Fishloose

The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning marked the end of direct-to-video Disney sequels. When John Lasseter became chairman, DisneyToon Studios put an end to traditional animation. It only made sense to end with a Disney Princess. Cinderella III: A Twist in Time and Ariel’s Beginning were both allowed to finish before the closure. Since The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea was a straightforward sequel, they decided to make a prequel instead. Something that already happened in the 1992 Little Mermaid animated series. My brother watched more of the series than I did, but we both watched Ariel’s Beginning without realizing it was the last direct-to-video continuation. The digital ink & paint animation lives up to the Disney Renaissance and most of the original cast returns.

Jodi Benson will always be Ariel, but Kenneth Mars was sadly replaced as King Triton due to a diagnosis. It was also Samuel E. Wright’s final time voicing Sebastian. The rest of the cast is mostly made up of familiar voice actresses. Since Ariel’s Beginning takes place entirely under the sea, we get to know her 6 mermaid sisters. They’re pretty interchangeable, but Attina is the responsible one, Adella is boy crazy, Andrina is sarcastic, Alana is beauty conscious, Aquata can’t dance, and Arista is quirky. Ariel is still the most rebellious daughter. Ariel’s Beginning is basically Footloose with fish. When the Queen Athena is killed listening to music, Triton bans music in Atlantica. Ariel meets Flounder for the first time, but he’s not much of a guppy. He’s brave enough to attend an underground music club.

Sebastian is supposed to be the strict one, but he also sings in secret. Ariel joins the club and convinces her sisters to join her. It’s not as dramatic as her obsession with the surface, but Ariel’s love of music does get her in trouble. The weakest link is the villain who can’t hold a tentacle to Ursula. Not even Sally Field can make the power hungry governess Marina Del Rey interesting. She’s a lame villain accompanied by her soft-spoken manatee sidekick Benjamin. Music is the real star of the movie, but songs like “Athena’s Song (Endless Sky),” “Just One Mistake,” “I Remember,” and “I Will Sing” don’t stand out as much as the existing calypso song “Jump in the Line.” The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning is the end of an era that deserved better.

26. The Little Mermaid Ariel's Beginning

Ariel and her sisters

Followed by: The Little Mermaid

Keys to the Peacock Princess

Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams is the first and only attempt to expand the Disney Princess brand as a series of direct-to-video films. The Enchanted Tales series would’ve featured short stories from all 8 of the current Disney Princesses. Like The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, each movie would’ve featured 2 stories with a similar theme. As much as my brother and I love Disney and the various Princesses, Follow Your Dreams was clearly made for little kids.

Keys to the Kingdom – The first story is all about Princess Aurora. Since Sleeping Beauty is one of my all time favorite Disney movies from the Silver Age, I was happy to finally get a continuation. The animation recaptures the painted look of the original, but some of the soundalike voices are a little off. Since Aurora spent most of her movie asleep, we never got a proper understanding of who she was. There’s also a noticeable lack of Maleficent.

When Prince Phillip, King Stefan, Queen Leah, and King Hubert leave for a Royal Conference, Aurora is left in charge. The three good fairies have their own inconsequential subplot where they deliver a lost speech to Hubert. Like Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, Princess duties are surprisingly boring. The only thing that makes it funny is Merryweather lending her wand to Aurora. Hijinks ensue when Aurora tries to help the kingdom with magic. In the end, Aurora realizes hard work is the best way to solve her problems…

24. Disney Princess Enchanted Tales Follow Your Dreams

Princess Aurora speaks with her Prince Phillip

More Than a Peacock Princess – The second story is all about Princess Jasmine. Unlike the former story, the Aladdin franchise had a long run in the 90’s. Although I was satisfied with everything I got, I’ll always be happy to return to Agrabah. Since Jasmine was never the main character, Aladdin and Genie had to go just to give her the spotlight. The short maintains continuity with Aladdin and the King of Thieves, but the animation is noticeably better in the late 2000’s.

Linda Larkin is back to voice Jasmine and Gilbert Gottfried provides comic relief as Iago. Magic Carpet, Abu, Raja, and the Sultan are also around to support the Princess. Jasmine’s Lady-in-Waiting Aneesa is given time to shine as well. When Jasmine longs for a challenge, she tries and fails to teach rowdy kids. The story only picks up when Jasmine trusts in her abilities enough to tame a horse named Sahara who once belonged to her mother.

