Every Disney direct-to-video sequel, prequel, and mid-quel, ranked

Source images: Disney | Graphic by James Bareham/Polygon

Before Disney started cranking out live-action adaptations of every animated property from its back catalog, the company cranked out direct-to-video (DTV) sequels that capitalized on theatrical magic.

Beginning with The Return of Jafar in 1994, the Disney MovieToons animation studio and Walt Disney Television Animation produced numerous sequels, prequels, and mid-quels (side adventures taking place during the events of the original film) to be distributed by Walt Disney Home Video. In 2008, John Lasseter, then the chief creative officer of Disney’s animation division, and Disney CEO Bob Iger decided that oversaturating the market with quickly produced movies wasn’t the way to nurture Disney’s legacy IP. A decade later, the company is pumping out billion-dollar-grossing live-action remakes instead.

As Dumbothe first of Disney’s four live-action theatrical remakes this year, not including the live-action, direct-to-Disney-Plus Lady and the Tramp — flies into theaters, I took it upon myself to revisit the much-overlooked Disney direct-to-video renaissance, lest it be forgotten — and unranked.

First, some rules:

  1. Qualifying movies had to be sequels to theatrically released Disney Animation films. That meant no Pixar. An Extremely Goofy Movie earns a place on the list despite Disneytoon Studios, the house behind most of Disney’s direct-to-video films, having produced A Goofy Movie; that film earned a theatrical release in 1995, warranting the sequel’s inclusion here.
  2. Not all Disney MovieToons projects qualified for the list. Notable oddities like The Jungle Book 2 and Peter Pan: Return to Neverland do not count; all three received a wide theatrical release, despite being conceived for the home video market. I almost nixed Bambi II, as it received a theatrical release in Australia, Mexico, the U.K., and a few other countries, but an absence from U.S. theaters warranted a spot on the list.
  3. Films starring tangential characters didn’t count. The Winnie the Pooh movies aren’t included because the characters joined the Disney movie character pantheon from the direct-to-video, short film, and television world. Didn’t feel right. A popular line of Tinker Bell movies is also excluded because those films make up an entirely different DTV empire. (Also, my editor specified that I include “none of that Tinker Bell shit.”)
  4. Movies made out of TV episode parts pass the sniff test. DTV movies that are stitched together from abandoned spinoff series (Atlantis: Milo’s Return) or unaired episodes of shows that came and went (Tarzan and Jane) count. VHS compilations of episodes that did make it to air (Hercules: Zero to Hero, for instance) do not count. Television movies (two of the Lilo and Stitch titles) that were distributed by Walt Disney Home Video make the cut.
  5. I made a very difficult decision about Tangled: Before Ever After. The 2017 sequel came out nine years after Disney’s home video strategy pivoted to Tinker Bell movies. I ultimately cut Tangled: Before Ever After from consideration because, unlike Stitch! The Movie and Leroy and Stitch, the film was marketed as a Disney Channel Original Movie and distributed by Disney-ABC Domestic Television instead of Walt Disney Home Video (later rebranded for the Tinker Bell years as Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment).

So without further ado, here is every Disney direct-to-home-entertainment sequel, prequel, and mid-quel, ranked by quality and worthiness of a revisit. Something needs to fill up Disney Plus when it launches later this year.

[Ed. note: Minor spoilers for sequels that have been out for at least 10 years and have little to no stakes.]

IDK how she is using those scissors without hands.
Disney

26. Belle’s Magical World (1998)

In the sequel to Beauty and the Beast, Belle ... confronts the emotional issues of the entire anthropomorphic object population! The first of the this-is-actually-a-bunch-of-stitched-together-TV-episodes movies, and definitely the worst, the film revolves around humdrum castle life, with Belle fixing everyone’s problems and everyone generally being an asshole to her. There is no villain in this movie. The villain is chores. At one point, two oven mitts fight over whether to make devil’s-food cake or angel food cake. The feather duster tries to kill Belle because she thinks the newcomer has a thing for Lumiere. Drama!

