It started with The Return of Jafar: a direct-to-video sequel to Disney's hit Aladdin which was really just four episodes of the TV cartoon strung together and released under a different name. Then Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas followed, also direct-to-video. Then a third sequel to Aladdin. Then The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride.

Now, after having watched The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, and hearing that a direct-to-video sequel to Lady and the Tramp and, of all things, The Hunchback of Notre Dame are in the works, I can confidently say that this must stop. Now. By any means necessary, up to and including dropping an Iridium satellite on Michael Eisner's personal limousine.

I mean, it's not just that this shameless propogation of direct-to-video sequels is occurring, without exception, to every movie Disney has made since The Little Mermaid. It's not because they're blatantly doing it to line their pockets with even more of the money that parents and grandparents can't help spending on their wee ones. And it's not just because these direct-to-video releases are all, without variation, bad -- whether you look at the hackneyed storywriting, the TV-quality animation, the pasty song lyrics, the formulaic characters, or the unconvincing dialogue.

No, it's because each and every time one of these videos is released, they diminish the quality of the original movie. The Little Mermaid and Aladdin were great Disney films; their sequels are absolutely anything but. They're invariably nothing more than minor variations on the original movie -- The Little Mermaid II is just The Little Mermaid I with a younger main character and the land and sea kingdoms reversed. Heaven only knows what a sequel to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was a tepid success at best and a dreadful pantomime of the Victor Hugo novel at worst, could possibly look like.

Sometimes, but rarely, Disney uses the sequel engine right. The Rescuers Down Under isn't a bad flick. The Tigger Movie, while nothing brilliant, was still a quality production. And Toy Story 2 was unquestionably fantastic, although of course that's entirely due to the genius on tap at Pixar. (Its direct-to-video cousin, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, is considerably less so.) But these are the exceptions which prove the rule.

Go Pixar. Please.

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