In conclusion, Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams is all about perseverance. The movie is presented like a storybook with Aurora and Jasmine directly addressing the audience. They each have their own set of songs that aren’t likely to be remembered. Aurora has “Keys to the Kingdom” and its reprise. Jasmine has “Peacock Princess” and “I’ve Got My Eyes on You.” Before John Lasseter shut down Disneytoon Studios, a Belle short was in development. All we have left is a song called “You’ll Never Lose This Love.” Another Enchanted Tales movie would’ve been about Cinderella and Mulan. All we have left of that is a preview for a series that was never meant to be. Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams is a cute idea that needed a better hook.

25. Disney Princess Enchanted Tales Follow Your Dreams

Princess Jasmine tames Sahara

Perfectly Perfect

Cinderella III: A Twist in Time puts an unexpected twist on the classic fairy tale. Although direct-to-video Disney sequels have a reputation for being inferior to the original, A Twist in Time is way better than it has any right to be. My brother and I knew right away that it was something special. Unlike the predictable Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, Cinderella III pushed boundaries and developed its classic characters for the modern age. The soundalike voice cast remained consistent and the Silver Age animation was just as good. Sadly, this was the last movie that DisneyToon Studios Australia animated before closing forever. At least the story was worth finishing. A Twist in Time takes place one year after Cinderella and Prince Charming fell in love and got married.

It’s a storybook ending, but all that changes when the wicked stepmother steals the Fairy Godmother’s magic wand. If you hated Lady Tremaine before, just imagine her with magical powers. Like a more human Maleficent, she somehow manages to make “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” sound sinister. Lady Tremaine makes it so that the glass slipper fits Anastasia instead of Cinderella. Dreams Come True may be weak, but one of its better additions was redeeming one of the ugly stepsisters. Drizella is still a villain, but Anastasia genuinely wants to be loved. Cinderella is left heartbroken, but Jaq and Gus help her find answers at the castle. Another carryover from the sequel is the housekeeper Prudence. The Duke is about the same, but the King and Prince are given much more characterization.

Though he still doesn’t have a name, the Prince is a more three dimensional Hugh Grant type who thinks true love is as simple as holding hands. The King is a lot softer and accepting of Anastasia. Lady Tremaine erases the Prince’s memory, but love is more powerful than magic. At first it seems like the Prince rescuing Cinderella on a boat like a true action hero will be the end, but the climax is even crazier. Cinderella is trapped inside a pumpkin and Lucifer is turned into a creepy coachman. Despite her reputation as an old fashioned Disney Princess, Cinderella fights for her happily ever after. In the end, Cinderella and Prince Charming accept their new reality. The music features the intentionally sappy “Perfectly Perfect,” the hopeful “More than a Dream,” the silly mouse duet “At the Ball,” and Hayden Panettiere’s pop song “I Still Believe.” Cinderella III: A Twist in Time is a perfect companion piece for the original.

23. Cinderella III A Twist in Time

Cinderella meets Prince Charming again

Preceded by: Cinderella II: Dreams Come True

Good Doggie, No Bone

The Fox and the Hound 2 is my least favorite direct-to-video Disney sequel. I know there are plenty that are objectively worse, but at least they were part of my childhood. My brother kind of made me watch The Fox and the Hound 2 even though it looked bad to me. It’s the only direct-to-video sequel based on a movie from Disney’s Dark Age. The Fox and the Hound had a rustic charm, but it’s not remembered enough to warrant a continuation. The Fox and the Hound 2 follows in the paw prints of Tarzan II and Bambi II by focusing on Tod and Copper’s childhood.

Unlike those interquels, there’s nothing we learn that makes their unlikely friendship feel complete. The original had a harsh tone that’s replaced by goofy slapstick. The ruthless Amos Slade and his older hunting dog Chief are turned into a joke. Tod’s owner Widow Tweed fights back, but they’re a little too sweet on each other. Slade doesn’t even care much that his hound is playing with a fox. The soundalike voices are fine and I guess I can’t fault the animation even though it is too bright. The real problem with The Fox and the Hound 2 is how much emphasis they put on country/bluegrass music.

