Why’d it bomb? Any sequel to a live-action movie based off of a cartoon
In the 90’s, 2000’s, and even the early 2010’s, there were a lot of live action family movies based off of popular cartoons. Some of these flopped and/or underperformed at the box office like Mr. Magoo, Inspector Gadget, Dudley Do Right, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Josie and the Pussycats, Underdog, The Last Airbender, Jem and the Holograms, etc. However, many of these were hits including both the 1990 and 2014 versions of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Flintstones, George of the Jungle, Scooby Doo, Garfield (if it counts), Alvin and the Chipmunks, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Yogi Bear, and The Smurfs, among others.
Some of these movies even spawned sequels and most of them flopped. Some of the sequels (like Secret of the Ooze, all of the Alvin and the Chipmunks sequels, and all of the Transformers sequels) were box office hits but others, like The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, Scooby-Doo 2, The Smurfs 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, etc. underperformed or outright bombed at the box office. But why is this? Why didn’t these sequels do better at the box office when their predecessors were huge hits?
Well, there are different factors that could lead to this. For example, why have the Alvin and Transformers series been successes while Fred and Barney could only get people to see one of their movies? Well, while the Alvin and Chipmunks and Transformers series have never been critical darlings, they were popular enough among their target audience (kids for Alvin and action movie junkies for Transformers) to create a new batch of fans that go see the sequels, especially internationally. Of course, at least for Transformers, there’s also a group of people who go see the sequels just so they can complain about them later on. That being said, this has probably caused the sequels to be almost as profitable as the originals were.
As for the original live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, it luckily came out around the time The Turtles‘ popularity was at its highest. And the sequel came out a year later, meaning The Turtles were still really popular thanks to the cartoon. This probably caused fans of the cartoon to go see those movies and, as a result, they both ended up being box office successes. That could also explain why the 3rd one bombed because, when it came out, the cartoon’s popularity had died down and, as a result, it didn’t do quite as well as the other two.
I think whether or not these movies are successful are mostly due to timing. The reason Inspector Gadget probably underperformed was because it came out 13 years after the cartoon had ended, meaning it wasn’t old enough to seek out a group of people nostalgic for the cartoon but also not young enough that fans of the cartoon would still be the targeted demographic for it. It probably didn’t help that some kids didn’t even know who Inspector Gadget was (though, reruns were airing on Nickelodeon at the time, which probably made most kids aware of its existence, though I don’t know if that really meant they’d want to see the movie).
However, what Inspector Gadget got wrong is what movies like The Flintstones, Scooby Doo, The Smurfs, etc. got right. They were old enough that many people were nostalgic for them so, in addition to the kids the movies were being targeted to coming to see it with their families, there were also nostalgic adults coming to see it to see if these movies stacked up against the cartoons. And if the cartoon was popular, the first one was more likely to succeed. For example, everyone knows who Scooby Doo is but Mr. Magoo isn’t quite as popular so his movie came and went while Scooby’s movie made $275 million dollars.
But the thing is, 9 times out of 10, these movies aren’t actually any good. So, when studios decide to make a sequel out of them, they bomb for the most part. That’s why Scooby-Doo 2, The Smurfs 2, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, etc. all underperformed or bombed at the box office. People who were nostalgic for the cartoons either had their fix and didn’t need to see anymore or they thought the first movie sucked and didn’t want to see the sequel, causing the sequels to lose half their audience. Sure, kids and families were still going to see these movies (for the most part) but it probably wasn’t enough to make the kind of profit that their predecessors made.
Now what worries me is that history might be repeating itself with the live action Disney sequels. In many ways, these live action Disney movies that have been coming out recently are basically the new version of this phenomena, as they are both live action versions of popular cartoons (though this time their based on animated movies instead of animated tv shows). I feel that, like stuff like The Flintstones and Scooby Doo, the reason those movies do so well is because not only do kids and families see it but people nostalgic for the originals go see it just to see how it stacks up to the original as well. Hell, I remember when the new Beauty and the Beast came out, most of the audience were adults!
But they’re already filming The Jungle Book 2 and, from what I’ve heard, their considering Maleficent 2 and Beauty and the Beast 2 as well. I’m afraid that what Disney doesn’t realize is that the only reason these movies did well is that they had a big boost from the nostalgia crowd and the sequels won’t do quite as well as the originals either because that audience thought the first one sucked or they had their nostalgic fix and didn’t need to see anymore. Hell, that pretty much happened with 101 Dalmatians! The first one was a huge hit, grossing $320 million dollars, but the second one, while not a bomb exactly, grossed a lot less, making only $66 million domestically (vs. the $136 million dollars the first one made domestically) and $183 million worldwide! And why wasn’t it a big success? Because the first one didn’t make money because it was good, it made money because people either wanted to introduce their kids to 101 Dalmatians or they just wanted to see how it stacked up against the classic 1961 version. But, once they saw it, I’m pretty sure the only thing most people even remembered about it was that Glenn Close played Cruella de Vill and, as a result, there was no real interest in the sequel.
Therefore, how will we know history won’t repeat itself? Sure most of the modern live action remakes were better received than the 90’s version of Dalmatians and most of the live action remakes of the cartoons was, though for some probably only slightly, but I’m not really sure that will be enough to draw audiences back for more. I mean, they’d probably do better than, oh, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas or 102 Dalmatians but they probably won’t make the amount of money their predecessors made because most movies based off of cartoons (rather cartoon shows or animated movies) are basically just based off of one gimmick, seeing something animated in live action, and, once people have seen it, they get bored and don’t really care about the sequel. As a result, that is why most sequels to those movies bomb at the box office.