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Stillborn Franchise

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"Probably the most damning evidence against this movie is that they're going right to rebooting the film franchise. It committed movie-suicide in only one installment."
— From The Agony Booth's Hulk recap

So the Hollywood marketing machine is hyping a movie as the next big thing in the industry. The producers are so confident that they have already announced a TV series, a Spin-Off, a TV series for the spin-off, the Comic-Book Adaptation, action figures, the flamethrower, and plans to make a trilogy.

However, when the work is actually released, it flops so badly that all the intended sequels, spin-offs, and merchandise are cancelled. This can happen for a variety of reasons:

In some cases, the start of a stillborn franchise may actually be critically and/or even financially successful, but complications (such as the creators parting ways with the production company and losing the rights, the publishing/distributing company refusing to fund a sequel on the grounds that the work didn't make enough money, Creative Differences, the creative team focusing on other projects, or, most dramatically, death of one of the creators) prevent sequels from being made.

On top of the actual Word of God from the creators about their plans and the natural law that forces executives to milk anything they spent a lot of money on, there are also several common hints to their intentions that affect the work in various places:

A milder variant of this is when they try to expand an already successful franchise, often with a feature film adaptation, a spin-off series or an alternate continuity, in an attempt to make a profitable franchise even more profitable, but it fails and it can even lower the profitability of the original parts of it.

Compare and contrast with Franchise Killer where an already vibrant franchise is ended by a later bad entry. Another installment might be planned but end up being a victim of Development Hell. Often overlaps with Orphaned Series. See also Genre-Killer, Creator Killer, Trend Killer, What Could Have Been, and Cut Short.

(As TV Tropes does not know time, please wait either 5 years after the work's release or for official confirmation by the creators before adding an example.)

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Comics has a number of attempts to create new superhero lines. The New Universe did relatively well, in the sense that it made it three years before imploding. Others less so.
    • A number of characters which were supposed to be the next generation of heroes. Among them Sleepwalker, Darkhawk, NFL SuperPro, and The Awesome Slapstick. None of them lasted long, although there have been many attempts to bring them back after years in Comic-Book Limbo.
    • The Shadowline Saga, a completely new 1988-90 Grim and Gritty superhero universe.
    • Razorline, a 1993 attempt to create another new superhero universe, with Clive Barker.
    • The All-New, All-Different Marvel and Marvel NOW! (2016) eras was another attempt to introduce new legacy characters and lines. While most of the new characters would go on to survive other relaunches, find success or get second/third/fourth chances, the hero Mosaic all but vanished once his eight-issue series was cancelled.
  • John Kricfalusi's Spumco Comic Book had a very short lived run. The initial run of the comics only lasted three issues under Dark Horse Comics in 1995, with Marvel Comics distributing one more issue in 1997 before the comics were cancelled altogether. Per word of Spumco employee Stephen Worth, it was a Catch 22 situation that killed the series early; comic book stores were the wrong market for funny comics, since readers were mostly interested in superhero comics instead of the gag oriented stories, and they couldn't get regular book stores to stock their comic books.
  • Rius' book, La Perestroika (The Perestroika), which deals with the then-recent economic reforms implemented by Mikhail Gorbachev, ends with a note saying that this is the first in a series of books dedicated to the topic, and mentioning that the next one would come after a trip of the author to the U.S.S.R. to witness first-hand the effects of the reforms. The book came out just about the same time of the 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt, which effectively put the final nail in the coffin of the existence of the Soviet Union.
  • Prior to the release of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (Boom! Studios), there had been numerous attempts to start a Power Rangers comic, barely lasting a few issues before being cancelled. This was due to the franchise's early rotating power set/Zords/villains and the comics industry being shaken by the The Great Comics Crash of 1996
  • Queen Bee: A sequel book was teased, but nothing ever came of it.
  • Héctor Germán Oesteheld and Alberto Breccia made a biopic of Che Guevara, and intended to start a series of biopics about other populist figures in South America. The military government cancelled the comic and captured all the unsold comics, and all the copies of the unpublished sequel about Eva Perón. The line was thus abandoned. Both comics were re-published years later, when the political conflicts were over, but Oesterheld was dead by this point.
  • The Hasbro Comic Universe launched with multiple books and tons of hype behind it, promising to change things forever. The plan sputtered out very quickly, with none of the new books lasting more than a year and the existing Transformers series they spun out of dying a year after.
  • The Adventures of D & A was introduced into Disney Adventures with a lot of fanfare, and based on the comic's name — intentionally similar to the initials of the magazine — it looks like the titular characters were intended to become the magazine's mascots. This ultimately didn't happen as the comic was discontinued after the third story was printed; the magazine would eventually try again with another DA-named hero two years later, Duck Avenger.