This souffle crumbled, but that’s OK because it’s beautiful ... on the inside!
Disney

25. The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2002)

Many Disney Home Video movies introduce a random love interest for the characters who were left single in the original movie. Hunchback II is the worst offender because so much of Quasimodo’s story revolves around finding acceptance of himself. Not so fast, character growth!

In the sequel, which Victor Hugo was not alive to sanction, Jennifer Love Hewitt plays Madeline, a magician’s assistant who suffers the opposite problem from Quasimodo. Everyone judges her for being too pretty! How can she be a fearless tightrope walker when everyone just comments on her looks? Insert a too-on-the-nose scene where Quasi shows her all his favorite things that are beautiful ... on the inside!

The quality of animation also takes a drastic hit in Hunchback II. The sequels always look a little wonky compared to the originals, but yeowch. Also, the writing team fundamentally misunderstands how bells work. The fancy bell that the villain, Sarousch, wants to steal has precious jewels on the inside. (Because the beauty is ... on the inside!)

They’re, like, puppies, which makes the love story hard to believe.
Disney

24. Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure (2001)

An even bigger DTV sequel trend than adding a new love interest is shifting the focus to the next generation. Lady and the Tramp II finds the kids of the original dogs looking and acting 100 percent the same as their mom and dad. Just like kids do in real life!

Scamp, Lady and Tramp’s son who is also just a smaller clone of Tramp, is a spoiled rich kid who thinks life would be cooler on the streets. And he’s really annoying about it. After being grounded for generally being a brat, he escapes to the streets of Main Street, USA, where he meets a gang of street dogs, including the Manic Pixie Dream Dog, Angel. Angel has abandonment issues and wants a loving home, so while the two flirt, she’s repulsed by the fact that Scamp would turn his back on his loving, warm, and supportive family just to look cool. Neither character is all that sympathetic, but Scamp does get a cool song, I’ll give him that.

“You and me could write a bad romance~”
Disney

23. 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure (2003)

Another sequel about kid dogs! Patch is more relatable than Scamp by miles. His whole thing is that he feels forgettable in his family of 101 dalmatians, which definitely makes sense, considering the family forgets him Homeward Bound-style when it moves out of London. The plot is equally forgettable: Patch, on his journey home, meets up with his idol, a celebrity dog named Thunderbolt, and tries to save the pup’s show from cancellation.

The best part, though, is that Cruella De Vil is back in action and hooking up with a ridiculous artist. That’s fashion, baby!

Is this A Star Is Born?
Disney

22. The Fox and the Hound 2 (2006)

The original Fox and the Hound has a really interesting history of development fiascos: In short, Don Bluth departed mid-film with 13 other animators to start his own studio, which became Disney’s biggest rival for the next decade. That’s not really important, except to set the grounds for the fact that I don’t know why this sequel exists. The Fox and the Hound is not a movie begging for a follow-up.

Yet The Fox and the Hound 2 does exist, and it takes place in the middle of the original movie. The gist: Copper and Tod stumble upon the county fair. A bunch of dogs sing. Tension arises because Copper turns his back on their friendship to become a country singer. Copper leaving to become a singer is never actually a threat, because the original movie has both Copper and Tod grow up. But don’t worry — Copper will turn his back on their friendship anyway in order to become a proper hunting dog.

Watch me whip, watch me nae nae.
Disney

21. Tarzan II (2005)

Disney mid-quels too often revolve around a plot point that the original movie resolves in a montage. The entire 84-minute runtime of Tarzan II takes place within Tarzan’s “Son of Man” montage. In the moment, Tarzan feels like he’s a shitty gorilla. But eventually, after everyone thinks he’s dead, and he runs away and befriends a solitary cave gorilla, the man of the jungle realizes his differences are his strengths. He is evolved enough to make tools.

There are some endearing moments in Tarzan II — like Tarzan making the cave gorilla a special nest — but it inevitably falls into the mid-quel trap of having zero stakes. This one gets a bump above The Fox and the Hound 2, entirely because Phil Collins returns with new songs, which are much better than a bunch of howling dogs.

