The world is no stranger to movie franchises. Sometimes they can be based on a series of beloved books, or they could simply be an expansion to a highly popular story world. Either way, Hollywood seems to believe that the more, the merrier. Why kill a blaze that’s already aflame?
However, sometimes things don’t always go to plan. Between the idea that less is more and diminishing box-office returns, that’s probably why so many planned sequels have been axed from development. Whether it was the lack of popularity or the risk of ruining the original film’s legacy, some follow-ups were never made.
10 ‘The Divergent Series: Ascendent’
Like many YA dystopian adaptations, Divergent‘s final installment was initially announced to be a two-part story — with the first being Allegiant and the second being Ascendant. Sadly, with Allegiant being a huge box-office bomb, the planned movie adaptation of Ascendent quickly fell through.
According to Variety, Lionsgate instead decided to turn the final chapter into a television movie. As time passed, further announcements of change were made, like how Starz would be developing the story into a series and that many of the original cast members — including Shailene Woodley — would not be returning. But by 2018, a Starz spokesperson had confirmed that the project was “no longer in active development.”
9 ‘Chicken Little 2’
A cult classic of Disney animation, the creators of Chicken Little had planned to make a direct-to-video sequel. According to Tod Carter, a long-time DisneyToons collaborator, the tentative plot would’ve explored a love triangle between Chicken Little (Zach Braff), his childhood friend Abby “ugly duckling” Mallard (Joan Cusack), and an attractive French sheep named Raffaela.
Plans changed once John Lasseter became the new head of Disney’s animated studios. He made it clear that he was not a fan of DisneyToon’s made-for-video projects and promptly canceled many of the in-development sequels, this included Chicken Little 2.
8 ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew’
Depicting one of the coolest fantasy worlds of cinema, The Chronicles of Narnia saw the supposed end to the Pevensies’ story with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. However, according to Walden Media’s president, this was not the last installment to the franchise, as they were developing an adaptation of The Magician’s Nephew. This prequel story would explore Narnia’s origins.
Unfortunately, by 2011, Walden’s contract had expired, and they no longer had the rights to the franchise. As such, the planned adaptation was ultimately axed. Currently, Netflix holds the rights and has allegedly been developing a reboot of the entire series; however, it has been several years since any updates, placing the franchise in a state of limbo.
7 ‘Mrs. Doubtfire 2’
With it being one of Robin William‘s most famed pictures, some may find it surprising that a Mrs. Doubtfire sequel was in development for several years. An initial concept was drafted in the early 2000s, but neither Williams nor Chris Columbus — the film’s director — were fond of it.
However, in 2014, it was revealed that Fox was going through with a sequel. Columbus even confirmed it, stating that there was “a great script” and that “[Williams] was prepared to do it.” Unfortunately, his sudden death halted any chance of production, and rightly so. In fact, Columbus has put his foot down, stating that Mrs. Doubtfire is inextricably linked to Williams and that a sequel “will definitely never happen now.”
6 ‘E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears’
Considered to be one of Steven Spielberg‘s greatest movies, it’s no surprise that studios fought hard for an E.T. sequel. In fact, Spielberg and Melissa Mathison‘s story treatment of E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears was eventually leaked on the internet, showing how the proposed sequel would be a lot darker and a lot more violent than the original heart-warming film.
Spielberg has since explained that the project fell through as he believed a sequel would’ve “robbed the original of its virginity.” In other words, any sequel story would’ve tarnished the legacy and impact of the original film.
5 ‘The Subtle Knife’
With epic fantasy adaptations being all the rage throughout the 2000s, Philip Pullman‘s classic novels became the next target. Before The Golden Compass was even released, Hossein Amini had been commissioned to write the next script for The Subtle Knife.
Sadly, like many movies before and after it, this planned sequel ultimately got axed for its slow box-office returns and the poor critical and fan reception. Not only was The Golden Compass rife with religious controversies, but many fans disliked how the film had significantly changed the events in Pullman’s novel. Luckily for them, 12 years later, a great television reboot arrived in the form of HBO’s His Dark Materials.
4 ‘Gods of Mars’
Optimistic that the first movie would spark the next epic sci-fi franchise, Andrew Stanton had already mapped out not one but two sequels before John Carter had even been released in theaters. His vision fell through because the film was a huge box office disaster.
According to Stanton, the second installment would’ve been titled Gods of Mars and would’ve placed John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) and Dejah Thoris’ (Lynn Collins) child at the center of the narrative. With sudden abductions, wild space travel, and secret alien civilizations, this really would’ve been fascinating. It’s a shame it won’t likely see the light of day.
3 ‘The Cat in the Hat Comes Back’
As one of the campiest children’s movies of the 2000s, much of The Cat in the Hat‘s relative success can be accredited towards Mike Myers‘ iconic performance. And yet, oddly enough, he is partly to blame for the canceled sequel of The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.
Speaking to Today, Audrey Geisel — Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel‘s widow — revealed that she was extremely disappointed with the film’s adaptation and never wanted Myers to play the Cat in the first place. In fact, her disdain for the movie was so extreme that she has since banned Hollywood from turning any Dr. Seuss story into live-action ever again.
2 ‘Gump & Co.’
Having won numerous prestigious accolades for its thrilling story and iconic performances, Forrest Gump has cemented itself as a core piece of cinema. It’s no wonder that the original novel’s author ended up writing a sequel book titled Gump & Co. Several years later, Eric Roth — the writer of the original film — was ultimately tasked to adapt it into a screenplay.
Unfortunately, by the time he completed it, Roth submitted it on the night of September 10, 2001. According to Roth, he, Tom Hanks, and Robert Zemeckis not only agreed that the film would fall flat in a post-9/11 world, but its relevance has faded in the years following its release. It’s unlikely that they’ll push forward with the sequel’s development.
1 ‘Hairspray 2: White Lipstick’
Given that the film is a beloved adaptation of the famed Broadway musical, some may be surprised that plans were actually in the works to continue the story of Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky). In fact, progress was going so well that Hairspray 2: White Lipstick actually had an entire script written and ready to go, thanks to John Waters.
From the Vietnam War, British bands, and singing zits — the movie would’ve been a wild ride. It’s a shame that Adam Shankman — the film’s director — has since confirmed that the project has reached a dead end. Imagine all the iconic songs and dance sequences we could’ve had.
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