The Disney direct-to-video sequels were one of the few reasons why Disney animation has fallen in popularity over the years. It all started in 1994, with the release of The Return of Jafar. It was successful, so another film followed. Things didn't really take off until The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride broke records for a direct-to-video film in 1998. Since then, we saw more and more of these films. They were a huge hit with kids, as they were safe for kids, somewhat telling consumers that Disney was for kids first and foremost. That would make Walt Disney furious. These films were cheap and notoriously subpar, they were sanitized and kid-friendly, and they ultimately hurt Disney’s reputation as a quality animation studio. Things wouldn't change until Bob Iger became the CEO of The Walt Disney Company.
John Lasseter, who disliked the direct-to-video sequels, wanted the company to stop production on direct-to-video sequels, as it was getting out of control. His plan did work for the most part, as we have been getting the CGI Tinker Bell direct-to-video series and a Cars spin-off called Planes is coming in spring 2013. The most important thing is that they aren’t making direct sequels to the classic films anymore: No Snow White 2, no Pinocchio 2, no Dumbo 2... The Tinker Bell movies, from what I know, have nothing to do with Peter Pan’s story or characters. It’s just a shameless cash cow for Disney.
The reason I'm bringing up these direct-to-video sequels is because they are being re-released on Blu-ray. Not only that, but some Disney animated classics are being releasing as a double feature pack with their direct-to-video sequels, instead of being released separately. Disney first did this with The Fox and the Hound last summer, packaging it with The Fox and the Hound II in the same set.
Disney didn’t do this with Bambi, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Lady and the Tramp. Since those are always popular sellers, they probably didn’t think it was necessary. However, The Fox and the Hound was a never one of Disney’s big sellers on home video. Still, that doesn’t mean that it has to be packaged with the cheap DTV sequel. Do they think really think that including the cheap cash-grab sequel is going to help it sell? That’s sort of insulting in a way. The film doesn’t sell so well to begin with, so it’s degraded to being sold with the universally panned direct-to-video sequel that was only made to make money. I wouldn’t be upset if we had an option to buy the first film alone, without having to buy the sequel, but we can't.
You can buy Bambi II separately as a stand-alone release, same with Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride and The Lion King 1 1/2 are coming to Blu-ray as stand-alone releases. Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure is getting a release as well. Again, why can’t they do this with The Fox and the Hound? Why can’t they do this with the upcoming Pocahontas Blu-ray? It’s like Disney is saying, “Here’s one of our not-so-hot titles, but you have to buy it with the sequel, even if you don’t like it.”
Now you may bring up the Fantasia / Fantasia 2000 double pack and the upcoming The Rescuers / The Rescuers Down Under double pack. Fantasia 2000 and The Rescuers Down Under are Walt Disney Animation Studios productions (back when they were called Walt Disney Feature Animation), while The Fox and the Hound II and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World are cheap, direct-to-video schlock produced by DisneyToon Studios that were products of corporate greed and not creativity. There’s an obvious difference in quality. Also, Fantasia 2000 is worthy of being released in a double pack with Fantasia. The Rescuers Down Under is also worthy of being packaged with its predecessor, while also being a notable animated film on its own. (First Disney film done without cels, among other technical achievements) What’s notable about the two direct-to-video sequels? Nothing.
Call me crazy, but I refused to buy the Blu-ray release of The Fox and the Hound and The Fox and the Hound II when it came out last summer. Why should I have to pay for a direct-to-video sequel that was one of many things that killed Disney’s reputation as one of animation’s dominant leaders? These things need to go away. Walt Disney didn’t opt for cheap schlock, and he didn't believe in making sequels. The ones he produced weren't successful, and he didn't really care for them after that. (Son of Flubber, Savage Sam) The Fox and the Hound II was only made to cash in on the original’s return to DVD in 2006. (The 25th Anniversay Edition) Pocahontas II was only made because the first one was a box office success (all of the Renaissance films got direct-to-video sequels, with the exception of Hercules, which got a spin-off cobbled together from the TV series) and they wanted to keep the gravy train going, in the wrong direction.
To be honest, I think they better stop while they’re at it. The direct-to-video sequels have only achieved one thing: Doing well in sales. (Well, some of them) For the most part, they’ve angered fans, they’ve stained Disney animation and they hurt hand-drawn animation as a whole. I understand there are probably a lot of kids out there who love them, but really? (I'm going to be honest, I owned a few on VHS when I was little, but how did I know they were subpar? I was only a kid!) Re-releasing them on their own is one thing (they should let these films fade into obscurity), but putting them on the same disc or set as the original while not giving us a choice to get the original on its own? I just find it insulting and unfair to us fans who want those embarrassments to fade away.
You might say, "But kids need something to watch too!" How about this, show them a Disney classic and not the subpar cash-grab sequel. Why should they have to watch garbage that's aimed at kids only when they could watch a great family film? I may sound strict, but people need to realize that Disney was never "just for kids" and that they need to make films that appeal to their true target audience: Everyone. Making garbage that is just for kids hurts Disney and animation in general. It already has. The damage is done. They don't need to come back, and the folks at Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment should not force consumers to buy them if they want the original classic but don't want the sequel.