Mazel tov!
Disney

20. Kronk’s New Groove (2005)

Instead of focusing on Kuzco, the wacky emperor in The Emperor’s New Groove, who gets turned into a llama and learns how to be a decent person, the sequel focuses on the villain’s henchman, Kronk. Now, Kronk has always been a pretty decent guy who just fell in with a bad crowd somehow, but not necessarily a character demanding his own movie. He has one anyway, though! This movie revolves around Kronk dealing with the fact that he can’t match his father’s expectations of masculinity. It’s basically a Frasier episode (his father is voiced by the late John Mahoney).

Kronk’s New Groove is structured like a movie made out of TV episodes, but not. The framing device of Kronk recounting his bad few weeks within another framing device of a restaurant exploding is a drag, even if the individual bits (Kronk unwittingly scams all the old people out of their money by tricking them into thinking they’re young so they all go ... skateboarding; Kronk falls in love with a rival scout leader) have good moments. I’m also side-eying the decision to give Yzma a sexy cat tail.

Same, Poca, same.
Disney

19. Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (1998)

The big problem with Pocahontas II is the same as the problem with Pocahontas: It’s a totally-divorced-from-real-life adaptation that plays into harmful stereotypes. The nitty-gritty of reducing the eradication of native people by white colonizers to “if we all just listened to each other!” could reach book length, so just be assured that’s it not good. (I recommend Lindsay Ellis’ video on the subject.)

If you can divorce the reductive treatment of history from the story, Pocahontas II is ... not terrible. Pocahontas journeys to England with John Rolfe in order to get the English king to stop killing the New World’s indigenous people. We all know how that turns out in real life, but the sequel does a better job of keeping the characterization consistent compared to some of Disney’s other sequels. John Rolfe is a million times more tolerable and adorkable than mansplainer John Smith.

The main fault of Pocahontas II is that it weirdly pushes the love triangle in order to correct some of the first movie’s erasure of history, but that just makes the plot awkward. The focus shifts from Pocahontas trying to speak to the king to both the Johns giving her long, lingering looks. In order to contrive a situation where Pocahontas can feasibly fall in love with John Rolfe without cheating on John Smith, she thinks Smith is dead for the first three quarters of the movie. It twists in and out of itself in order to give a quasi-historically accurate ending that is still Disneyfied and happy.

“Well, ACTUALLY ...”
Disney

18. Mulan II (2004)

Every character in Mulan II is incredibly and massively out of character from the original film. Mulan has suddenly become a hopeless romantic, with no prior indication of this ever being a trait of hers; Mushu unlearned every single lesson from the first movie, and is a jerk for no reason; capable Captain Shang can barely function on his own.

The plot barely makes sense, and it’s “resolved” with wide-open holes: Mulan and Shang are getting married, and Mushu is pissed because this means he won’t be Mulan’s guardian, so he tries to sabotage their marriage. Meanwhile, Mulan and Shang must escort the emperor’s three daughters to another kingdom for arranged marriages, part of a political alliance between China and an imaginary land to the north (spoiler: the princesses don’t end up getting married, but no one cares or says anything else about the alliance).

That being said, the introduction of the three princesses is generally fun, and the biggest thing this sequel has going for it is that the music is actually good.

Also, whoever animated Shang’s expressions (see above) must have had a fun time.

Lips.
Disney

17. Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997)

The first DTV mid-quel to Beauty and the Beast co-stars Tim Curry as the voice of an organ with very, very, very detailed lips. Unlike everything else in the movie, Forte the Organ is animated with CG instead of traditional 2D work. It’s weird.

Once again, Belle is at work helping her furry love interest and his family of talking Ikea furniture deal with magical imprisonment. The Beast hates Christmas, because he’s the Beast, but Belle wants to celebrate, so she gets everyone excited about it. Forte doesn’t like happiness, and hopes Beast remains emo so he can play his dreary pipe organ music forever, so he plots to ruin the holiday. The Christmas atmosphere, though, is interesting enough, as new furniture (a smart-talking hatchet! a Christmas angel diva!) pops in to help Belle and Chip spruce up the place, though why on earth the Organ With Overly Defined Lips wants to remain an organ is beyond me.

