So many of our childhoods are made up of Disney movies. How could you forget the first time you watched Aladdin and Jasmine soaring on a magic carpet, Ariel passionately singing “Part of Your World” or even Tarzan seeing Jane for the first time? But while everyone remembers and appreciates those movies so much, oftentimes we forget that Disney made sequels for a lot of them. They may not have gotten the same amount of attention as their predecessors, but some are worth a watch. So here’s a list of six of the most underrated Disney sequels you should give a chance.
“Mulan II” (2004)
Besides “Frozen II,” the sequel to “Mulan” is probably the most watched and respected animated Disney sequel. What sets this movie apart from the original is the addition of three princesses, the emperor’s daughters. We get to see their love stories unfold while also getting to watch Mulan blossom into an even fiercer, more determined and more inspiring woman. We also get to see more of Mushu in this movie (who is, of course, the best part) along with the three army men from the first movie, Yao, Ling and Chien Po: supporting characters from the first film whose roles are much more important in this one. Not to mention, this movie has some incredible songs like “Lesson Number One” and “I Wanna Be Like Other Girls” that are often overlooked. I will admit, though, that there are parts of this film that even to this day I have to watch through my fingers because they’re so devastating, but the added suspense and emotion that those scenes add makes the overall movie-watching experience so much better.
“Aladdin and the King of Thieves” (1996)
The second “Aladdin” movie, “Aladdin and the Return of Jafar,” isn’t very good, and in my opinion, that’s mostly because Robin Williams doesn’t voice Genie. However, he returns as Genie in the third film, “Aladdin and the King of Thieves.” This movie is absolutely incredible for more reasons than Williams’s return; it focuses more on Aladdin’s childhood and his family, which adds many more dimensions to his already interesting character. There are magical oracles, sword fights and Genie dressing up as Disney princesses — all the necessary components to an all-around perfect film. There are also some surprising voice actors in the film, such as John Rhys-Davies — famous for playing Gimli in the “Lord of the Rings” films — in the role of Aladdin’s father Cassim. This film, though maybe not as well animated as the first, is one that everyone should watch. It’s heartwarming and maintains the action-packed elements that make the first film so exhilarating. Plus, you finally get to see Aladdin and Jasmine’s wedding, which is well worth the wait.
“Tarzan and Jane” (2002)
There are actually two films that go along with Disney’s “Tarzan.” One of them is “Tarzan 2,” which is a prequel that shows Tarzan as a young boy, and the other is “Tarzan and Jane,” which features Jane and her friends Terk and Tantor (yes, the gorilla and elephant from “Tarzan”) recounting many stories about Tarzan and Jane. A lot of people choose to overlook films like these because there isn’t one central plot, but these kinds of movies can actually be really fun. For instance, in “Tarzan and Jane,” we get to see Jane’s prim and proper English friends come for a visit in the jungle, along with a story involving diamonds and lava-surfing and another starring an old friend of Jane’s of whom Tarzan quickly becomes jealous. These mini-stories are short but still hold your attention. The final scene of the film explains why Jane, Terk and Tantor have been taking a trip down memory lane, and the reason is sure to bring a smile to your face.
“Cinderella II: Dreams Come True” (2001)
Similar to “Tarzan and Jane,” the second “Cinderella” film contains three mini-stories. These stories aren’t told by Cinderella though; they’re told by the mice. In my opinion, the first “Cinderella” film didn’t highlight the mice as much as it should have. They’re fun and funny, and we get to see a lot more of them in this sequel. The mice want to make a book for Cinderella, so they begin to handcraft one that features their very own stories. The three stories we get to hear are about Cinderella’s first day in the castle, Jaq’s wish-gone-wrong and Cinderella’s stepsister Anastasia’s love story with the humble baker. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen this movie. Each story is short and sweet, punctuated by catchy songs and beautiful colors. One of my absolute favorite things about these stories is the hilarious amount of time dedicated to the evil cat Lucifer’s love life. I’m not sure who came up with that idea, but I would thank them if I could. There is a third “Cinderella” movie, “Cinderella III: A Twist in Time,” which I think is more well-known than the second film. But I’ll be honest: Even though the third film is good, I think the second one is better.
“Peter Pan II: Return to Neverland” (2002)
Peter Pan is a classic character from fiction, first appearing in J.M. Barrie’s novel “Peter Pan” and then getting a Disney film all for himself in 1953. The “Peter Pan” film, however, is a little problematic from a 21st century perspective. So if you’re looking for a less problematic “Peter Pan” film, look no further than “Peter Pan II.” This film doesn’t actually revolve around Peter Pan; it mostly follows Wendy’s young daughter Jane during World War II. She is nothing like her mother was in the first movie: She’s headstrong, feisty and firmly believes that Peter Pan does not exist. Of course, when she finds herself kidnapped by Captain Hook and taken to Neverland, her opinion quickly changes. This film is full of humor, mostly in scenes featuring the Lost Boys or Captain Hook and Smee, but it is equally balanced out with genuine, moving and at times even sad moments. And by the very end of the film, we see Jane become an entirely new person. She tells her younger brothers adventure stories and enjoys life rather than worrying about the war like an adult would; she is truly a child. We also get to see a little more of Wendy, in a moment at the end of the film that always leaves me sobbing. I won’t spoil it for you though; you’ll have to go watch it yourself.
“The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea” (2000)
I’m pretty sure everyone has that one DVD from their childhood that they watched so many times, they actually ruined the disc. For me, that DVD was “The Little Mermaid II.” Ariel was always my favorite Disney princess growing up, so of course I loved the sequel, where we not only get to see her as an adult but also get to meet her daughter Melody. The movie is unbelievably ironic considering the events of its predecessor, given the fact that Melody is a human who is forced to stay away from the water. But she’s just as curious as her mother and ends up finding a way there anyway. The sweet story by itself would have been enough to make me love this movie, but it also has many callbacks to the original film that make me nostalgic; there are some shots that look like they were taken straight from the original film and switched from Ariel to Melody. Even the villain in this movie, Morgana, has a connection to the original: She’s Ursula’s sister! There may be some plot holes, like Melody never questioning why she could talk to animals, but I’ve always looked past them to enjoy the happiness of the film. This, in my opinion, is the peak Disney sequel because it does something completely new but remains true to the original. It’s not a perfect movie, but the nostalgia washes over you and makes you feel like a kid again.