I don’t mind country music, but it is a very lame direction to take. Tod and Copper go to a county fair where they find a band of Singin’ Strays who practically hijack the movie. Reba McEntire voices the diva Dixie and the late Patrick Swayze voices the temperamental lead dog Cash. There’s also Vicki Lawrence, Jeff Foxworthy, and Stephen Root as an unlucky talent scout. The soundtrack is just a little too hillbilly for my taste. The conflict comes when Copper decides to join the band and Tod feels left out. It’s nothing compared to the real reason they drifted apart. The Fox and the Hound 2 is a bad dog and fox adventure.

22. The Fox and the Hound 2

Tod and Copper playing together

Preceded by: The Fox and the Hound

The Bear of Love

Brother Bear 2 is the only direct-to-video Disney sequel that may be an improvement of the original. Brother Bear has heart, but I wouldn’t exactly call it underrated in the forgotten Post-Renaissance era. Despite a lukewarm reception, the sequel came out 3 years later. My brother had to show me the movie years later since I chose to ignore it. It’s not entirely necessary, but Brother Bear 2 does try harder with its animation and story than it has to. Most of the original cast returns with the exception of Joaquin Phoenix for obvious reasons. Kenai is instead voiced by Jason Marsden who was later replaced by Patrick Dempsey.

Jeremy Suarez was still young enough to voice Koda and Michael Clarke Duncan gladly returns to voice Tug. The comedic Canadian moose duo Rutt & Tuke have an expanded role with Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas returning to voice them. Though it’s direct-to-video, Brother Bear 2 was officially Moranis’ final role before retirement. Phil Collins doesn’t return to do the soundtrack, but I’m sure they would’ve still been generic pop songs. Like other Disney sequels, the main purpose was introducing a love interest for the main character.

Before she was Rapunzel, Mandy Moore voiced Kenai’s cautious Inuit childhood friend Nita. A vague mystical amulet binds them together and burning it at the Equinox is the only way to seperate them. So an eccentric shawoman voiced by Wanda Sykes gives her the ability to talk to animals. The human Nita joins the brother bears on a journey that brings a good amount of conflict to their dynamic. Since Kenai and Nita start to fall in love and Koda thinks he’ll be abandoned. The solution to their problem has an obvious outcome, but it’s executed well. Meanwhile, Rutt & Tuke have a running gag where they attempt to woo a pair of female moose. Brother Bear 2 makes the most of an okay first installment.

Brother Bear 2

Kenai and Nita argue

Preceded by: Brother Bear

Aloha Oe

Leroy & Stitch marks the end of the Lilo & Stitch saga. I’m honestly impressed with how committed Disney was with the franchise. Lilo & Stitch was quickly followed by Stitch! The Movie, the 65 episode long Lilo & Stitch: The Series, and the direct sequel Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch. My brother and I remained just as committed to everything growing up. So I was happy to know the series would end with another feature length TV movie. Leroy & Stitch may have a goofy title, but it’s actually a satisfying conclusion for fans. The movie begins with Lilo & Stitch finally completing their mission to capture and rehabilitate all 624 experiments.

I won’t go to the trouble of naming every experiment like the credits do, but it is nice to see all of them in their new home on Hawaii. Lilo, Stitch, Jumba, and Pleakley are honored by the Grand Councilwoman. Conflict comes when Stitch, Jumba, and Pleakley leave Lilo’s ohana for exciting new careers that aren’t as fun as they were expecting. Lilo gives them a tiki necklace, Elvis record, and rock that all end up being important later. The human element is severely reduced to make room for more alien hijinks. Which means Nani is only around to give Lilo advice about aloha, Cobra Bubbles is just a voice cameo, and David doesn’t speak. Lilo’s rival Mertle is given a bit more attention since she unknowingly has one of the experiments.

Speaking of rivals, Gantu is given a surprising redemptive arc where he finally decides to leave Earth to break the villainous Dr. Hämsterviel out of jail. He forces Jumba to create the titular Leroy, which is basically an evil red version of 626. The difference is building an entire army of Leroy clones. Lilo helps by finally giving the sandwich loving 625 a name and the confidence to use his powers. Gantu is also officially redeemed when Hämsterviel casts him aside. All 626 experiments are gathered together in an exciting moment where they all use their powers to fight the Leroy clones. Needless to say, defeating the army with the song “Aloha Oe” was not what I was expecting. Regardless of execution, Leroy & Stitch is the best aloha I could ask for.