Those are “come hither” eyes.
Disney

16. Brother Bear 2 (2006)

Another direct-to-video Disney sequel, another love interest in a world that didn’t really need one. In Brother Bear 2, new character Nita falls in love with Kenai — the dude who got turned into a bear in the first one and decided to remain a bear — while she is very much a human and he is very much a bear. So, that happens.

Technically, the two are childhood friends, though they haven’t seen each other for at least a decade. Brother Bear 2 finds Nita on the verge of marriage to a very human man, but when an earthquake shatters the ground, it’s clear the Great Spirits are angry. Turns out Kenai gave Nita an amulet in their childhood, and now the Great Spirits think they’re hitched. The solution: Burn it with him in a specific place. She seeks him out, but he refuses because, well, he’s kind of an asshole. Everyone is kind of an asshole except Nita, who really just wants to not be tied romantically to a bear forever. And yet, by the end of the movie, she’s fallen fur Kenai. Get it? He’s a bear.

Disney

15. Tarzan and Jane (2002)

I did enjoy this sequel’s clash of Jane and her father’s old life in England with their current jungle life. While the tangents (i.e., the episode parts) are pretty enjoyable, the weird framing narrative the writers use to connect it all made me worry about the stability of Tarzan and Jane’s relationship: Essentially, Jane wants to plan something nice for Tarzan, but every time she suggests something (party! gifts! dancing!), one of the animals reminds her of a time she tried to do something for herself and ended up scarring Tarzan. One of these stories involves Jane’s childhood friend Bobby, who is actually a spy for the enemy (we never find out which enemy) and has given Jane a decoding device that he wants back. Wild!

Don’t worry, though. They were all lying to her, because Tarzan actually planned a surprise party with dancing and gifts. So that kinda saves it. Kinda.

They all look uncomfortable because it’s not Robin Williams.
Disney

14. The Return of Jafar (1994)

The success of this sequel spawned everything else on this list, and it’s also one of the only sequels that feels warranted. At the end of Aladdin, Jafar is an all-powerful genie, and though he is trapped within the confines of his lamp, his lamp is out there, ripe for the taking ...

The Return of Jafar aptly features — get ready — the return of Jafar. The sorcerer-vizier-turned-genie manipulates the thief who finds his lamp in order to gain direct access to the Sultan and the rest of the gang. Meanwhile, Aladdin fights imposter syndrome at the palace, and everyone who works for the Sultan is eager to throw him under the bus. While there’s a lot of potential with this sequel, it ultimately feels a little stale, thanks in no small part to the fact that Robin Williams did not return to voice Genie (he was replaced by Dan Castellaneta, voice of Homer on The Simpsons).

My good, beautiful, wonderful son
Disney

13. Atlantis: Milo’s Return (2003)

The sad thing about Atlantis: Milo’s Return, which picks up in the undersea continent right after Atlantis: The Lost Empire main character Milo’s decision to stay, is that it would’ve made a thrilling animated series. But because the movie didn’t do well, Disney canceled the TV show. These three stitched-up episodes have so much potential. The Atlantis crew goes around the world tackling different legends and myths come to life, with an eventual crossover with Gargoyles. It would’ve been a fun show — it just doesn’t work as a coherent movie.

Milo’s Return is a bit of a misnomer, as Milo takes a back seat here for his badass wife Kidagakash. The strength of Atlantis has always been its kooky ensemble cast, and this Frankenstein’s monster of an animated movie uses them well. Attention must be paid to the adorable lava rock dog Obby, who really should’ve launched a line of plush merch. He munches on rocks and sleeps in fireplaces!

It actually has some really cute moments.
Disney

12. Bambi II (2006)

Out of all the Disney mid-quels, Bambi II has something to dig into: showing what happened between the death of Bambi’s mother and his adolescence, a time span skipped over in the original movie.

It’s actually a pretty touching tale of father and son learning to communicate with one another. Bambi struggles to prove his worth to his austere, distant dad; the Great Prince (voice by Patrick Stewart) struggles to be a present father. While that’s heartwarming, a fabricated conflict with Ronno — a young deer who everyone hates and is generally an asshole — slows down the movie to dangerous levels. I dozed off, but woke up in time for some touching father-son moments.

The Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to the Lion King’s Hamlet.
Disney

11. The Lion King 1½ (2004)

When I was 8, I thought The Lion King 1½ was the absolute funniest movie that ever existed. I went into this list assuming it was far superior to everything else and was guaranteed the top spot.

Perhaps that incredibly high set of expectations is why The Lion King 1½ fell a little flat to me on rewatch. The jokes are funny for young kids (or parents with young kids). The framing device of Timon and Pumbaa watching the movie contributes to its best moments; part of me wishes the movie was just them talking and interacting with the other Disney characters.

In The Lion King 1½, Timon and Pumbaa tell the story of The Lion King, but this time from their point of view. We see Timon’s frustration with life as a meerkat before he met Pumbaa, and with his overbearing mother and paranoid uncle. The best sequence of the movie (sans theatrical framing) is a closer look at how Timon and Pumbaa raised Simba; other than that, fart jokes can only sustain so much wind (heh).

And thus, a line of cute plush merch was born
Disney

10. Stitch! The Movie (2003)

This movie existed to set up the Lilo & Stitch animated series, revealing that there are 625 other experiments besides Stitch and that an evil scientist named Dr. Hämsterviel wants to use them for his own gain. It ends on a cliffhanger — Lilo and Stitch rescue one of the experiments and find it a home, but the rest are still out there.

The message of Stitch finding his family is pretty sweet, even if the final resolution is left dangling wide open — what about the other 624 experiments?! — in order to set the stage for the TV show, which would run for three seasons from 2003-2006. It’s not as funny as the first movie, and some of the charm of Lilo & Stitch — like Lilo and Stitch surfing, or Lilo and Nani’s sister relationship — is lost in favor of chasing a new alien and introducing the rabbitlike villain who just wants world domination.

What if Stitch ... but evil?
Disney

9. Leroy & Stitch (2006)

Leroy & Stitch is the opposite bookend of Stitch! The Movie, wrapping the events of the spinoff TV series. When we pick up with this adventure, all the experiments have been found and the aliens have no hesitation in totally abandoning Lilo to go back to space. Seriously. It’s kinda rude. But Dr. Hämsterviel creates a super evil experiment named Leroy (aka red Stitch), and wants to use it to take over the world.

This one follows a similar vein as Stitch! The Movie: a focus on the aliens and space, instead of the charming characters. What gives this one a leg up, though, is that because it takes place at the end of the series, all 626 experiments have been recruited. And they all have wacky and really specific powers. Cloudy, the cloud experiment, rains on people; Babyfier turns adults into babies; Hammerface has a ... hammer for a face. We get to see what they’ve all been up to after acclimating to life on Hawaii (Cloudy helps keep vegetables fresh), and see them in action in the final battle.

Sebastian throws down.
Disney

8. The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning (2008)

Imagine Footloose without feet. (Fun fact: The love interest in Footloose is also named Ariel.) Ariel’s Beginning takes place before the events of both The Little Mermaid and the tie-in television series (which may also have been nullified by this movie’s existence, depending on how seriously you follow Disney canon).

In the past, after the death of his wife, King Triton outlawed all music. (As a reasonable person does.) His daughters live by strict schedules, but Ariel just wants to have fun. She stumbles upon an underground music club, and the rest is history. The villain, the mermaid sisters’ strict governess, is forgettable, mainly because her motivations revolve around corralling the king’s rebellious daughters and not pissing him off. Anyone who’s had to watch a group of teenagers can sympathize, so she feels like a weak bad guy.

There are elements of Ariel’s Beginning that are really amusing — Sebastian, for instance, becomes the lead singer in the underground club. Ariel’s sisters have sprinklings of unique personalities (one is super sarcastic, one more ditzy; the oldest is the responsible mother figure), but they only get a few lines each in favor of Ariel. Flounder is now a badass who gets arrested after said illegally sanctioned club gets busted. Considering he’s the ultimate coward in the actual Little Mermaid movie, it’s a bit of a stretch. But it’s not the worst mischaracterization of the DTV movies (hello, Mulan II). The best part is Benjamin the manatee, who sorta mumbles and follows the villainess around.

