main theme of the movie is a son struggling to connect and prove himself to his distant father. You might think this wouldn’t warrant an entire feature-length film, and the writers at Disney probably thought the same since they introduce some more conflict with another deer named Ronno, who everybody hates anyway.
13. ‘Aladdin and the King of Thieves’ (1996)
Aladdin got lucky when sequels ideas were handed out – even the second sequel is pretty decent, if a bit more of a hot mess.
With all the adventures he has been through, Aladdin still hasn’t had time to marry Jasmine before this film, and his long-lost father, aka the King of Thieves, wouldn’t miss it for the world, so he crashes the party and ruins everything.
Aladdin then tries to gain his dad’s respect and join his gang before inviting him again to his wedding. And who would have guessed, he ruins this wedding too by trying to steal the Oracle that would lead him to the ultimate treasure, with the help of Iago, who now officially has had the craziest morally ambiguous journey of any character in this film.
14. ‘The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning’ (2008)
I appreciate that making prequels is hard and tricky to balance since we know how and where the characters are going to end up, but this film commits some of the biggest sins when it comes to continuity, mainly making Ariel aware of what a hairbrush is, what it looks like, and how it’s used (hello, have you forgotten about her dinglehopper?).
Anyway, the film is basically “Footloose” but under the sea. After Ariel’s mother died (another sporter of the family quiff who looks nothing like any of her other daughters and 100% like Ariel), Triton bans music from his reign. Flanders, Ariel, and her sisters all disobey and get in trouble, and have to remind Triton of the beauty of music by finding a music box his wife gave him and which he tossed away once she died.
Overall, “The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning” is an OK film with some of the best-looking animation, but its biggest merit is probably that it was the last of Disney’s home-video sequels.
15. ‘Cinderella II: Dreams Come True’ (2002)
Even though it’s a stitched-together compilation of shorts, “Cinderella II” holds up better than some of the proper feature films on this list. As the mice build a story book of all the adventures happening in the castle, we see Cinderella use her power to break class boundaries by inviting the peasants to socialise with the royalty. Jacques the mouse also turns back into a human and stepsister Anastasia finds love.
Again, it is obviously a very aware attempt by Disney to reinstate Cinderella’s image as a modern and progressive princess but hey, it kind of works.
16. ‘Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas’ (1997)
You might ask yourself why “The Beauty and the Beast” even needed a sequel. What more was there to add to the story of Belle? Well, for one, this is not a sequel, it’s a mid-quel, and two, it actually has two other sequels (one of which we are not going to talk about in this list because it is just a compilation of TV episodes and Disney+ doesn’t even carry it).
“Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” takes place during the events of the first film: the Beast is still the Beast, and the items in the castle are still animated. In particular, we find out that the organ in the Beast’s castle is haunted by the spirit of the organ player, who really doesn’t want the Beast and Belle to fall in love because that will mean he would turn back to normal and not be able to play music all day, as opposed to being human and still being able to play, amongst other things. So, he tries to sabotage Belle’s attempts at making the Beast like Christmas, since we learn he receives his curse on Christmas Day.
The early 3D character animation of the organ is so hauntingly bad that besides the film not having much in the way of stakes (as with many of the prequels in this list – we know Belle and the Best do eventually fall in love) it makes for a memorable entry.
17. ‘Stitch! The Movie’ (2003)
At the other end to “Leroy and Stitch,” this film introduces us to the TV show.
It ranks lower on this list mainly because it only exists to set us a premise – that there are 625 other experiments and we need to find them – that doesn’t really need a feature film to be set up; “Leroy and Stitch” does the work and this and more before concluding the entire story.
Still, everything in the Lilo & Stitch world has an irresistible charm that propels it up many ranks considering what its plot and animation quality would be able to achieve without a bunch of cute little monsters.
Ultimately, though, “Stitch! The Movie” leaves its finale too open-ended and therefore doesn’t really work as a stand-alone film like the rest of the “Lilo & Stitch” sequels.
18. ‘Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure’ (2001)
You might have noticed another trope throughout this list involves shifting the focus onto the next generation. In this case, it is Lady and Tramp’s son, who might as well be a puppy version of his dad.
Scamp was born into wealth and has always had a comfortable life but thinks it would be cool to live on the streets as a stray. So, he escapes home to roam the streets where he joins a gang of strays and meets Angel, a girl puppy who is tired of living on the streets and wants a loving home and shames Scamp into going back to his loving family.
The film would be quite basic-but-alright if not for the love story between the two puppies which makes it overall quite uncomfortable.
19. ‘Kronk’s New Groove’ (2005)
Kronk might very well be the best character from “The Emperor’s New Groove,” but his personality works as the unassuming sidekick and not as the lead. In “Kronk’s New Groove” he is given a new job as a restaurant owner, a love interest, and conflict stemming from his father disapproving of his culinary inclination.