Leroy & Stitch

Stitch vs. Leroy and his clones

Preceded by: Stitch! The Movie

The Great Prince of the Forest

Bambi II is the only direct-to-video Disney sequel to a Golden Age film. Even though it was technically given a limited theatrical release outside of the U.S. Bambi is a beloved classic, but 63 years is a very long gap between movies. My brother and I didn’t watch Bambi II right away, even though it’s one of Disney’s better sequels. The Australian animation is an impressive recreation of the old fashion artwork that captures the painted forest and dramatic lighting of the original. The title makes about as much sense as Tarzan II.

Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest would’ve made more sense since Bambi II picks up immediately after the young fawn tragically lost his mother. We finally get to see what happened between the Great Prince raising Bambi and him returning to the forest as a buck. The soundalike cast is good, but the sequel may be a bit too chatty in comparison. Nemo himself Alexander Gould voices the eager young Bambi and the respectable Patrick Stewart voices his stern father who keeps him at a distance. Thumper and Flower are around to help toughen Bambi up. Though Thumper is also dealing with his four pesky sisters. The Great Prince teaches his son the ways of the Prince.

They struggle to bond or talk about his late mother. Friend Owl agrees to look for a replacement doe, but the creepiest scene involves Bambi mistaking a deer call for his mother. Since Man is still off-screen, Bambi’s unnamed rival is given a name and a voice. Rono is just an insecure bully who competes for the affection of Bambi’s future mate Faline. Bambi and his father eventually form a strong bond that makes him brave enough to symbolically rescue a potential mother figure. Songs like “There Is Life,” “First Sign of Spring,” “Through Your Eyes,” or “The Healing of a Heart” are fine, but a little too modern. Bambi II may not be as emotional, but I think it was still worth the wait.

20. Bambi II

Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest

Preceded by: Bambi

Be True to Your Groove

Kronk’s New Groove is a direct-to-video Disney spin-off no one asked for. The Emperor’s New Groove is one of the most underrated movies of the Post-Renaissance, but a sequel without Kuzco as the lead was an odd choice. My brother and I enjoyed the Disney Channel animated series The Emperor’s New School right away, but I think we were thrown off by the movie’s title. I agree that Yzma’s loveable henchman Kronk was a great comic relief and scene stealer, but an entire movie is too much. Though a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes is a bit harsh considering the animation is about as good. David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, and Wendie Malick all return, but Patrick Warburton is promoted to main character. Kuzco only shows up to pause the movie and voice his opinion.

Pacha, Chicha, Tipo, Chaca, and their newborn are mostly around for moral support. Kronk is a reformed cook loved by all the villagers who visit Mudka’s Meat Hut. Focusing on Kronk means plenty of squirrel speak and shoulder angel & devil moments. The plot revolves around Kronk seeking approval from his disapproving Papi voiced by John Mahoney. His goal is getting a house on a hill, a wife, and children, but he already lost those things. The sequel is mostly flashbacks that Kronk tells to the deadpan waitress from the first movie. In his last film role, John Fiedler was given more attention as the elderly Rudy who got thrown out of the palace. The first flashback shows Kronk finding Yzma who still has a cat tail. She makes him sell phony youth potion that unintentionally swindles old people out of their retirement home on a hill.

Kronk gives up the house once he figures out what happened. I liked the second flashback a bit more since it’s where Kronk finds love. Even though Miss Birdwell isn’t the love interest I was expecting. She’s a competitive camp counselor strangely voiced by Tracey Ullman. Although they bond over cooking, Kronk gives her up to protect Tipo. The bonkers climax sees everyone including Kuzco try to help please Papi, but the moral is being happy with what you have. Songs like “Be True to Your Groove” are reminiscent of Kuzco’s theme song, but Yzma’s “Like a Million” feels like an out of place musical song. “Let’s Groove” is a poppy song for a pop culture heavy sequence between Kronk and Miss Birdwell. Since I have a soft spot for the franchise, Kronk’s New Groove earns a mild thumbs up from me.