    Comic Strips 
  • Jim Meddick's Robotman and Monty started off in 1985 as just Robotman, a character whose United Feature Syndicate comic strip was intended to launch a cross-media franchise with books, toys, and so forth. The character never took off to these heights aside from the standard paperback collections of the strips. Robotman was written out of his own strip in 2001, and it has continued since as just Monty, starring the nerdy inventor Meddick introduced in 1993.

    Eastern Animation 
  • The 1999-2000 Russian animated series Adventures in the Emerald City was supposed to be an adaptation of L. Frank Baum's Land of Oz novels. They only got to producing four episodes, adapting the first two books, before the budget ran out and they were unable to secure more funding. This might be because the Russians are more familiar with the literary translation by Alexander Volkov than the original novel. In fact, Baum's sequels didn't get the same treatment from Volkov as the first novel, as Volkov went on to write his own sequels to the translation, unrelated to Baum's sequels except for the occasional magical artifact or substance. Then in 2017 the series got a feature-length sequel based off Volkov's second book. Still unsuccessful.

  • Eve: The Awakening was apparently intended to be the first book in a series; it ends with a few unresolved plot threads that could be explored in sequels, it's listed as the first installment of a series on Goodreads and Jenna Moreci talked about potentially writing a sequel when the book was first published. Since Eve's 2015 release however, there's been no news on any potential sequels and Moreci later began work on a completely different series, the first book of which was published just three years later in 2018. It's looking unlikely at this point that Eve will remain anything but a standalone novel.
  • The Ted Hughes book "Ffangs the Vampire Bat and the Kiss of Truth" ends with Ffangs becoming human, his sister getting kidnapped and Ffangs setting off to find her. The last line of the book is "The adventures of Ffangs will be continued in the next book", but the sequel was either never written or never published.
  • Stephenie Meyer's The Host (2008) was supposed to start a trilogy of adult science fiction books centered on the Souls. Despite the novel being a bestseller, however, Meyer has apparently given up on the idea.
  • The Viridian Saga, a Paranormal Romance Stealth Parody, was originally supposed to be a trilogy. The first book, Awoken, came out in 2013; the vlog series where the authors discussed plans for the sequels last updated in 2015.

  • David Bowie's 1995 Rock Opera 1. Outside was conceived as the first in a series of albums documenting the end of the second millennium, hence the prefix 1. in its title and the "to be continued" note at the end of the diary within the liner notes. Bowie initially proposed making 5 albums — one for each year from 1995 to 1999 — but pared this down to three for practical reasons. Despite sketching out characters for the second album in the series, 2. Contamination, during the making of Earthling, the Outside trilogy ultimately fell through, leaving the first installment the only one ever made.
  • Mid-to-late '90s hip hop supergroup The Firm — consisting of Nas, Foxy Brown, AZ, and Cormega (who was later ousted and replaced with Nature) — was hyped as one of the hottest new groups in hip-hop after their formation, appearance on Nas' It Was Written album, and signing to Dr. Dre's record label. In 1997, they released their debut album... which got such a lackluster reception by both consumers and critics that any interest in more music from the group was nixed, and they went their separate ways the year after. While Brown has mentioned that there have been discussions of The Firm reuniting, the project seems to be a bad memory for nearly everyone involved.
    • This was not the first time a band called The Firm had failed to proceed; in the mid '80s, Jimmy Page formed a miniature supergroup with himself on guitar, and Paul Rodgers, formerly of Free and Bad Company, on vocals. The original plan was to fill the band out with former Yes percussionist Bill Bruford, plus ubiquitous 80s fretless bassist Pino Palladino, but this didn't pan out. Despite being Jimmy Page's first band project since Led Zeppelin, the group's debut album met with lackluster reviews and poor sales. Surprisingly there was a second album — shades of Tin Machine — after which the group disbanded.
  • 2008 saw the release of OMFGG – Original Music Featured on Gossip Girl No. 1. By the time the series ended four years later, there was still no sign of No. 2 (compare to One Tree Hill and Grey's Anatomy racking up four each).