The film is essentially a collection of shorts which have some funny moments, but as a whole it’s widely surpassed by the TV show “The Emperor’s New School” based on the same film.
20. ‘The Fox and the Hound 2’ (2006)
I remember the original “The Fox and The Hound” being one of the most intense Disney films when I was young. It’s a story about a friendship falling apart and it doesn’t really have a happy ending.
Fortunately, with the sequel (which is actually one of those mid-quel/prequels) Disney didn’t go in the same direction.
We are still with Tod and Copper as kids at the height of their friendship. They stumble upon a county fair with a band of singing dogs, including a lady dog who has the same haircut as everyone in Ariel’s family (once you notice that, it’s quite disturbing on a dog).
Copper wants to join the band and leave Tod behind but, as in most prequels, there are no stakes or tension because we know already that the two grow up together and Copper does eventually turn his back on Tod for different reasons.
21. ‘Atlantis: Milo’s Return’ (2003)
“Atlantis: Milo’s Return” is definitely one of the more patched-together of the films which are actually a few shorts. They didn’t really bother with an overarching storyline, it’s literally just three episodes of the Atlantis TV show Disney ended up cancelling since the original movie wasn’t the success they had hoped for.
Similarly to “Lilo & Stitch,” a lot of the potential of the story lies in the quirkiness of the mystical and fantastical creatures. In “Atlantis: Milo’s Return,” Milo, Kida (who I will forever argue should be a Disney princess), and the Atlantis crew travel the world exploring other myths and legends.
It would have made for an amazing TV show, and it’s sad that this is all we will ever see of it.
22. ‘101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure’ (2003)
Another sequel, another baby dog. Compared to Scamp, Patch here has a much more forgettable journey. He doesn’t even choose to venture into the big scary outside world, he just gets left behind as his family and 100 siblings move house.
Roaming around London, he meets his idol, a dog named Thunderbolt who turns out to be a fraud but is the only one who Patch can recruit to help him rescue his brothers who have been captured by Cruella again.
23. ‘Tarzan & Jane’ (2002)
Remember how at the end of “Tarzan” Jane makes the heartbreaking decision to stay in the jungle with him and leave her previous life behind? Well, you might as well forget it, because in the first of the three shorts that make up this film, her friends from England come to visit her for tea (and get constantly attacked by panthers).
Apparently, things move really quickly in the Tarzan world because by the time the second short comes around, there is a trading post on Tarzan’s island, which we can assume now is not so abandoned after all. There some poachers convince Tarzan to hunt diamonds in the middle of a volcano with them, and he agrees because he wants to give Jane a present. But she has to come and save him when the thugs obviously turn on him, and they all escape surfing a rock slab on molten and splashing lava.
In the third short, Jane’s ex shows up in the jungle after his plane crashes there, and after spurring jealousy in Tarzan, he turns out to be a traitor to Britain, so everyone turns on him. At least in this one we get a lot of weird British phrases obviously written by American writers that don’t make any sense, and it’s kind of funny for all the wrong reasons.
24. ‘Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World’ (1998)
The animation in this mid-quel takes a massive hit. In this collection of three shorts, Belle takes on the sidelines as she helps the rest of the castle’s inhabitants deal with their drama: the feather duster and Lumiere have marital problems, the Beast becomes obsessed with a rescued bird, and the stationery are forging letters.
The sheer number of sentient objects in this film begs the question: how many servants did the Beast have before they were all turned into furniture? I mean, what was the dictionary’s job when he was human?
25. ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame II’ (2002)
Even though this is an actual film and not a collection of TV episodes, the sheer predictability that imbues this film throughout warrants it the last place on the list.
So little of interest happens in this movie to even get a second line in the title. The film opens with a celebration of love and Esmeralda and Phoebus’s son shading Quasimodo for not having a love interest. The following scene a new pretty girl is introduced, Madellaine – go guess what her role in the film is going to be.
Quasimodo has again forgotten the journey of self-acceptance he went through in the first film, which is good because Madellaine is suffering from the opposite problem as him: everyone judges her for being too pretty, and she feels they don’t get to see who she truly is.
But Madellaine is the assistant to an evil circus owner whose aim is to steal the precious ornate bell of Notre Dame. So, she is tasked with seducing Quasimodo to gather intel – i.e. which is the big shiny bell with the precious stones inside of it, because naturally, beauty is on the inside and the writers didn’t really think through the concept of a bell.
With a song in which Quasimodo shows Madellaine all his favourite things that are beautiful on the inside, she falls in love for real, until he discovers she was pretending all along to get to him, even though her feelings ended up being real. You know how these plots go. We have seen it before, and definitely didn’t need it from a Disney sequel.
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