19. Kronk's New Groove

Kronk cooks

Preceded by: The Emperor’s New Groove

Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride

Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch feels out of place compared to the rest of the franchise. Stitch! The Movie was an immediate sequel quickly followed by the animated series. My brother and I were right in the middle of watching the show when we found out about Lilo & Stitch 2. While the animation is on par with the Post-Renaissance original, the story feels quaint compared to the sci-fi adventures that came before. Though not explicitly stated, Stitch Has a Glitch is meant to take place before the other 625 experiments were discovered. Their house has a bit less technology except for their hover car. A short film called The Origin of Stitch was meant to bridge both movie’s together. Cobra Bubbles, the Grand Councilwoman, and Gantu aren’t involved, but the rest of the cast was.

With the very distracting exception of Lilo who is replaced by famous child star Dakota Fanning. As much as I love Fanning, Daveigh Chase is the only actress who should voice Lilo. All Lilo wants to do is win a hula competition to honor her late mother. Liliana Mumy who now voices Mertle is given a slightly bigger role along with her hula instructor Kumu. Nani’s sort of boyfriend David is an interesting example since Jason Scott Lee didn’t reprise his role in Stitch! The Movie or the series. A comedic subplot shows Pleakley try to help David with his relationship while continuing to crossdress. Nani is also given several hilarious interactions with her extended alien family. Meanwhile, Stitch has a glitch just as the title suggests.

Chris Sanders wasn’t too involved, but Stitch is a bit chattier than he was before. After a nightmare about destroying Hawaii, Stitch grows concerned about his “goodness level.” Despite having glowing green eyes and bursts of destruction, no one seems to figure out something’s wrong until Jumba realizes 626 was never fully charged. He tries to build a solution while Stitch continues to make things worse for Lilo. Lilo & Stitch 2 is the only direct-to-video Disney sequel with a PG rating. The movie takes an emotional turn when Stitch accidentally scratches Lilo and dies in her arms. It doesn’t last obviously, but I do appreciate the commitment. Songs like “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride” get a reprise while the rest is dominated by Elvis. Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch benefits from a personal touch.

18. Lilo & Stitch 2 Stitch Has a Glitch

Stitch tries to be good for Lilo

Preceded by: Lilo & Stitch & Followed by: Stitch! The Movie

Son of Man

Tarzan II is the oddly titled sequel to Disney’s Tarzan. Odd, because Tarzan & Jane is technically a direct follow up while Tarzan II is more of a midquel that focuses on Tarzan’s childhood. Apparently there was an entire life changing experience that happened between the “Son of Man” sequence. As a direct-to-video Disney sequel, I remember when my brother and I rented it on DVD and thinking it was unnecessary. Although the Renaissance style animation is more high quality compared to the repackaged episodes of Tarzan & Jane. The only cast members who return are the dedicated Glenn Close and Lance Henriksen who only has a few lines.

Kerchak is mostly around to give disapproving looks while Kala continues to look after her adoptive son. Kid Tarzan is now voiced by Boots himself Harrison Chad while Terk and Tantor have soundalike voices. Tarzan’s new concern is being too slow for his family and discovering who he is. Following a younger Tarzan is inherently similar to The Jungle Book, but running away from home is more like The Lion King. Tarzan and the rest of the jungle are afraid of a monster called Zugor who turns out to just be a cranky old gorilla. A kid friendly George Carlin is just right for a curmudgeonly mentor like this. He promises to help Tarzan in exchange for keeping his secret.

The villains are a significant downgrade compared to Sabor or Clayton, but even they have their moments thanks to Brad Garrett, Ron Perlman, and Estelle Harris. The dimwitted Uto and hostile Kago are a pair of lumbering gorillas who take orders from their feisty Mama Gunda. They live in fear of Zugor, but they escape their uncomfortable mountain home with plans of taking over the jungle. By the end, Tarzan learns to fight back by swinging and even discovers his trademark yell. The songs don’t stand out too much, but they do benefit from Phil Collins returning to score. “Son of Man” gets a reprise, “Leaving Home (Find My Way)” plays at a low point, and “Who Am I?” plays at three different times when Tarzan learns who he is. Tarzan II is a cute enough side quest.

17. Tarzan II

Zugor teaches Tarzan

Preceded by: Tarzan