  • The Pokémon Jr. Adventure: Pokémon Emergency! game was intended to be the first of twelve "Pokémon RPG" supplements, but due to licensing matters, the rest were never published.
  • Transformers:
    • Transformers: Prime was meant to be the linchpin of an ambitious Shared Universe called Unit:E (which was promoted with an one-off comic issue sold at the 2011 New York Comic Con), which would've placed Transformers alongside other Hasbro properties such as G.I. Joe and (baffingly) Candy Land, and would've been a launchpad to revivals of many of the company's cult 80s properties such as Inhumanoids and M.A.S.K.. While the show was decently successful and well-received, the low outreach of The Hub and long-running behind-the-scenes troubles ultimately doomed any attempt to launch a wider Hasbroverse, killing Hasbro's IP development division Haslab with it. Although the company would later give another shot at a shared universe with a 2016 comic book event, it followed none of what was set up in Unit:E and didn't last long.
    • Prime itself blossomed from the head of the "Aligned Continuity", an attempt to unify various branches of Transformers media into a single grandiose shared universe that would last decades. While a few of the projects, like Prime and the Transformers: War for Cybertron series, managed to establish solid fanbases, the plans of the "Binder of Revelation" were quickly thrown out, with many large projects being delayed or cancelled, and most plans being abandoned in under five years. Most famously, there was the Transformers Universe game, which was supposed to be an MMO that would launch alongside Prime and bring the Aligned continuity to the masses—it had such a Troubled Production that it not only completely changed genre, but it didn't start doing open beta until Prime was over, and then got cancelled before its release.
  • ShiftyLook was Bandai Namco Entertainment's attempt to revitalize their classic and lesser-known arcade games—such as Mappy and Bravoman—for a western audience, via webcomics and cartoons. The project bled money from the start due to the obscurity of these properties, many of which were based on games that never left Japan. At its peak, the site was best known for the Namco High Dating Sim, mostly because it featured characters from Homestuck. In early 2014, Namco doubled down on their most popular outing, Wonder Momo. While clearly intended to be their Breakthrough Hit with an anime adaptation and mobile game by WayForward Technologies, it never became the success they were looking for. Changes in upper management resulted in a complete write-off; the site shut down not long after, leaving its projects with hasty endings. ShiftyLook eventually faded away into an oddity of Namco's history, and the featured properties went back to their usual representation through compilation titles and Company Cross References.
  • LEGO announced BIONICLE Generation 2 in 2014 with a planned three-year test phase that would stand as a complete toy and multimedia franchise, with the chance of a continuation if it proved successful. It was scrapped within less than half that time due to reasons never fully disclosed — although fans with ties to the company suggests there was a massive shift in plans immediately after G2's announcement, with LEGO reallocating their budget to bringing back their Cash-Cow Franchise Ninjago after having ended it prematurely. Essentially they gave up on the BIONICLE relaunch before it even hit shelves. With little marketing and an indecisive presentation that left both fans and newcomers unimpressed, the franchise ended on a whimper, with several sets and collectible items never released to the public. However, given the extremely abrupt nature of the cancellation, it is unknown whether LEGO had at least waited for their sales data to come in or if they intended to scrap the franchise regardless of its profits.
  • Creepy Freaks was a horror-themed Mons game launched in 2003 by Wiz Kids. The company clearly had high hopes for it, as an animated TV pilot and a comic book were created to promote it, but it never amounted to anything.

