There have been numerous sequels to animated films over the years, but very few are able to top their preceding installments. The following five titles stand as the best that the animation genre has to offer in terms of follow-ups:
1. 'Toy Story 2' (1999)
Arriving four years after 1999’s landmark, flawless Toy Story, Toy Story 2 is that rare sequel that actually manages to outdo its predecessor. The film, which follows Woody (Tom Hanks) as he’s forced to choose between his old friends and his newly-discovered family, contains all of the elements that viewers have come to expect from the geniuses at Pixar, including Oscar-worthy voice performances, gripping, white-knuckle action sequences, and laugh-out-loud funny instances of comedy. Filmmakers John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, and Lee Unkrich have essentially taken everything that was great about the original film and amplified it, which has confirmed Toy Story 2’s place as one of the best – if not the best – sequel ever to come out of Hollywood.
Toy Story 3 is neck-in-neck with Toy Story 2 in terms of quality, and one could certainly be forgiven for refusing to choose between the two movies. With Pixar coming off a run of animated masterpieces like 2008’s WALL-E and 2009’s Up, Lee Unkrich certainly had his work cut out for him in terms of directing Toy Story 3 – with any concerns over the decade-long gap between installments immediately laid to rest by the film’s opening sequence (which is as exciting and entertaining as anything in Pixar’s storied history). The remainder of the film is as touching, captivating, and hilarious as fans have come to expect from this flawless franchise, as Unkrich brings the movie (and the series) full circle with an ending that’s just about perfect.
After the release of 2007’s barely-passable Shrek the Third, DreamWorks Animation certainly had their work cut out for them in terms of regaining the audience’s favor. Fortunately, Shrek Forever After manages to avoid the pitfalls that plagued the third film by essentially bringing the whole series full circle – as the storyline follows Mike Myers’ Shrek as he’s forced to once again earn the respect and loyalty of friends Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz). The back-to-basics approach ensures that the movie features many of the elements that made the first and second films so successful, with the heartwarming nature of Shrek’s efforts at winning over Fiona and Donkey ensuring that the movie packs an undeniable emotional punch.
4. 'An American Tail: Fievel Goes West' (1991)
Though 1986’s An American Tail is far from a masterpiece of animation, the film was quite successful financial upon its initial release and has since managed to gain a cult following over the years – with the movie’s sequel, 1991’s An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, faring even better. The film, produced by Steven Spielberg, follows hero Fievel as he attempts to become a cowboy in the old west, with directors Phil Nibbelink and Simon Wells doing a superb job of infusing the proceedings with the feel of an old-fashioned Western. (It doesn’t hurt either that Jimmy Stewart appears in a key role, with the movie marking the Hollywood legend’s final cinematic performance.)
Unlike the other films on this list, Kung Fu Panda 2 doesn’t exactly improve upon its solid predecessor, 2008’s Kung Fu Panda. Instead, the movie feels like a natural extension of the world and characters created in the original – which ensures that there’s a continuity between the two films that proves impossible to resist. It makes sense, then, that Kung Fu Panda 2 follows Po (Jack Black) and the Furious Five as they attempt to take down a villainous figure named Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), as the first movie revolved around Po’s efforts at overcoming his master’s doubts and assuming his rightful place as Dragon Warrior.