Cinderella, friend of the proletariat.
Disney

7. Cinderella II: Dreams Come True (2002)

Out of all the “this movie is actually a couple of shorts,” Cinderella II: Dreams Come True shines the brightest, giving Cinderella more agency than she has in the original. In the first short, she shuns the drapings of tradition in order to usher in a more egalitarian society, breaking ground by inviting the peasants to socialize with the royalty. Anyone who says Cinderella isn’t a feminist needs to watch Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, where the Disney Princess challenges the stifling roles of women and uses her new position as princess to actively to dismantle the rigid class system.

The other two follow Jacques the mouse as he turns into a human (delightfully goofy!) and ugly stepsister Anastasia finding love (surprisingly sweet!). All in all, the most solid of the stitched-together-episode sequels, with a framing device — the mice making a storybook about their new adventures in the castle — that doesn’t detract from or complicate the narrative.

Max with Bradley Uppercrust III.
Disney

6. An Extremely Goofy Movie (2000)

Like fellow animated dog Scamp before him, Max just wants to be cool. Unlike Scamp, Max is an infinitely more likeable character. Where A Goofy Movie revolved around Max learning to accept and embrace his father, An Extremely Goofy movie brings Max and Goofy to college and focuses on Goofy learning to let Max go.

The movie borders on being too ridiculous; the close focus on the college X Games, as well as some of the more bogus animation choices (see the smile above) are stuck in a gnarly late-’90s vortex. Bradley Uppercrust III, the villain, is somehow a preppy frat superstar, a skater bro, a mafia crony, and an unhinged sociopath wrapped up into one alarming package. But it’s all delightfully bonkers. The best parts involve a Beret Girl, and one line in which Bobby questions the very nature of the Disney universe by asking why all the characters wear gloves.

Keep it PG, kids.
Disney

5. The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998)

In his middle age, Simba has grown to be uncomfortably prejudiced and racist, kind of like Atticus Finch in Go Set a Watchman. In the movie, a group of lions who supported Scar (but not his offspring, let’s remember that) have been exiled to the Outlands by Simba. They’re led by Zira, the Bellatrix Lestrange to Scar’s Voldemort, who is convinced that her son Kovu (remember, not Scar’s kid, even though they look exactly alike) is destined to be King of Pride Rock. This kind of pisses off Zira’s other two kids, especially because Kovu is the youngest.

Simba’s plucky daughter, Kiara, meets Kovu when they’re kids. When they’re adults, Zira sends Kovu to infiltrate Pride Rock, but that backfires because Kovu and Kiara fall in love. (Remember, Kovu is not Scar’s kid, so it’s OK. They just look alike!) Still, no one supports their love, least of all Simba. Rafiki winds up intervening by taking them to some weird pocket of the jungle with a Tunnel of Love-esque ride. They get frisky.

Despite some of the hiccups (why is Simba like this?), ultimately The Lion King II has a cohesive and compelling plot, which is more than can be said for every other movie before. Eventually Simba comes around, which, years down the road, birthed this Vine.

Hello, sir.
Image: Walt Disney Television Animation

4. Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996)

In some circles, this movie is also known as Aladdin and His Incredibly Hot Sexy-Voiced Father. When I was a lass, I had a crush on Aladdin. Now that I’m grown, I see that Aladdin is just a boy, but his father, Cassim ... is a man.

Hot Daddy aside, Aladdin and the King of Thieves is an adventure-filled romp. Aladdin learns his father is alive and now the leader of a pack of bandits known as the Forty Thieves — the same thieves who just tried to rob the royal wedding. Is Aladdin’s dad still motivated by greed? Will they repair their relationship? Unlike a lot of the other sequels, King of Thieves actually takes into account what happened in Return of Jafar: The head guard still has it out for Aladdin, and Iago has joined the good guys but feels bored in the palace walls.