  • Capcom's Breakshot was advertised as the first in the "Capcom Classic" series, a line of low-cost pinballs with "classic-style" gameplay to appeal to all players. Needless to say, this is the only game in the series.
  • The Judge Dredd pinball was the debut of "Supergame", where for an extra credit, players could play the table with extra modes and expanded rules, including exclusive multiball modes. No other pinball has used the feature.
  • Safe Cracker was advertised as the first "Token-Pin" game, which would dispense tokens for winning that could be used for various things, such as prizes or a special game mode. No other game in the line has been produced. It was a good idea in theory, but in practice, the people who did come up to place Safe Cracker were more interested in collecting the tokens than putting them back in to play other modes. On top of that, Williams produced only one run of the tokens, so machines soon ran out, leaving angry patrons anywhere Safe Cracker was available.
  • Flipper Football was Capcom Pinball's first "Interplay Display" pinball game; the dot-matrix display was mounted in the cabinet, and would respond when the player struck targets underneath it. Capcom closed its pinball division soon after the game was released, and no other "Interplay Display" games were made.
  • Steve Ritchie's Hyperball married a Pinball cabinet with a Shoot 'Em Up, challenging players to fire up to 250 balls a minute against an army of attacking lightning bolts. Despite plans to product up to 50,000 games, only 5,000 were made and sold, and the idea was never revisited.
  • Company example: Kevin Kulek had every intention of turning Skit-B into a major player in the pinball business, with Predator as its beginning, as is evidenced by him having at least three other machines in development at the same time as Predator. However, either by naivete, laziness, or arrogance, he never actually requested the Predator rights from Fox, putting him in deep legal trouble when Fox found out about his project. This act destroyed his company before it could even release its first game. This case also crosses over with Creator Killer, as Kulek mishandled this legal dispute so badly, no one else in pinball wants anywhere near him anymore, and his name has become either a joke or, to the people who pre-ordered Predator for thousands of dollars and never got refunded, a Berserk Button.

  • Invoked on Escape from Vault Disney!. In the universe of the episode that covers it, Star Wars was a commercial flop, grossing under $100,000 on a $11 million dollar budget, erasing the chances of any more films being made after the self-proclaimed Episode IV. In fact, it has faded so much into obscurity that even George Lucas doesn't have a Wikipedia page and, to do additional research, Tony has to go to the dark web to retrieve it.

    Web Animation 

  • Invoked in Port Sherry, "The saddest movies": The woman gets emotional over a B-list action movie titled Codename Rex. Her reason is that there was an obvious Sequel Hook that never got followed up on because the film didn't do well.

    Web Original 
  • Channel Awesome:
    • Demo Reel was clearly intended for another season, but poor viewership and mixed reception led to the Walker Brothers to axe the series and erase it from existence by rebooting The Nostalgia Critic.
    • Melvin: Brother of the Joker had a lukewarm reception that led to the discontinuation of the character by outright killing him off in one of the donation drive videos.
    • Emo Jones, just like Melvin, was so poorly received that everyone (especially Doug and Rob) forgot that it even existed. So yeah: Don't expect a second episode anytime soon.
    • The Let's Play of The Simpsons: Bart's Nightmare would have led to a recurring feature were it not for the negative reception it received, to the point where the review of the James and the Giant Peach film that followed opened with NC apologizing for it at the start in a sketch where he got sent to prison for it (placed next to the State Home for the Ugly, no less).
  • Puppicarus by Caddicarus received not so stellar views and mixed reception that led to the end of the spinoff and even the end of the character altogether.


Video Example(s):


The Last Airbender

Nostalgia Critic lampshades how especially bad of a movie The Last Airbender was, it ended on a Sequel Hook that will never be followed up on.

How well does it match the trope?

4.08 (26 votes)

Example of:

Main / StillbornFranchise

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