The sequel—once the rare continuation of a story so rich and sprawling, it was unable to be told in a mere two hours, or at the very least a welcome, popularly demanded return to a beloved world and cast of characters—is these days pretty much just an obligatory prolonged coda, a note held until its dying reverberation shakes its last dollar out of the moviegoing public. So it’s no surprise that on a day when Pirates Of The Caribbean becomes a tentative hexalogy, DreamWorks just said fuck it and announced two more Madagascar movies, at least two more installments of How To Train Your Dragon, and an unbelievable six total Kung Fu Panda movies to be dragged out over the coming years.
DreamWorks animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg claims that what differentiates the studio’s franchises is that they have a “beginning, a middle, and an end,” and that each film is a “chapter in a story”—a story they just can’t stop telling until it’s no longer profitable. In the case of How To Train Your Dragon, Katzenberg at least has source material to back that up, considering there are 10 books (so far) in the series it’s based on. But as of now, according to Katzenberg, the “story” of Madagascar just includes those funny-talking animals returning to New York and then “they will come to terms with that,” and that “because of the way that movie concludes, there’s probably one more for them.” (Do they, perhaps, return to Madagascar? You’ll have to wait until sometime near the middle of the decade!)
Meanwhile, the next six chapters of Kung Fu Panda have already been “mapped out,” possibly due to some labyrinthine contributions from Charlie Kaufman. And hey, if Kung Fu Pandas 5 and 6 turn out to be knotty, meta-textual riffs about the Kung Fu Panda trying to create a living, life-sized replica of all his Kung Fu Pandaing experiences, perhaps the ends will justify the means. But even if not, by the time it comes out there will already be a new audience of kids to watch them—a generation that never knew a world when most movie titles weren’t followed by numbers.