Robin Williams returns as Genie in this one, and the difference between King of Thieves and Return of the Jafar from that casting alone is palpable. We get to see more of this cool world and explore other mythology from the Arabian Nights source material.

Do they have beer underwater? Can I even call that a beer belly? Is it a ... kelp belly?
Disney

3. The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000)

What makes The Little Mermaid II better than the other kid sequels is that Melody — Ariel and Eric’s daughter — as a character is more interesting and developed. Ariel, like Simba before her, still makes irrational decisions, though her behavior is slightly more tolerable because she’s typically headstrong and known for disregarding her family’s wishes. This time around, she decides that because her kid is in danger from “Ursula’s crazy sister” (Sebastian’s words, not mine), she must shield little Melody from the underwater world — so she cuts off all contact with her mermaid family for 12 years. Twelve years!

Melody grows up feeling like a “fish out of water” (her words, not mine) and has no idea mermaids exist, even though she’s friends with Sebastian and thus can talk to crabs. She just wants to fit in! And considering how rude the other kids are to her, it’s understandable. Like her mom, she’s a bit of an oddball and just wants to belong. Unlike her mom’s story, Melody’s isn’t catapulted because she saw a hot guy.

Overall, Return to the Sea has higher stakes and picks up at a more interesting time than the previous sequels, especially the kid-driven ones. And for once, it’s fun to see the roles the older characters play. Best part? The reveal that Flounder now has five kids and a beer gut.

I won’t spoil how we get to this scene, because you should watch this movie.
Disney

2. Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (2007)

From its very first moment, Cinderella III yanks the viewer and takes them on a baffling, bonkers journey of time travel, ridiculously overpowered wands, and the power of true love. Every second of it is delightful.

I’ll stand by the opinion that out of the currently released Disney live-action movies, Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella (2015) is the strongest. The original movie is timeless, yes, but also very much a blank slate to build upon, which means that the stepsisters can steal the Fairy Godmother’s wand and use it to create an alternate timeline of events — and it adds to the original instead of detracting.

In this threequel, instead of just being a dreamboat who can’t remember his lover’s face (they answer the whole shoe thing), the prince is a hopeless romantic who’s not afraid to risk it all for true love. Cinderella is gutsy and determined. The King has a secret soft spot. Anastasia gets a fully fleshed out arc that prompts her believable turn of heart. Yes, yes, the movie slightly erases the events of Cinderella II (where Anastasia falls in love), but it also officially erases the events of the first movie by the end, so really, I can’t complain.

Look, it’s very good.
Disney

1. Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005)

Lilo & Stitch didn’t work because it was about a cute, quirky alien — it worked because that cute, quirky alien went to Hawaii. The other two Lilo & Stitch sequels were just fine, but they didn’t capture the essence of what made the original special, choosing instead to focus on aliens. Stitch Has a Glitch, however, manages to balance the alien story with the human one.

Lilo wants to enter a hula competition to make her late mother proud. But something disrupting Stitch’s hardware threatens to ruin it. The best parts of Stitch Has a Glitch focus on the mundane meeting the extraterrestrial: Lilo and Stitch are late to hula practice, so they take a hovercraft; Nani wants the whole family, aliens and David included, to have a movie night.

The first film had a sly commentary on the greater social backdrop of Hawaii: Lilo took pictures of tourists instead of them taking pictures of her (a deleted scene where she and Stitch set off a tsunami alarm hammers this point home). Stitch Has a Glitch actually continues that thematic undercurrent. While white classmate Mertle does a hula dance to advertise her father’s gift shop, Lilo pays homage to an old Hawaiian legend. It’s a touching reminder that the Lilo & Stitch franchise is more than funny alien gags.

Overall, the movie verges on being cheesy, but it is a satisfying, heartwarming type of goo, with very funny moments and gags. Some sticklers might argue that many details in this movie cancel out things the series would later establish; I am here to argue that Stitch Has a Glitch keeps the spirit of the original Lilo & Stitch much better than the animated series, and thus, it is the one that should be considered the best of the Lilo & Stitch sequels — nay, the best of them all.

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